5531 Bonnell Avenue,
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Styles: Streamline Moderne
Symbolically, the most important post-World War II theatre in Fort Worth was the Como Theatre. John Brawley opened the independent Como Theatre late in 1946 on Bonnell Avenue. The Como Theatre was a diminutive, 500-seat Streamline Moderne style neighborhood movie house playing second-run double features. Though it was benign architecturally, it was a symbol of hope for the neglected Como neighborhood. The Como Theatre, short-term, was a hit and provided a vibrant destination for African American audiences.
During World War I, the Como neighborhood petitioned for services that had been provided commonly in more advantaged parts of the city – modern water, paved roads, connections to sewer lines, et al. Because the class of people tended to be highly minority and comprised of servant and lower socioeconomic laborers, the City of Fort Worth simply disregarded the neighborhood’s requests until the end of World War II.
But in 1946, the intersection of Home Street and Bonnell Avenue became a hotbed of activity as asphalt roads, water service and sewer lines finally elevated Como into something resembling 20th Century living in the city – ironically just five miles from the city’s central business district. Optimism abounded as in a two-block stretch on Bonnell Avenue were African American businesses including the Victory Grill, Como Beauty Shoppe, Sheldon’s Grocery and the new-build Como Theatre.
The neighborhood responded well to its new business district early on but in the television age, the Como Theatre began to struggle with Brawley selling to C. Crockett who sold the venue to T. Pritzker of Chicago. Unfortunately, the news was no better for the other African American businesses nearby as they dropped one by one.
The theatre, the Victory Grill, and the vast majority of other retailers were gone by the end of the 1950’s. Virtually the entire business district would eventually be razed including the former Como Theatre. But for ten years, the Como Theatre and its adjacent businesses were a sign of optimism for the Como residents and a place to go for African American patrons.
At least we can add the Como neighborhood to the Cinema Treasures database.
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