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Restoration of the Historic Van Zandt Cottage

When the historic Van Zandt Cottage needed foundation repairs and restoration, MBRGFR.com was the company trusted with this piece of Fort Worth History. Learn what we did, how we did it, and a little about “Mr. Fort Worth” himself.

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The first foundation of the Van Zandt Cottage was loose rock, later replaced with mortared limestone and brick. That foundation stayed in place for about 70 years, but ended up needing a lot of work and renovation.

The foundation repair and rehabilitation took place during the spring and the work took about two weeks to complete.

MBRGFR.com ended up replacing the existing foundation with a reinforced concrete footing, retaining walls and a new foundation. The stone and brick were replaced over the face of the concrete, so the Van Zandt home still kept the original 1936 look. The root cellar, which was enclosed with brick in 1936, was also replaced. Additionally, the topsoil that accumulated under the cottage was raked out for more clearance under the house.

The foundation repairs gave historians the opportunity to examine the old floor beams of the Van Zandt Cottage more closely. What they found was interesting from an architechtural view. The beams are original logs with one side flattened on top for the floor boards and the bark still in place. The beams were shaped to a square end, and inserted into a log beam around the outside of the house. This perimeter log beam was then shaped into a rectangular section with an adz, and was then supported on the foundation.

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Unfortunately, the original fireplace foundations in the Van Zandt cottage were too shallow to be stable. They were instead supported for repairs in one piece along with the chimneys.

New concrete footings were then poured underneath. These new footings were poured to a depth of sixteen inches, the same as the new foundation. Reinforcements of the fireplace foundations were doweled into the footings and foundation walls so they would stay together as one piece, preserving the original architecture.

Who Was Maj. K. M. Van Zandt?

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When Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt arrived with his wife and three children in the small village of Fort Worth, Texas, in 1865, he found empty houses and stores, a blacksmith, a flour mill, a shoe cobbler, and a mere 250 inhabitants. There was no post office or saloon.

Van Zandt was 29 years old at the time, and brought with him a wealth of experiences which would lead him to become a major force in the development and growth of this booming city of Fort Worth we now have today. The Van Zandt family settled in a rental house and opened a mercantile store in the town square. But such a property wasn’t the lap of luxury you might think. For one, there were no wells. Water had to be hauled straight up up from the river.

In the early 1870s, Van Zandt acquired the farm and cottage, which stands in its original location even today. From that humble cottage he was instrumental in founding a hotel, a bank, (which later became Fort Worth National Bank), a church (which became First Christian Church), a newspaper (which became the Fort Worth Star Telegram), and saw to it that Fort Worth became a hub of the railroad industry, an accomplishment which gained national recognition of Fort Worth and helped it grow into a thriving city.

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The Van Zandt family moved to a larger home as his fortunes grew, but in the early days he rode his horse from the cottage to the downtown bank every day, fording the river since there were no bridges. He participated in cattle drives until the railroad came. He was a widower twice, so he eventually had three wives and fourteen children, with many descendants still in Fort Worth today.

In all his ventures, Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt used his capital and abilities to work with others to start the businesses needed in a growing city. In all cases, he became the president of the companies and guided them to their successes.

In his autobiography, Van Zandt says:

“My business was prospering and I had the opportunity of becoming a wealthy man; but I was interested in other values before money. Fort Worth was growing, and there was much to be done. As my years have increased, my activities have, of necessity lessened; but my interest in the welfare of Fort Worth and her people is as keen as it ever was. My greatest efforts now are devoted to my church, First Christian, and to my responsibilities as president of Fort Worth National Bank.”

Van Zandt remained active as president of the church board and president of the bank until his death in 1930.