The seldom used library and overused Street Fighter 2 machine.
1919 Hemphill opened its doors in September 2002 in Fort Worth, Texas. The goal of the two-story ex-furniture store was to be an infoshop, event space, and lending library. For thirteen-plus years 1919 Hemphill (aka “1919,” “Hemphill,” or “The Space”) hosted touring bands, workshops, movie screenings, art shows, and one teenager’s graduation party.
I was the event coordinator at 1919 Hemphill from 2002 to 2012. I quit because I was moving to Bloomington, Ind. where I would never see the sun again. At that time the space was left in good hands and when I visited it a couple of times, it looked better than ever.
In early 2017, 1919 Hemphill was hit like many similar spaces by alt-right groups complaining of “unsafe” building standards to local governments. The doors were closed but the volunteers at the time crowd sourced money to get the building up to code. Over the next year, the collective members dwindled and the community lost trust with the volunteers who stuck around. Without much of a warning, 1919 Hemphill closed its doors for good earlier this year. This is a huge loss for the Dallas/Fort Worth DIY and punk community.
People usually associate me with 1919 Hemphill and put me up on some old flier- and sticker-covered pedestal. I certainly spent many of my non-working hours doing 1919-related things. But I wasn’t at it alone. With the announcement of 1919 Hemphill closing, I reached out to many of its former volunteers and organizers for a final eulogy for the space that used to have our sweat plastered all over its inner walls. –Rick V.
The back wall featuring the air duct that
had to be repaired on a monthly basis.
I first met Devin at a sculpture class at the community college of Fort Worth, Texas. We were instant friends and I could not imagine a more energetic, empathetic person. I had been beating the war drums for about a year to create a space in Fort Worth where people could be authentic, creative, and spontaneous, and here she was in the flesh, the embodiment of freedom; and she had never even heard a single Crass song! We met in that sculpture class and we, quite quickly, began molding each other and the world around us. She believed every word I said about creating a space and, so, I believed it, too. She was an infinitely integral ingredient in a recipe that would soon feed Fort Worth for years and years and years.
The meetings to create said space had been bringing out amazing people for about a year. We would gather at the Ol South Pancake House and dream. Crystal, Ashley, Gren, Tommy, Angie, Brothers Talley, Perky, Kevan, Matt, and more people than I could ever possibly thank would gather and I would do simple math and demonstrate just how easy this was gonna be! (I’m a bit soft in the head.) We had some money raised from garage sales and bowling benefits; we had a space in mind, but it was way over budget. We decided on an out-of-the-way spot that was way cheap and to just get fuckin’ started. No more talk, action! This beginning solidified our goal and brought hidden helpers out of the woodwork!
I loved 1919 the moment I saw it: near downtown Fort Worth and a short bike ride to the Junsuree Thai House. On one lunch buffet, Devin told me a fable of the lotus flower. She told me that in stagnant water, a lotus flower can emerge. It pushes through the muck and realizes itself in the world. I always felt like this analogy was intended for 1919 against the world, but, truly, it had a deeper meaning all along. It was 1919 growing through each of us, dealing with our imperfections and limitations. It was that feeling of creating something bigger than myself, in spite of myself. It was that lotus flower inside all of us who believed another world is possible. That is what endures. That’s what is real.
The building is still there until they tear it down, but I know we affected change and each other. What I remember of this time in my life—most is the feeling of courage I got from others. The news will always, always be bad, but people are amazing! We are resilient and resourceful and we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
In 2004, I was a sad, lonely kid, convinced I was weird. A guy I thought was cool from my math class invited me to a show at 1919 and my previously very small world opened up in a big way. I was still weird, of course—but less sad, and not at all lonely. I’m very grateful for what 1919 represented to me—I’m especially grateful to the volunteers, artists, and community that made it happen. Love to all.
1919 is where I am from, as much as anywhere. It was a special, messy place where anyone willing to put in the time and effort could do whatever they wanted, really. It is the root of who I am today and the root of where I first felt a true sense of community.
