San Angelo, Texas, (population 92,000) is located in west central Texas between the Texas hill country to the southeast and the rolling plains to the northwest. The town traces its origins to the establishment of Fort Concho, built in 1867 to protect frontier settlements. The fort became the home of mounted cavalry, infantry, and the African American fighters known as Buffalo Soldiers
In 1870, Bart J. DeWitt purchased 320 acres across the Concho River and named the new village Santa Angela after his wife. The community became a trade center for the many farmers and ranchers who had settled in the area. Later renamed San Angelo, agriculture and trade kept the town thriving after soldiers abandoned the fort when hostilities subsided in 1889.
Weather and climate also played an important role in San Angelo’s early development. When tuberculosis became widespread in the early 1900s, patients from across the nation were sent to a treatment center near San Angelo, where the dry climate proved to be helpful in healing the disease.
Today, San Angelo is the trade and services hub of a 13-county area supported by agriculture, manufacturing, education, business and health services, tourism, and retirement services. Goodfellow Air Force Base provides military intelligence training and a firefighting school for the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines.
San Angelo is rich in historical resources. Fort Concho National Historic Landmark includes a visitor center, museum, and parade grounds. Seventeen buildings on the fort grounds have been restored and five have been reconstructed, giving visitors an authentic feel for the frontier days of the mid-1880s. The fort celebrates the famous Buffalo Soldiers during Black History Month each February and holds Frontier Day in June and Christmas at Old Fort Concho in December.
El Paseo de Santa Angela is a heritage trail with two pavilion buildings and a tiered plaza that create open space linking the historic Orient-Santa Fe Depot, the river, and the fort. Recently, San Angelo created a gateway along Oakes Street to connect Fort Concho, the Paseo, the Old Town Conservatory, and the Museum of Fine Arts to the historic downtown. The project restored the facades of six older buildings on the street, one of which now houses the Coop Art Gallery. Another is home to the Concho River Basin Aquatic Research and Education Center.
Each year, local fourth graders attend a half-day program at Fort Concho, where they experience a frontier school and learn about life in soldiers’ barracks. Other youth activities include Students Day at the Winter Rendezvous, which features 1800s music, living history, demonstration of pioneer life, and military drills. The “Yesteryears Revisited” Archaeology Fair in October exposes students to area history and archaeology, along with hands-on experience in bow-and-arrow shooting, spear throwing, basket making, and other activities.
Visitors can take “A Walk through Time” in the historic downtown, where 60 banners reflect the original businesses once housed in the restored buildings. Historic murals of the area are located on exterior walls throughout San Angelo, and a cell-phone guide enables visitors to hear more about the history depicted in each painting. Additional walking tours are available at the Convention and Visitors Bureau. In addition, Fort Concho is one of the anchors of a 650-mile driving trail that connects nine forts and military sites in central/west Texas.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2011.
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