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San Angelo (Tom Green County)

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The United States Army, cattle, oil, and the wool trade combine to make San Angelo and its area thrive today. The army set up detachments at Camp J. E. Johnston and Fort Chadbourne (both in 1852), and Camp Hatch was established at the confluence of the North and Middle Concho rivers in 1867. Camp Hatch’s name was changed to Fort Concho in 1868. A small community, little more than saloons and gambling houses at first, sprang up on the north bank of the North Concho River opposite Fort Concho (see SS23) on land owned by San Antonio businessman Benjamin DeWitt. In 1874 the Texas legislature carved Tom Green County from Bexar County, naming it for Virginia-born Thomas Green, who came to Texas and fought in the Texan War of Independence. The first county seat was the town of Ben Ficklin, three miles to the south of Fort Concho. After Ben Ficklin was washed away in a flood in 1882, the seat was moved to the community opposite Fort Concho, which was renamed San Angelo the same year.

In 1888, the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway built tracks through San Angelo and by 1900 had made the town the largest cattle-shipping point in the nation (a distinction also claimed by Canyon in the Panhandle) and a national market center for wool and cotton. The Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient (KCM&O) Railway built a line through San Angelo in 1910. The discovery of major oil deposits in the 1920s near towns along the KCM&O route brought profitability to the line and made San Angelo prosperous. San Angelo College, which opened in 1928, became the state-funded Angelo State University in 1965. The U.S. Army Air Corps (later Air Force) opened Goodfellow Airforce Base in 1940, and Shannon Hospital opened in the 1960s, making San Angelo a major regional health-care center.

San Angelo has supported regionally significant architectural practices. At least thirty-eight downtown buildings were designed by Oscar Ruffini (1858–1957). Born in Cleveland, he joined his older brother Frederick E. Ruffini (1851–1885) in Austin in 1883 but moved to San Angelo in 1884 to supervise construction of the third county courthouse. The courthouse was later demolished, as were most of Oscar Ruffini’s churches and houses, but several of his commercial structures remain. His two-room wooden office and residence (see SS23) was moved to Fort Concho in 1951. Leonard R. Mauldin (1903–1972), born in San Angelo but trained in Los Angeles, was San Angelo’s foremost eclectic architect, and Donald R. Goss (1916–1990) from Seiling, Oklahoma, was the city’s leading mid-twentieth-century modern architect. Dallas architect Anton F. Korn (1886–1942) secured so many commissions in San Angelo in the 1920s that he opened a branch office here with B. M. Morgan. More recently, the firms Chakos Zentner Marcum and Kinney Franke have developed a spirited regionalism using local stone and recycled materials.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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