You’d show up at 1919 at 5 PM, turn on whatever pop punk CD was on hand, and start your job of washing cups and shuffling garbage around the space. You’d keep the door locked at first so you could do your job. Eventually, Mark, who lived in temporary housing down the block, would show up with his dog Sunshine, and you’d let him in. You’d stack up some fliers for upcoming shows or whatever and just wait around for the next people to arrive. You could skate around upstairs or lay around on the couch. Use the computer if you wanted or try on mildewed free store clothes.
Then the bands would start to arrive. A teenage screamo band in their mom’s minivan, a touring band from Arkansas or Indiana, wondering where they could get something to eat. Then everyone you know would show up. We all danced at shows and supported whatever embarrassing shit our friends were getting into. We took tremendous pride in our messy corner of the world and put most of our spare time into it. We put our art all over every surface, planted chickweed in the tire garden, sat through never-ending meetings about nothing, and worked to make space for whoever wanted or needed it. I am far from the only person who thought of 1919 as their actual job.
1919 was so special when I was there because it was a true center of our little community. I always knew where to find my friends. Like myself, they were always there, cleaning up the free store, washing cups, working the door, or running around like an idiot. I had my first band practice there, played my first show, had my first art show, completed my first zine, made my first flier, and fell in love there time and time again. I don’t know who I would be if I hadn’t been a part of 1919, and I feel proud to have kept it rolling for a little while. We could’ve done a lot of things differently, but for a lost teenage kid like me, it was perfect.
Old-Time Gas Pumps Phil
I started volunteering at 1919 sometime around 2009ish I think and stopped sometime beginning in 2016. I took over some of the calendar stuff for a couple of years after Rick left. It’s where I have made some of my longest lasting friendships and where I first met my soon-to-be wife (or now wife depending on when this comes out). I had the pleasure of meeting people from not just around the country but around the world. Got to see tons of bands that I loved, and play tons of shows with even more bands that I love. I also got to see bands that I did not love, but, looking back, it was still fun. It also never really felt like work when volunteering. Cleaning the gutters because the roof kept leaking and flooding the free store, changing ceiling tiles so the fire marshal would leave us alone, cleaning cups, unclogging the toilet, organizing the library, et cetera.
It’s a place where I got to meet so many people that I would probably not have met if 1919 never existed. As unfortunate as it is that 1919 ended the way it did, my time there is irreplaceable. Things of note: I once bought a bunch of MRE’s from Mark (and Sunshine), Rick and I had to stay really late once to clean blood off the floor because of a tough guy kid cutting his arm and being tough, listening to a touring ska band argue with each other, the cops shutting down a show at Exploding House and it just moved down the street to 1919, and a ton of other things that I don’t have the space to list. It was great, and as much as I still wish it was around, it leaves it open for a new generation of kids to start something new and hopefully have as much fun as I did during my time there. (PS: I saved the Street Fighter 2 machine! I will eventually get it up and running. I PROMISE!).
I’ve been in love with punk since my best friend in middle school lent me a burned CD with Misfits songs on it. But I never knew how accessible it could be until 1919. I had been to shows at a few infamous now unrecognizable punk venues in Dallas, but 1919 was the first place where I saw people my age who looked like me making the kind of music I loved. After our first show there in the summer of 2007, when we also met the very tall and lovable face of 1919 (you should know exactly who I’m referring to), my high school friends and I tried to make the trip to Fort Worth as often as we could. Once college started, I began volunteering regularly. Eventually, I found myself in bands with the people I came to know and love through the space. Once I graduated and began working, I unfortunately, was only able to go to shows I was playing. Yet, I made every effort to book my shows at 1919 and make use of everything I learned from my mentors there: ensure there’s a flyer for every show and actually print out physical copies, get the word out through social media, make sure bands have a place to stay, and, most importantly, be kind to everyone and regulate as needed: aka NO BOOZE, NO DRUGS, NO JERKS.
