Swing into Pearls Dance Hall and Saloon in Fort Worth, Texas
Whether you are looking for a great little honky-tonk or an evening of country swing dancing with friends, Pearl’s is the place to go in the Stockyards of Fort Worth, Texas. Built in 1908 by Buffalo Bill Cody who thought the town needed a bit of nightlife, this place was created with a pressed-tin-shingled interior roof and blood red walls where you could get a drink and relax. In 1914, Pearl Davis bought the building from Cody with a loan she obtained on her signature alone (remarkable since she was just 15 years old at the time!) She named it Hotel & Café Pearl and rented rooms above the small bar. Later, in 1996, the property changed hands again and was renamed Big Bulls. In 2003, Marie Duckworth bought it and renamed it Pearl’s Dance Hall and Saloon, without knowing its history until after naming the place!
A beautiful painting of the “original” Pearl greets visitors the minute they walk in the front door. Pearl’s remaining relatives helped the owner when she visited a local artist to paint the 6 foot long painting, and one day, when her great-great-granddaughter came into the Saloon, she exclaimed, “where did you get a picture of me?” This startled the manager because the painting had been done based on recollections of Pearl in her later years (no youthful photographs existed) and the artwork was done of Pearl as a young woman in her prime! Another startling revelation is that Pearl’s misty figure has been seen wandering the dance floor late at night when the barkeep is doing her side work, and even at the upstairs window when the owner is going home. It has been reported that she glides silently around the dance floor and seems very content – not frightening at all.
Marie kept the antique ceiling, painting the authentic tin ceiling tiles a dusty black in accordance with Historical Society guidelines for preservation. A copper/mahogany bar was built in the 1950's with a huge mirror over it, accompanied by a good-sized wooden dance floor. A giant split Texas flag serves as curtains over two of the front ceiling high windows. This establishment does allow smoking, but is so well-ventilated that you’d never know it. The moment you walk into the place, you feel right at home.
Sometimes you will even be greeted by one or more of the original “Pearl’s Girls” that wear authentic Old West Saloon attire (modestly, of course!) There is great music and lots of cowboys, but no rough talk or fighting; and no “ladies of the night”. This is good, clean country swing dancing at its best, with local band Tommy Hooker and Pearl’s All-Star Pickers. Intimate corners and rail tables mean that everyone can pick a great spot near the dance floor and see the band up close. There are the requisite neon beer signs, and one that says “Pearl’s”, but nothing garish or seemingly out of place in this quaint Saloon. Famous rodeo cowboys like champion bull rider Jim Sharp, team-roping champion Steve Purcella and Bareback champion Monty Hawkeye Henson (who also sits in and sings with the band) have been known to visit this little gem from time to time, so you never know who you might meet at Pearl’s. Regular patrons are friendly and readily introduce themselves to newcomers. One thing is certain: by the time you leave you will have made some new friends.
Awards for civic participation in the Kowboys for Kids charity adorn the wall, showing community spirit promoted through the sales of an annual Pearl’s Dance Hall and Saloon calendar which donates 50% of the profits to this worthy cause. Annual after-party events are held for The Cowtown Society of Western Music's Swingfest and The Academy of Western Artists Awards; it’s a great place to hold your next party, too (max. 250 people).
Pearl’s Dance Hall and Saloon is located at 302 W. Exchange in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards and is open Wednesday and Thursday from 6-12 pm and Friday and Saturday from 7-pm-1:30am. There is no cover charge Wednesdays or Thursdays and no drink minimum. So next time you’re “a-hankerin” for some great Country Swing dancing and reasonably-priced beer, wine, or a mixed drink to quench your thirst, stop in at Pearl’s and soak up some of the local history of Fort Worth.