How Renaissance House is playing a role in the rebirth of Historic Southside
Jennifer Giddings Brooks remembers the numerous Christmas mornings she spent at the home at 1201 E. Terrell Ave. in the Historic Southside.
The home’s owner, May Pearl Flint, would invite Brooks and her family over to drink eggnog and exchange gifts. It became a tradition for a long time, said Brooks.
When Flint died in 1995, the visits ended. The home sat vacant for years until it became only a skeleton of what it once was.
Now, Brooks is planning to reimagine the home on East Terrell Avenue as a new community space, The Renaissance House of Terrell Heights, with the goal of preserving its history and promoting community health amid several revitalization efforts in the Historic Southside.
History of The Renaissance House
The Renaissance House sits on a lot that has seen a lot of changes over the past 100 years.
In the early 1900s, a two-story, classical revival-style mansion sat on the Terrell Avenue site. The home belonged to William Madison McDonald, a man who is widely believed to be the first Black millionaire in Texas.
McDonald became an influential banker who opened the Fraternal Bank and Trust. He also was a political force who helped shape Fort Worth at the end of the 20th century and used his wealth to uplift the city’s Black community, according to KERA News.
“Anything that he took his hand to prospered. And he was showing others that you can do this too,” Opal Lee, the grandmother of Juneteenth, previously told KERA.
McDonald died in July 1950 at the age of 84.
His widow, May Pearl, remarried local businessman Clarence W. Flint Jr. The couple tore down the mansion and built a four-bedroom midcentury home on the lot in 1952. The home featured marble installations by Bill McHarg, who is known for his marble tile design work inside the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, the Flints opened their home as a hub for community gatherings and celebrations for Black social leaders in Fort Worth, including the Fort Worth chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Flint was a charter member of the chapter, said Brooks.
“They were willing to open up their home for groups and it became a beacon of hope for the community,” she said.
May Pearl Flint remained a committed community volunteer until her death in 1995. After she died, her family held onto the property for several years before putting it up for sale.
Vision for new community space
Brooks has spent her decades-long career focused on education and community involvement throughout Fort Worth but has always paid close attention to the underserved communities in 76104.
In 2019, a study from UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas found that residents in the 76104 ZIP code had the shortest life expectancy in Texas: 66.7 years.
Learning of the neighborhood’s needs, Brooks knew there was more to be done. In 2022, she discovered the Flint’s home was for sale. It all lined up, Brooks said.
That year, she reached out to Marnese Elder, a close friend of over 50 years and fellow member of the Morningside Church, to collaborate on remodeling the home.
As someone who grew up in the neighborhood and worked in public health, Elder believed there was an opportunity to create a health and educational hub inside the historic house.
“The whole idea of walking in here and knowing that (the house) needed to be purchased by people who understand the history was immediate,” said Elder. “Preservation was critical to us.”
Brooks and Elder acquired the property in February 2023 for $250,000 from private funding sources. The home’s new name was inspired by all the revitalization projects planned for the Historic Southside, including the Juneteenth Museum and the Brooks Clinic, said Brooks.
“We were talking about this whole area, and how once everything is built, it’s going to be a rebirth,” she said. “We’re at the beginning stages of it right now, but we talked and said ‘there needs to be a Renaissance house.’”
The Renaissance House, which is set to open on Feb. 8, will offer a telemedicine program, in partnership with Teladoc Health, to provide 1,000 residents with access to a licensed doctor for many common health issues. Teladoc doctors are able to diagnose and treat cold and flu symptoms, respiratory infections, allergies and skin rashes.
Even though the telemedicine program will only serve a limited number of residents, the goal is to grow funding to expand and serve more people, said Elder.
“We want to launch with the intent of access to care,” she said. “The demographics are deep and well-rounded in the neighborhood. We expect all ages, all ethnicities and races to be able to access care through this program.”
The space will also feature remodeled leasable office spaces, a community kitchen and a conference room for neighborhood residents and organizations to use.
The Renaissance House has partnered with United Way of Tarrant County, Society of St. Vincent de Paul North Texas, Cigna Healthcare, Giving Mission Inc. and Rainwater Charitable Foundation for its health services and fundraising efforts.
Within the first year, Brooks and Elder hope to launch free cooking classes for people with chronic health conditions and education programs for students to learn about local Black history.
“It’s important that we do the small things that will serve as tributaries to the Juneteenth Museum,” said Elder. “We don’t stand alone, we stand together in preserving the knowledge about these incredible individuals who made the African American community of Fort Worth.”
David Moreno is the health reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @davidmreports on X, formerly known as Twitter.
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.