Fort Worth Has Nicknames - History Lesson
Nicknames of Fort Worth, TX
Some cities have famous nicknames. New York City is The Big Apple. Chicago is The Windy City. San Antonio is Alamo City. Fort Worth has a half dozen nicknames – including Cowtown and Panther City. Where did these nicknames come from? The answers are as fascinating as Fort Worth itself.
NOTE: Due to COVID-19, most of the attractions mentioned in this article are closed until further notice. Keep current with COVID-19 news in Fort Worth.
We can credit cows – cattle really – for revitalizing the Texas economy after the Civil War. Longhorns weren’t worth much in Texas in the late 1800s. Just a couple of bucks a head. But cowboys who took the long trek to Kansas City got 20 times that. A man needed a place to hang his hat, grab some chow, and let loose before he headed up North. Fort Worth was a cowboy’s last chance to do that.
Today, you don’t need to be a drover to see a cattle drive. You can drink a cold beer and watch the Longhorn hoof it up on East Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards National Historic District. Those cattle come through town twice a day.
The Stockyards offer more than cattle. Shopping, hotels, and restaurants abound. Even in these challenging times you can still get some mean Texas barbecue to go from Riscky’s.
The Fort Worth music scene – from jazz to hip hop – explains part of the Funky Town nickname. Apparently, in the 1980s, R&B and hip-hop artists started calling Cowtown Funky Fort Worth. Which, let’s face it, sounds a lot cooler. There was even a popular song called Funkytown that was often played in the dance clubs of Fort Worth. (Although the song was written by a Minnesotean DJ named Steven Greenberg).
Once the T-shirts were made, it became an official nickname. The story goes that in 2000 Red Wassenich, an Austin librarian and Fort Worth native, came up with the slogan “Keep Austin Weird.” Fort Worth residents responded with “Keep Fort Worth Funky” T-shirts in response.
There are many great music venues in Fort Worth, including Billy Bob’s of Texas. Their hand print display gallery is one of the many ways Fort Worth stays funky. (Yup, that’s really Willy Nelson’s hand print. The law has his fingerprints).
The fact that Fort Worth would choose to embrace an insult as a mascot tells you that the folks of this town have a great sense of humor. Dallas attorney and former Fort Worth resident Robert E. Cowart was on business in what is now nicknamed Panther City. It was 1875 and the last couple of years had been hard on Fort Worth. The cattle business had taken a dive – even the railroad stopped building track 30 miles outside the city.
Mr. Cowart wrote a letter to the Dallas Herald that Fort Worth, devoid of commerce, was “...so quiet I saw a panther asleep on Main Street, undisturbed by the rush of men or the hum of trade.” The Fort Worth Democrat changed their motto to “Where the Panther Laid Down." Which was engraved on a new masthead featuring a panther laying down in front of the bluff. Soon, panthers were popping up all over, including panther statues in downtown Fort Worth.
Panther City Attractions
You can see the beautiful 8-foot bronze sleeping panther statue in front of the Tarrant Administration building on the corner of Main and Weatherford streets. There’s more to Panther City than giant sleeping panther statues. Panther Island Pavillion (PIP) has concerts on the Trinity River with the downtown Fort Worth skyline as a backdrop.
Southern hip hop hit Fort Worth in the 1990s and early 2000s. Let’s have Merriam-Webster define it (because it’s just too fun when the straight and narrow explains this stuff). The dictionary entry says crunk is “... a style of Southern rap music featuring repetitive chants and rapid dance rhythms.” Big names in the early Fort Crunk music scene include Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz.
Music continues to grow and evolve in Fort Worth. The Shipping & Receiving Bar has an open mic night and live music from jazz to No Quarter’s Tribute to Zepplin’s Legacy.
Where the West Begins
The land was fertile and the hunting was good around the Trinity River. Native Americans and settlers alike wanted to be there. So, in 1843, in what was then Fort Bird, General Edward H. Tarrant and George W. Terrell negotiated a treaty with tribal chiefs. They agreed that the Native Americans would remain west of a line that was drawn straight through the future town of Fort Worth. The line marked “Where the West Begins.”
Steep yourself in the history of Fort Worth at the Stockyards Museum, which you can find inside the Historic Livestock Exchange Building. Their expanding collection includes photos and artifacts.
Fort Worth Dive Bars
Okay, there’s no dive-bar related nickname, like “Fort Dive” or “Dive Bar Row.” But we figured if you’re looking for an authentic Fort Worth experience, there’s nothing like a good dive bar filled with friendly locals. Chilled Magazine lists their fave Top 7 Dive Bars to Visit in Fort Worth. Get yourself a shot of El Niño, a house made jalapeno-infused tequila, at The Chat Room. Or stop by The Durango Club for some live music.
What’s in a Name?
Maybe the nickname you use for Fort Worth says more about you than the town. Perhaps the nickname you choose depends on your mood. Call it “Cowtown” or “Funky Town” -- there’s always something fun to do in Fort Worth. If you’re new to the area or just looking for a new place to move, give us a call. Cities Real Estate knows Fort Worth inside and out. We can help you buy or sell your home in Cowtown. Or Funky Town. Or Panther City.
These are additional sources not linked in the article.
NTREIS data last updated December 1, 2023.
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