San Angelo, TX's Fort Concho
Fort Concho is one of the most visited landmarks in Texas and has been declared “America's best-preserved fort” by readers of True West magazine.
The San Angelo attraction was constructed by the U.S. Army in 1867 when virtually nothing but nature existed in this part of western Texas, and the fort became the region's first permanent settlement. It was strategically constructed along the banks of the Concho River, since water in west Texas was vital and rare in those days.
“The fort is the reason why the city of San Angelo exists today,” says Bob Bluthardt, Fort Concho National Historic Landmark site manager. “Originally a military post, it was deactivated in 1889, became a museum in 1928, and today is toured annually by about 60,000 people from throughout the country.”
The original property spanned 1,600 acres and today measures 40 acres. The fort is owned and operated by the City of San Angelo, and its main attraction is the Fort Concho Museum with a collection of more than 35,000 artifacts.
“There are 24 buildings on site, with 17 of them original,” Bluthardt says. “Available buildings to tour include the enlisted men's barracks, post headquarters, hospital, the school, chapel and the officers’ row and their quarters. The fort holds historical significance to tourists visiting our area, but it also serves as a gathering place for the community. It hosts more than a dozen annual events throughout the year.”
National Cowboy Day
Those events include Buffalo Soldier Heritage Day in February, Frontier Day in April, Texas Mesquite Arts Festival in April, Armed Forces Day as well as Memorial Day in May, Independence Day in July and National Cowboy Day in July. In addition, the fort hosts National Museum Day in September and the Concho Valley Archeology Fair in October.
Perhaps the two most-attended events at Fort Concho each year are the Speaker Series held every Wednesday at lunchtime throughout April and September and an annual Christmas at Old Fort Concho each December. Joyce Gray, president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas-Fort Concho Chapter, is instrumental in helping to coordinate both events.
“The Speaker Series is free and open to the public, with top speakers informing the public about interesting aspects of San Angelo history,” Gray says. “As for Christmas at Old Fort Concho, I oversee the musical entertainment for the three-day festival, plus run a booth of Native American artifacts.”
Gray says more than 2,000 volunteers are responsible for making Christmas at Old Fort Concho the success it is.
“There are campfires each night, military re-enactors, carolers, Texas food, decorations and live musical acts,” she says. “The Christmas celebration is another aspect of why the fort is so valuable to the entire community, and is such a defining place. I thank the City of San Angelo for keeping the fort going, thereby preserving history for young and old to enjoy.”
Find more on the history of San Angelo, TX.