We found ourselves comparing Fort Stockton to the fictional town depicted in the Last Picture Show … that is until we learned that Fort Stockton doesn't have a movie theater … in fairness, a new entertainment complex is expected to open in late 2008.
Fort Stockton — Comanches, Tamales and the Permian Basin
At first glance, Fort Stockton appears to be a small dusty town with nothing to do. The main drag is lined with abandoned and crumbling buildings, two tiny grocery stores, and the smallest Wal-Mart we have ever seen. Despite this dower assessment, we found the people to be exceptionally friendly and truly enjoyed learning about the town’s Wild West history … a rich history indeed. There is plenty to do here for a few days … you just have to look.
If it weren’t for the Yates Oilfield, located about 40 miles south of town, Fort Stockton would have faded away years ago. The oilfield is a part of the Permian Basin, one of the most prolific oil and natural gas producing areas in the world.
Fondly known as Paisano Pete, this 22-foot-long roadrunner welcomes visitors to Fort Stockton … we found it pure Texas kitsch.
The small historic district contains all the sights of interest in Fort Stockton. A bit of trivia: The town was originally named Saint Gall … the name was so unpopular that it was changed officially to Fort Stockton in 1881. Danny suggested they change the name to Comanche Springs ... but no one would listen to him.
The former Riggs hotel, a popular stop on the Overland Butterfield Stage line in the early 1900’s, now houses the Annie Riggs Memorial Museum. Built of adobe and wood it is an excellent example of Territorial Architecture. We loved its look, of course we’re always suckers for wraparound verandas and heavy gingerbread trim.
The Annie Riggs Memorial Museum is one of the most charming attractions we have visited. If it were still open for business, people would continue to flock here to enjoy the guest rooms with their 14 foot high ceilings, the Sears & Roebuck cast iron beds, the central courtyard and the cool breezes on the veranda. Annie Riggs was a fascinating lady … she was married twice, had 10 children and still had time to run a hotel.
In the parlor, Danny was allowed to play one of the first pianos brought to Fort Stockton. Built in 1898 at a cost of $100, this piano has four pedals ... a very rare feature.
Fort Stockton is home to the Pecos County Courthouse. Erected in 1912, it was constructed from the sandstone blocks of the original 1883 building. In the adjacent plaza is the Zero Stone, a marker established in 1847 that was used as a point of origin for all land surveys in this part of west Texas for many years.
Across from the courthouse is Pecos County’s original jail. Built in 1883, it is probably the most attractive in the state. If it weren’t for the bars across the windows, we might have mistaken it for a home.
We were disappointed to find Sarah’s Café all boarded up. This little place opened in 1929 and was reputed to have the best Mexican food in town. We were told that Sarah retired several years ago … too bad we missed her.
We were quickly consoled when we spotted the Comanche Tortilla & Tamale Factory across the street. This place has been cranking out tamales for about 70 years. After tasting a sample, Danny couldn’t resist walking away with a dozen perfectly seasoned pork tamales … a bargain at only nine dollars.
Many of the buildings in this section of town are boarded up. However, this dry cleaner ... located in an old converted gas station ... appeared to be doing OK. The retro-look sign caught Sherry's eye.
The old First National Bank building is now the Fort Stockton Police Station. Built in 1912, its Neo-Classical styling and massive Doric columns almost seem out of place in this old frontier town.
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