Heritage, Volume 13, Number 2, Spring 1995 Page: 12
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PRESERVATION AND PROMOTION GO HAND IN HAND IN HISTORIC SAN ANGELO
By Marion Szurek
he San Angelo
Visitors Bureau has
one consistent image in its
marketing plan: its heritage.
The nearly restored Santa Fe Railroad
Depot, built in 1909, is just one
of the historic sites that tourists can
experience in San Angelo. Photograph
provided by the San Angelo
Convention and Visitors Bureau.
When developing its
marketing tourism plan,
leaders recognized the
West Texas town not as a
Disney-type attraction but
instead as a living heritage
center for the ranch and
farm culture that figures so
prominently in the city's
past and continues today
to be an important economic cornerstone.
Its attractions include Fort
Concho, the best preserved frontier fort
in the nation, a restored train depot and
warehouse, and countless other historic
projects and properties. For sure, the
San Angelo experience was not an urban
version of the Texas mystique, it
was the real thing.
Tourism officials, citing surveys that
consistently revealed the importance of
cultural heritage, decided to capitalize
on that western heritage. Almost universally,
they reasoned, tourists want to
look at and touch history. Putting their
plan into action, tourism officials first
evaluated the city's "inventory". They
compiled a list of everything locally that
might possibly be of interest to a tourist
- from both internal and external perspectives.
(The internal portion consisted
of a compilation prepared by the
locals. The external list was the result of
a series of mini focus groups composed of
individuals from out of town, who looked
at the community through outside eyes.)
The resulting inventory reflected the
nature of San Angelo and what made it
With that inventory in hand, San
Angelo city leaders began the implementation
process, which involved the
following important elements:
* Leadership. According to executives
at the San Angelo Convention
and Visitors Bureau, "We had an early
San Angelo role model in G inevra Wood
Carson who became the leader of the
'Save the Fort' effort in 1929." This start,
more than 65 years ago, was the real beginning
of Fort Concho's restoration, which
continues today under a board and staff.
The Fort serves as a depository for San
Angelo's early history. Each year, the restoration
progresses; this year, the city welcomed
the Concho Valley Pioneer Heritage
Center, a gift from several of the leading
ranch families of the Concho Valley.
In 1978, Ken Gunter restored "Block
One" on Concho Avenue in San Angelo.
That was the first major effort to renovate
downtown buildings, and today "Block
One" anchors the city's main tourist avenue
that houses many fine restoration
examples and a collection of shops.
Another important leadership effort
happened when some of San Angelo's visionaries
became aware of the Regional
Urban Design Assistance Team (RUDAT),
a program of the American Institute
of Architects. Howard Taylor, Fine
Arts Museum director, and Henry Schmidt,
local architect, introduced the idea of applying
for R-UDAT, and Lee Pfluger played
an important role in the application process.
In 1992, San Angelo was one of 10
cities chosen to participate in the R-UDAT
program. The R-UDAT traveled to San
Angelo, and in five days produced a "plan
for planning". According to Pfluger, "We
are probably one of the best examples of the
success of the R-UDAT program, because
we moved quickly, and by the end of 1995,
we will have restored and completed the
major part of the plan including the restoration
of the Depot and a mall pathway
that will connect the Fort with
the historic city center."
*Commitment and Followup.
The City of San Angelo
solidly supported the plan and
much of the credit for its success
must be given to Stephen
Brown, city manager, who
worked diligently on the implementation
of the R-UDAT proposal.
* A Little Good Luck. San Angelo's
best example of good luck is Evelyn Hill,
who purchased an old building on
Concho Avenue in 1976, and when she
took off the boards that had previously
shut off the upstairs, discovered a bordello
- completely intact. This was the
beginning of Miss Hattie's, another San
Angelo historical visitor attraction.
While funding was not mentioned in
the list above, and all concerned recognize
it as an important element, the
leaders in San Angelo noted that when
leadership and commitment were
present, money could be found. Importantly,
they advise that lack of funding
should never stop forward progress.
Since the program began in 1978, the
San Angelo heritage product has blossomed
beyond the highest hopes of civic
leaders. Those at the Convention and
Visitors Bureau say that not only will the
city prosper economically, but the citizens
will benefit by having a wonderful
and unique community. Their advice to
any community considering preservation
and heritage tourism is to get involved
in restoration projects and good
planning because done properly it can
be a wonderful gift for the entire city and
when marketed correctly, as part of a
tourism package, it can be a significant
Marion Szurek is director of the San Angelo
Convention and Visitors Bureau.
12 HERITAGE * SPRING 1995
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 13, Number 2, Spring 1995, periodical, Spring 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45410/m1/12/: accessed May 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.