Wanderlust—Travel & Adventure

Bringing Color to Cowtown

A new development in the Fort Worth Stockyards blends tradition with contemporary style to bring Western culture—and APHA’s international headquarters—to millions of visitors.

By Megan Brincks


In the heart of North Texas, the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards transport visitors to a time when drovers brought cattle to market, clouds of dust rising up from man and beast as they ambled down hand-bricked streets to one of the West’s livestock trading capitals. This rustic hub of the Southern cattle industry drew people from around the world to buy and sell livestock; today, the Stockyards continue to entice more than 2.5 million annual visitors from all reaches of the globe who are yearning for a glimpse of the lifestyle and lore of the American West.

Since the 1800s, the Stockyards adapted to Fort Worth’s contemporary needs, and soon, a new 70-acre development will breathe renewed energy into the historic area while staying true to the city’s rustic heritage.

Here, among hallowed buildings and iconic legacy, the American Paint Horse Association will find a new home, where its colorful horses will leave hoofprints across the hearts of horse lovers around the world.

“We’ve never had a better chance to reposition ourselves in the horse community as the education leader. The Stockyards will be a significant player in that,” APHA Executive Director Billy Smith said. “In part, our story is about the Western lifestyle, which is popular worldwide. More importantly, that lifestyle is rooted in the horse and—even more particularly—in the Paint Horse.”

APHA headquarters will be stabled in the Stockyards’ renovated mule barns, blending original architecture with modern practicality; Fort Worth Heritage Development, LLC, revealed a first look of the revamped barns in 2015.

Historically, the mule barns were part of the livestock exchange industry, but the structures have lain empty and relatively unused for years. Soon, though, they’ll come alive with all things Paint Horse, including educational and historic initiatives designed to teach visitors about the colorful breed.

The Fort Worth Heritage Development LLC, a united force of Majestic Realty Co. and the Hickman family of Fort Worth, came together to develop the unused aspects of the Stockyards while maintaining the area’s rich Western tradition.

“We are very excited about welcoming the American Paint Horse Association to the Stockyards,” said Kerby Smith, senior vice president of Majestic Realty Co. “The APHA presence in the Stockyards not only brings a well-respected brand, but also brings the opportunity to further equine activity and programing for visitors and tourists to enjoy.”

The new APHA headquarters, expected to be completed in late 2018, will combine the cowboy traditions of the Fort Worth Stockyards with the modern needs of the second-largest breed association in the world.

Preserving the Legacy

The Fort Worth Stockyards has a long and significant history as a foothold of the American West, serving as the heart of livestock trade for the region. Cattlemen drove herds through impenetrable dust, intense heat and unpredictable storms to reach the Stockyards, where they rested and sold their livestock before heading back to the range. From Fort Worth, cattle traveled across the country by train to feed American families. As the Stockyards increased in prominence, shops, restaurants and hotels emerged for those passing through town.

After the rise of the interstate system and semi-truck haulers—and the subsequent decline of the train system as a vital piece of the livestock trade—the Stockyards adjusted to its new role as tourist destination. The shouts of cattle buyers at auction were replaced by those of adults and children delighting in daily cattle drives, exploring the history of the area and even meeting their first Texas longhorn on the street. The modern Stockyards is constantly abuzz with the excitement of people from around the world finding a connection between generations of the Old West and cowboy culture.

But the Stockyards’ transition from thriving market to tourist destination left an abundance of under-utilized space. Between the bustling shops, restaurants and a storied indoor rodeo, pockets of unused buildings in disrepair presented a unique opportunity for the Fort Worth Heritage Development to preserve the tradition of the area while enchanting visitors with Texas history.

The new development will include hotels, retail space and restaurants to complement the existing businesses. In addition, the Stockyards Heritage Trail will include a series of landmarks that beckon visitors to immerse themselves in the American West.

Same Association; New Location

The larger-than-life Paint Horse statues that welcome visitors to APHA’s current building in an industrial part of North Fort Worth will gallop right through the new Stockyards’ development and draw visitors into the new 10,000-square-feet headquarters, giving them a taste of the Paint Horse community. The new location will put APHA in front of millions of Stockyards tourists each year, inciting fresh fascinations for flashy horses in visitors of all ages who already have an appreciation for iconic Western culture.

APHA recently received a $125,000 grant from the Amon G. Carter Foundation to assist the American Paint Horse Foundation’s Capital Campaign; the generous contribution will fund the relocation of “Legacy of Color,” the bronze Paint Horse statues, to the Stockyards. The massive bronzes, which showcase four majestic Paint Horses with chrome coats sparkling in the sun, will be positioned in front of a boutique hotel, making them a focal point to captivate visitors in the historical district.

The current APHA headquarters, which has been located at its Meacham Boulevard building since 1998, is expected to move to the new Stockyards location in late 2018. The new location will be home to the association’s offices as well as the APHA General Store and a new APHA Hall of Fame & Educational Outreach Center. The new headquarters will serve as a focal point for members and visitors alike to discover the rich and colorful heritage of the Paint Horse—perhaps even meeting a living, breathing Paint—and take home a memento from their visit to commemorate a new-found interest in the breed.

“This move puts Paint Horses in front of millions of annual visitors,” APHF Director Laura Jesberg said. “Fort Worth is where the West begins, and nothing embodies Western heritage better than the Fort Worth Stockyards.”


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.


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