In a lot of ways, 1919 shaped the way I approach punk and life in general. Though it makes me incredibly sad to know that the North Texas DIY scene is worse off without it, I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of the space. 1919 and the relationships I made there are some of the best things that have ever happened to me. RIP 1919.
I stumbled onto 1919 a couple of weeks after having uprooted my life to Texas in 2009. I went to the Dropdead/Hatred Surge show and all I could think of was “Wow, that was amazing! Great place, great scene, this is going to be awesome!” The next week I went there again for the Conscientious Projector screening where they would regularly show documentaries or movies… and two people were there! I still had a good evening, and it made me fall in love with the place. It had so many initiatives (library, free store, shows…) and never mind if there was a lot of action, the most important part was that it existed and it was done together. Pretty soon Rick roped me into helping out and coming to the infamous Monday volunteer meetings, and just like that, I was part of the collective. The core group of Al, Lacey, and Rick definitely were the main drivers at the time but there was space for everyone and their ideas—and a diverse set of weirdos it was—but hey that’s the beauty of an “open” collective! It wasn’t always easy fun and games, but coming from my perspective I was still amazed every month that we were able to make rent and make cool shit happen with what little resources we had.
After moving away I’d still fly back every year or so and I’d be welcomed back just as if I’d never left, doing the door or sound just like old times. Then it changed, as all things do, but I still have a special place in my mind for 1919 and the crew who are still a big part of why I grew into the person I am today.
A place where I got inspired. I just wanted to draw on the walls and see cool bands. Just wanted to make friends. But nobody wants to be friends with the guys taking money at the door. I really feel like it was a creative place that inspired others. Never been to a place so punk in my life.
1919 Hemphill, Rick, Al, and Ramsey opened my eyes and ears to DIY music locally and around the world. I know it sounds cheesy, but they helped me grow as a person. Allowing me to volunteer, book shows (Rick loved the metalcore I booked at first), and meet so many wonderful people; some I wouldn’t have ever met if it wasn’t for 1919. Also, my bands Jubilee and Innards played countless times in the space. We loved every single minute of it. It’s sad to see the space go, but we always have all the incredible and sweaty memories of 1919.
I met the love of my life at 1919. Four and a half years later we’re still together, have seen hundreds of bands together, and made long lasting friends. I owe 1919 to so many positive things like growing potatoes, meeting folks from across the nation, and exchanging ideas and politics I would have likely never heard, being from the ‘burbs. I miss the venue dearly and—more than anything—the unifying support system it created in the community.
I found 1919 by accident when I was seventeen. I had just dropped out of high school, had no friends, and was bone broke. I tried to pay to get into that first show with a pack of Marlboros but was told to just go in. It was definitely a coming of age moment for me. All of a sudden I had immersed myself in this culture that I had never known existed. After a few weeks, I became a volunteer, the youngest one at that point. It was a pretty wild time. Some of the best and worst moments of my life happened there. All in all, I know I definitely wouldn’t be who I am or even here at all if I hadn’t found that space.
When I moved to DFW from a very small town in New Mexico, 1919 was the first place I ended up after I saw a flyer in the window of a record store. It was like all of my dreams had come true. It was punk: it wasn’t about making money, there were friendly and interesting people of all ages and backgrounds, it was a place where you could always learn and experience something new. Beyond the punk shows, you could catch an eye-opening documentary, some avant-garde music, a hip hop show, a traveling theatre production, or a swap meet. One time I ended up getting to play a show with Kimya Dawson and I was star struck. To me, 1919 represented limitless possibilities. It brought me into a group of peers that made me feel at home, challenged me, inspired me, and looked out for me. It was community in action. I’m so thankful for all of those experiences and the life-long friendships I made along the way. Thank you 1919 Hemphill for everything! RIP.
In about 2005, I was twelve and my high school-aged brother took me to see Japanther at 1919. It was a rare downstairs show. I remember the band’s telephone microphones, the liberating feeling of losing control of my body in a mosh pit for the first time, and deciding I had found what I wanted to do with my life.
