Abilene, Texas (population 115,930), was platted by the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1881. The T&P and the other railroads that served the community were critical to the success of the area's agricultural economy. World War II brought an Army post and air base to Abilene, creating a new economic generator that continues today as Dyess Air Force Base.
Post-war, the oil industry boomed in the area, and Abilene became the oil center of West Central Texas. The city countered the oil bust of the 1980s by adopting a half-cent sales tax to fund economic development activities. It was the first city in the State to do so and also was the first to create a tax increment financing district to promote redevelopment. That district has been an important catalyst in the renaissance of Abilene's historic downtown.
From 1982 to 2004, more than $65 million in public and private funds have been spent on downtown projects. The historic T&P Depot (1910) now houses the Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, and nearby railroad warehouse and baggage buildings have been rehabilitated for retail uses.
The Paramount Theatre (1930) has been restored as the centerpiece of a downtown cultural district, and the once-dilapidated Grace Hotel (1909) is now an art, history, and children's museum. The new "Frontier Texas!" museum is another important tourist attraction that also serves as a visitor center for the Texas Historical Commission's Texas Forts Trail, a heritage tourism trail for a 29-county area of West Central Texas.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2004.
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