Tom Green
Panhandle Plains
Fort Concho National Historic Landmark
Fort Concho National Historic Landmark History & Information:
Fort Concho was one of a number of United States military posts built in West Texas to protect settlers after the Civil War. In November 1867, a site was selected at the juncture of the Main and North Concho Rivers for a new post to replace Fort Chadbourne, which lacked an adequate water supply. Fort Concho's commissary storehouse (today the oldest building in San Angelo) and its twin, the quartermaster storehouse, were constructed in 1868. Subsequent construction progressed slowly because building materials not available locally had to be hauled from the Gulf Coast by oxcart. Capt. Robert G. Carter recalled Fort Concho in the 1870s as "one of the most beautiful and best ordered posts on the Texas border. Its arrangement was artistic and every feature was created for comfort and convenience. The elegant and imposing officers’ quarters were located on the south side of the parade grounds. The commissary and quartermaster's buildings were located on the east side, and the commander’s quarters were located on the north side. The parade ground’s west side was closed with an ornamental fence with a large gateway in the center. Civilian stonemasons and carpenters from the Fredericksburg area were employed in the early years of construction, and soldiers built the later buildings.
The government leased the fort land from private owners. By 1879, Fort Concho was an eight-company post with some forty permanent structures built of locally quarried limestone around a parade ground that measured about 500 by 1,000 feet. In addition to the above mentioned buildings, stone buildings included stables, blacksmith and carpenter shops, a forage house, an ordnance storehouse, a guardhouse, a powder magazine, a pump house, a bakery, a hospital, an administration building, and a schoolhouse that was used also as a chapel. Temporary frame buildings built adjacent to the fort included the married soldiers’ quarters, a telegraph office and a post trader's store. The fort was not stockaded, but stone walls surrounded the hospital and the backyards of the officers' quarters. The post hospital’s watch tower offered a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.
Commissary supplies were supplemented by post garden located at nearby Bismarck Farm, and by purchases made at the Sutler’s store. Grains and meat were available from local supplies. Buffalo and wild turkeys were hunted. Drinking water came from a clear-running spring located three miles south of Fort Concho, and water for cooking, washing, and for animals was abundant in the nearby rivers. Famous fort commanders included William R. Shafter, Ranald S. Mackenzie, Benjamin H. Grierson, John P. Hatch, and Wesley Merritt. Soldiers from Fort Concho scouted and mapped large portions of West Texas, built roads and telegraph lines, and escorted stagecoaches, cattle drives, and railroad survey parties.  The town that developed across the river from the fort in 1870 later became San Angelo.
As civilian law enforcement improved, Fort Concho ceased to be of military value. From 1882 to 1889, the fort was mainly a holding area for soldiers awaiting reassignment. The army abandoned the fort on June 20, 1889. Most of its buildings escaped demolition by being converted into civilian housing and commercial storage space. In 1929, Ginevra Wood Carson headed a fund-raising campaign to buy the former Fort Concho administration building. In 1930, she moved her West Texas Museum from the courthouse into the building and changed the name to Fort Concho Museum. The City of San Angelo took over the operation of the museum in 1935 and began acquiring the land and restoring the buildings. By the mid-1950s, the city had acquired several fort properties and had rebuilt two barracks and two mess halls from ruins.
Today the Fort Concho encompasses most of the former army post and includes twenty-three original and restored buildings. The fort was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, and its first master plan for reconstruction was prepared by the National Park Service in 1967. In addition to museum exhibits and living history programs, Fort Concho hosts a variety of community activities. Several buildings may be reserved for private or public events. The fort is located a few blocks south of downtown Concho Avenue, and one block south of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. The Visitor Center is located in Barracks 1 on the north side of the Parade Ground. Parking is available across South Oaks Street near El Paseo de Santa Angela. Open Mon-Sat, 9am-5pm; Sun, 1pm-5pm. Self-guided tours are available until 30 minutes before closing time. Guided tours are offered every hour on Tue-Fri, beginning at 10:30am; the last tour begins at 3:30pm. Admission and guided tour fees apply.(325) 481-2646. 630 Oakes Street.