For over a decade, 1919 was my favorite place on earth. It is where I made nearly all of my friends, it taught me I have the power to build my life into exactly what I want it to be, that life is what you make it.
These days when I go on tour, even though I love to have a beer and play stages with decent sound, I’m always most excited to play DIY, all ages spaces. 1919 taught me firsthand how vital they are, both to the wellbeing of the next generation of the music scene generally, and to the mental health of the individuals who occupy them specifically. RIP 1919.
My story is much like everyone else’s, but at the least, I can say 1919 helped me grow into the person I am now. Without 1919 I wouldn’t have learned about the importance of accepting and supporting those around you. I’d never been surrounded by peers and mentors who I could relate to so much. As I got older and began playing and touring more often, I realized just how important having a safe art space like 1919 was in a scene. Everyone should be able to go to these shows and feel comfortable and seen, and that’s exactly what 1919 did. Even a couple of years after its existence, I and many others still talk about and reference the cultural impact that 1919 had on its community and how important it is to us. I’ll always be thankful for 1919’s open arms.
To be honest, I was only there for the last year it was open but during that time I saw a lot of love, cooperation, and an openness that just couldn’t be faked. 1919 may be dead but the ideas and spirit it was built on are more important (and more needed) than that one place ever was.
I was first introduced to the 1919 experience by Alex Ramirez. We went to see the Wild Tribes’ last show ever played so we decided to celebrate by sneaking in whiskey in McDonald’s cups. We got thoroughly messed up after we smoked a couple of blunts in the parking lot. I was instantly smitten with the place from the atmosphere, the people, and ideologies so much that I ended up volunteering three to four times a week. 1919 taught me the importance of what it means to give back and get involved with your community. 1919 was always an open and safe place for people to gather and discuss ideas. For example, they hosted organizations such as Food Not Bombs and others. Overall, it was a humbling experience working for 1919. The memories and friendships I gained there will last with me a lifetime.
I remember sitting in the office at 1919 and staring up at the ceiling as three of us regular volunteers watched it flexing up and down. I joked that if it caved in, 1919 would be a good place to die. Dropdead was playing that night and it was the biggest crowd I’d ever seen in the space. Everyone was there: past bandmates, future bandmates, old friends, future friends, people who have come and gone, all sorts. I think of that night often, it was one of the best of my life and it seems so distant now.
I remember telling Rick at some point that I was going to get a 1919 tattoo. He laughed and told me that was a dumb idea. When I asked him why he said because I wouldn’t always volunteer there, people come and go. I told him that he was wrong and that I’d always be around. So, I got the tattoo on my left arm a little while after that conversation. I stopped volunteering probably a year after that and now every time that tattoo catches my eye and I think about it, I laugh.
I miss 1919 and the time I spent volunteering there in a deep, longing sort of way. It changed me as a person and taught me more than anything else in that period about life and how to navigate it as I transitioned into independent adulthood. I miss Mark, I miss Sunshine, and I miss all the stickers with Rick on them that said: “Why do it together when you can have Rick do it?”
Discovering 1919 was probably one of the best things to happen to me when I was younger. It was one of the first places I truly felt comfortable. I remember going to my first show there when I was sixteen and being in awe of all the posters and art and books in the free library about all types of radical shit. It blew my little mind that after all the close-minded crap I was surrounded by in Texas growing up, an oasis like this existed. I always felt so included for the first time, like everyone there was just stoked that you were also there. I saw so much great music from surf to death metal and all kinds of things in between. I met some of the best people I ever met in Texas through that place.
Going from being a little shithead drinking 4Loko in the parking lot of Eddie’s between sets to becoming a part of it all was all I wanted back then. I was so pumped when Andre invited me to a volunteer meeting there and would always offer to help out at the less-than-desirable shows (hardcore bro stuff) just for the chance to be involved in such an amazing thing. It really became a bit of a haven to keep me sane and out of trouble. It’s definitely one of the things I’ve missed the most about Fort Worth and it’s a shame that it’s no longer there to help and inspire more people as it did for me the first time I walked up those stairs thirteen years ago. I’m glad its legacy lives on and I still talk about and listen to all these random-ass bands I saw there regularly.
