Marfa Woman Purchases Historic Fort Building and Preserves West Texas History 9/4/12
CBS 7 News
September 4, 2012
MARFA, TX Ė A little known piece of history has come back to life in Marfa, Texas.
Itís the unique story of how one woman's passion for art has preserved a piece of West Texas history.
20 miles south of Fort Davis there is another fort in West Texas. Originally called Camp Marfa, Fort D.A. Russell played a key role in protecting West Texans from the 1920's through World War II.
Mona Blocker Garcia has spent the past 11 years restoring and preserving Building 98 that was once apart of Fort Russell.
"It was built by the United States government for the U.S. Horse Cavalry and during its history the first, second, third, fifth, seventh and eighth cavalries were posted here and the 28th Chemical Warfare Division," explains Garcia.
Building 98 was the entertainment building for serviceman stationed in Marfa.
It houses the ballroom, formal dining room, bar and living quarters for high-ranking officers.
The 2,200 square foot ballroom has the original hardwood floors, the armory wing is bolted shut and old cannon shell casings still decorate the property.
Fort Russell was closed in 1945 and little was done to keep up Building 98 until now.
"When I got this building it was in very poor state, and the ballroom wall was about to fall out and the roof was full of holes."
Spending more than $2 million to restore the building, it has now been converted into a retreat for artists, a fitting conversion for a building with deep art history.
"The treasure within are the huge rooms that are painted from ceiling to floor by two of Erwin Rommel's elite Africa Core officers."
185 German POW's from WWII were transferred from north Africa to Fort Russell where they lived and painted scenes from their native Germany on the dining room walls.
"Marfa, Texas and north Africa, which are both high desert, warm and sunny in the day time and cold at night, was the perfect place."
The Texas Historic Landmark is also registered as a National Historic Site and is now the headquarters for Garcia's foundation the International Women's Foundation.
Old officer's quarters are now artist's bedrooms; the old informal dining room is now an art gallery.
"It has a romantic history and as a historian I just love being here and working on this."
Building 98 is open to the public for tours daily. A one-hour tour costs $10.
For more information on Building 98 or the International Womenís Foundation you can reach Mona Blocker Garcia at (432) 729-4826.