Rich with history, Camp Bowie was named after James “Jim” Bowie, a 19th-century pioneer, a firefighter, and frontiersman who played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution. Arlington Heights Boulevard was developed to carry residents to and from the newly developed suburb of Fort Worth in the 1890s by the Chamberlin brothers, Alfred, Humphrey, and Frederic. A trolley carried passengers from the new bridge crossing the Trinity River’s Clear Fork to Chamberlin Arlington Heights, and on to Lake Como.
During World War I, the Boulevard became a training camp for the 36th Division soldiers and specialists. Construction of Camp Bowie began July 18, 1917, and encompassed about 2,186 acres. Although classified as a tent camp, it required much construction to accommodate a division of men, and officially opened on August 24, 1917.
On April 11, 1918, the 36th went on parade in the city for the first time. The four-hour event drew crowds estimated at 225,000, making it perhaps the biggest parade in Fort Worth’s history. For about five months after the departure of the 36th for France in July 1918, the camp functioned as an infantry replacement and training facility. Shortly after the Armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, Camp Bowie was designated a demobilization center.
Once demobilization was concluded, Camp Bowie was closed officially on Aug. 15, 1919, after having trained more than 100,000 men at the camp. Today, Veterans’ Park, located at Camp Bowie and Crestline, honors those fallen soldiers who trained at Camp Bowie. The park was planted by several local and foreign groups.
As the population continued to grow along Arlington Heights Boulevard, so too did the businesses, churches, and entertainment venues. Post-World War I, the area began to appeal to a range of middle and upper-middle-class families. Smaller homes designed as bungalows and English-cottage style homes materialized on the land that was once military campgrounds. By the 1920s Thurber bricks were laid to pave way for automobiles that frequented the Boulevard to shop, worship, and dine.
During this time, a number of Fort Worth icons were established that still operate today. Arlington Heights Methodist Church, Connell Baptist Church, Fire Station No. 18, Zeloski’s commercial row and Ben Eastman’s Service (Winslow’s Wine Café) are all still in a form of their original existence. Blue Bonnet Bakery, Roy Pope Grocery, Kincaid’s, and The Original Mexican Eats Café opened their doors on Arlington Heights Boulevard between the 1920s and the 1940s and still remain in business under the same or similar name.
RIDGLEA AND WESTWARD
By the late 1920s, Fort Worth began to spread west. Two different Tennessee families took interest in the area and developed what would later be known as Ridglea. The Anderson family focused on developing the residential areas Ridglea North and South, and the commercial segment of Camp Bowie was developed by the Luther family. A. C. Luther bought three miles of pasture land along what later became Camp Bowie Blvd., for $400 an acre. His brother, J. T. Luther, credits him with being "The Father of Ridglea".
The Luthers eventually went on to built Ridglea Village, a Mediterranean complex that opened in the 1940s. The development had what we refer to today as mixed-use, combining retail, offices, and residential segments to them. By 1944, the City of Fort Worth annexed Ridglea as its newest addition to the city limits.
As the area continued to grow and flourish, so too did Ridglea. In 1952, L.T. Luther and Earl Wilson from Wilson, Inc. formed the Ridglea Construction Company and began building high-quality commercial buildings along the north side of Camp Bowie Blvd. The first tenant was Gordon Boswell Florist, who is still a favorite stop for locals in the area. By the mid-1950s Ridglea Theater opened its doors and soon after, the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired building that was the headquarters for Commercial Standard Insurance Company opened.
By the 1960s, Camp Bowie reached further west providing a connection to Weatherford and those points beyond. Hotels and restaurants welcomed travelers to Fort Worth along the western stretch of Camp Bowie. Growth continued along the corridor and by the late 1960s and early 1970s, Camp Bowie was the primary route for those traveling from the west into Fort Worth.