By the time I showed up to 1919 Hemphill in early 2010, the space had already been going strong for about eight years. I was seventeen and looking for a place to play shows and I ended up getting a lot more than I bargained for. I saw people from many different cultures nationally and internationally come through and feel the magic the space had between its walls and contribute to it. Being a young person and a regular volunteer at 1919, knowing I was connected to a network of like-minded people all over the world, made me feel like anything was possible. People change, and buildings change, but I think a big part of my heart is cursed to feel the weight and wonder of those endless possibilities forever. Thanks 1919, for making everything inside and outside Fort Worth feel closer and smaller. As our safe-space fades away, the rest of the world feels like it’s becoming more like it, and that’s pretty cool.
I initially went to 1919 to see Innards. I returned to hang out with Rick, Al, Lacey, and Phil. I became a regular because the fried okra at Eddie’s Fried Chicken was amazing.
1919’s current state in 2019.
1919 Hemphill is a building—a terrible, terrible building. At various times in the fourteen years it hosted shows it had holes in both the roof and the floor, flooding, a non-functioning toilet, a non-functioning sink, faulty electricity, indoor temperatures ranging from below freezing to over one hundred degrees, rats, mice, cats, fleas, no heat, no air conditioning, razor-sharp ducting at eye level, exposed wiring, broken glass, broken doors, and oogles.
I met some of the worst people I have ever known in that building. I injured myself, received at least one death threat, dealt with cops, dealt with three separate landlords, cleaned up both shit and piss (and maybe semen), breathed in toxic fumes, burned myself, cut myself, possibly contracted West Nile Virus, was hassled by banks, city officials, promoters, bands, ASCAP, was insulted and screamed at, broke up several fights, and had to deal with way too many oogles.
The years between 2002 and 2017 were some of the best and worst years of my life. While volunteering at 1919, I earned a college degree, got married, started grad school, dropped out of grad school, had a complete nervous breakdown, quit a job, started a new job, turned twenty, turned thirty, made amazing friends and terrible enemies, saw friends get sick and die, saw friends have children, had friends move to town, had friends move away, played shows, booked shows, canceled shows, saw some of the most amazing bands and lots and lots of terrible bands, been angry, ecstatic, bored, overjoyed, excited, sad, had both wonderful and terrible things said to me, said both wonderful and terrible things, and learned that the word for freeloading and dirty white traveling kids is “oogles.”
1919 meant a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people and defined my life for fifteen years (and probably a little more). I started volunteering at the end of 2002 with an incredible amount of optimism and hope and quit in the summer of 2017 with an incredible amount of pessimism and doubt. I have done some things that I am extremely proud of and some things that I horribly regret. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world, and I’m glad it’s over.
1919 started and existed with an incredible amount of hard work and dumb luck. And it turned out when the dumb luck ran out, the hard work couldn’t save it. It completely changed the North Texas DIY scene forever and hasn’t even come close to being replaced by anything. For years and years, I loved that building and now that it’s over I would happily piss on the ashes. Its establishment was an embodiment of the best and most hopeful parts of DIY and punk. Its closure was the result of the most cynical and selfish impulses by both outsiders and volunteers.
That chapter of DIY culture is over and I managed to get out without getting a lotus tattoo. Some of the people I met there as literal children are now some of my best friends. Punk’s not dead, but 1919 Hemphill is.
A huge list of volunteers who couldn’t make the deadline, could not be found, or are no longer with us: Alden, Alex, Andre, Angie, Baggins, Bobby, Brandon, Cassie, Chris (3), Devin, El, Erik, Grayson, John, Holden, Kyle, Kyle (2), Lacey, Machete, Nick, Nora, Parker (2), Ramsey, Regina, Ruth, Star, Summer, Tommy, Travis, Tyler, and any shout out to all the people who ever booked an event, cleaned the free store, took money at the door, went to those early meetings, or offered to help clean up in anyway.