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Hit the Road with Chet Garner

A West Texas Gem

Downtown San Angelo features glimpses of frontier living

It’s one of the largest towns in America not on an interstate. It’s the wool and mohair capital of the world. And it’s one of the few places where the main street still offers a glimpse of genuine frontier days.

On a searing summer afternoon, I found myself strolling down Concho Avenue in the heart of San Angelo’s historic district. Named after the Concho River that flows through town a block south, this street is lined with boutique businesses and restaurants in century-old buildings.

I needed a sweet treat to get my mind off the heat, so I popped into Eggemeyer’s General Store for a block of homemade fudge. The term “general” truly describes this place, as it seemed packed with everything, including children’s souvenirs and kitchen tools, in displays stretching across multiple cavernous rooms.

I wandered a little farther and found myself contemplating a new pair of custom boots from the iconic M.L. Leddy’s, then enjoying scenes of local history captured in colorful murals downtown. Inside Legend Jewelers, I marveled at the iridescent beauty of Concho pearls harvested from the river.

Outside the jewelry shop, I noticed a narrow stairway leading up to Miss Hattie’s Bordello Museum. I had seen Miss Hattie’s Restaurant and Cathouse Lounge down the street and decided to investigate.

Mark Priest, owner of both the jewelry shop and the museum, led me upstairs, where I encountered a setting that transported me to the 19th century—when this infamous business was managed by Miss Hattie.

The parlor was furnished in red and purple velvets, and the long hallway passed through rows of small bedrooms. It was a glimpse into a small part of a big town’s storied frontier past.