Original or Repro? Bronze Grille Brings $1100 in Austin

A bronze art-deco panel said to be from the Texas and Pacific railroad station in Fort Worth brought intense bidding between a floor and internet bidder Saturday at Austin Auction Gallery. The floor bidder won out with the panel at $1,100. The item description provided was as follow: Bronze Art Deco architectural panel, purportedly from the Texas and Pacific Railroad Terminal, Ft. Worth, Texas, c. 1930, together with supporting documents, 33.25″h, 31″w,70lbs

We were curious about the origins of the panel. The auction reported it had been found buried in the yard of a rental property by its consignor. The building was renovated in 2001 and some research indicated several of the grilles in the building were reproductions. Disregarding the story for a moment, this left two options. The grille at auction was an original from the building that had been removed at some point prior to 2001. The second possibility was it is a copy made along with the other reproductions during renovation. Factor the story back in and the first is the greater possibility of the two. Unverifiable stories remain just that, however, stories.

Grille inside T&P Depot, Fort Worth

We headed to the T&P Depot building to have a look. The concourse was being prepared for a party so the doors were unlocked, so we had ample opportunity to look around. All of the Grilles in place had about the same patina—and the height would suggest if at some point the building fell into disrepair, these would be a good target for vandalism/theft.

While an article on the building’s restoration indicates “Some decorative grilles were recreated while others were restored,” another thought crossed my mind. Perhaps the one at auction was the only remaining original grill and for consistency all of the grilles now in place are reproductions.

Someone out there knows. If there’s anything to be learned from this story its things may not always be what they seem and all things equal, it pays to be the floor bidder!

For the curious readers who love the art deco in DFW metro region, there is an out-of-print book “Cowtown Moderne: Art Deco Architecture of Fort Worth, Texas” by Judith Singer Cohen, who wrote about the building in the book.

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