Fraternity hopes endangered list brings attention to their Vickery School project

A group that hopes to acquire the R. Vickery School hopes its placement on a list of endangered places will help will garner interest in their endeavors.

The Beta Tau Lambda chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. hopes to revitalize the structure and turn it into for the south side. It was was chosen by Historic Fort Worth on Tuesday as one of the most endangered structures in the city.

R. Vickery School, at 1905 E. Vickery Boulevard, has been empty for years. Last year, the Beta Tau Lambda chapter and its nonprofit Livingston Community Development Foundation began to acquire the property from the city to house programs to bolster the community.

Historic Fort Worth was established in 1969 and is dedicated to preserving Fort Worth’s unique historic identity through stewardship, education and leadership. The R. Vickery School landed on its 2024 Most Endangered Places List, which aims to draw attention to the need to preserve historic places through restoration or preservation.

Glen Harmon, a member of Beta Tau Lambda and a part of Livingston Community Development Foundation, said he and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. look forward to working with Historic Fort Worth to maintain the historic integrity of the building.

“I’ve seen the school building in its glory when it was still open,” he said. “Children were still going into the school, and it broke my heart to see that it’s turned to the condition that it’s in. I want to make it my life’s work to inject new life into that building and a resource for the community. And with the help of the city, county, and all of the citizens of Fort Worth I believe we can make that happen.”

R. Vickery School’s History

The school was built in 1910 by Richard Vickery, a real estate developer who owned most of the land in the predominantly white Glenwood neighborhood, which borders Historic Southside. The two-story building had multiple classrooms, an auditorium and a cafeteria. An additional wing and one-story metal building were added years later.

The school was shut down in 1985 and later had multiple uses, including as a nightclub that closed in 2004. It was then used by a photo ID and laminating service until the city of Fort Worth seized the property in 2007 in a tax foreclosure. It has since been abandoned and was a homeless camp for some time. Firefighters responded to half a dozen fires there last year.

Plans for Renovation

The Vickery school property is in the 76104 ZIP code which in 2019 had the lowest life expectancy in the state, according to a study by UT Southwestern Medical Center. Residents in the ZIP code struggle with access to health care, a lack of transportation, and access to healthy food, among other things.

The Beta Tau Lambda chapter provides community service and encourages civic engagement through college scholarships, programs to get young men into college, voter education programs, and political forums.

Conversations about acquiring R. Vickery School property started in 2020. The fraternity was searching for a building to conduct services such as its Alpha Academy mentoring program for fifth- to 12-graders and its Alpha Beautillion, a college preparation program for graduating seniors.

It hopes to use the building to house programs for school-aged children, such as beauty shop camps and theater camps. The chapter also plans to host initiatives and nonprofits like workforce development programs, a public health clinic, an immunization clinic, an event space, and work spaces for small businesses and individuals.

On June 27, the city voted to sell the property to the fraternity for $91,250. According to Harmon, since then the city proposed to the fraternity to sell the property for $1 and the fraternity has to pay for back taxes, penalties and interest. They are waiting for approval by the county for the negotiations to go through.

The estimated price of renovating the building will be around $12 million. The fraternity plans to hold fundraisers and find help from donors to cover the renovation expenses.