The Chinati Foundation is located on 340 acres of the former Fort D. A. Russell, which closed following World War II in 1946. Barracks, latrines, mess halls, a gymnasium and two artillery sheds now house permanent art installations.
It was the intention of Donald Judd, the Chinati Foundation founder, to create an exhibition on the site’s military history for the museum. No such exhibit exists today, but if your interest lies in military history and art history, there are a few places in Marfa you can visit to learn more about the area’s military past.
Marfa Public Library
115 East Oak Street
Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
The Marfa Public Library displays old photographs of the fort on its walls. It also maintains a scrapbook (ask to see it at the circulation desk) of materials related to the former fort. The scrapbook is actually one of those old-school photo albums with sticky stuff on the pages and folded plastic sheets, and contains several photocopies of newspaper clippings from the 1930s and 40s and a couple of research papers written by local historians. Here are some highlights:
-photos of refugees during the Mexican Revolution seeking shelter at Camp Marfa (as the fort was called at that point);
-an original program (in both English and Spanish) from a 1930 polo game between a Mexican cavalry unit and a unit stationed at Fort D. A. Russell;
-an original menu from the 1939 Battery F 77th Field Artillery Thanksgiving dinner at Fort D. A. Russell, which featured oyster stew, roasted turkey, giblet gravy and barbecued baby beef;
-a one-page document entitled “Post History” prepared by the fort public relations officer in 1944.
Marfa and Presidio County Museum
110 West San Antonio Street
Open 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.
Located in the historic Humphries House not far from the center of town, the Marfa and Presidio County Museum has an entire room dedicated to the area’s military and border patrol history, dating from the active years of Fort D. A. Russell through today. The museum’s military exhibition includes framed photographs of the former fort. This museum is also a great place to visit if you want a sense of what Marfa was like pre-Judd. The museum’s volunteer staff is friendly and eager to strike up a conversation or answer any questions.
705 West Bonnie Street
Call (432)-729-4826 to make an appointment.
Building 98 was the former officer’s quarters and club for Fort D. A. Russell. The dining room and former library contain murals painted by Hans-Jürgen Press and Robert Hampel, two German POWs held at the fort. Today it’s home to the International Woman’s Foundation, founded by Mona Blocker Garcia. A local historian, Garcia is full of information on the fort’s past. She also has several historic photos on display.
I posted a long blog entry on Building 98 back in August, so check that out for more information.
If you know of any additional places around Marfa to find information on Fort D. A. Russell, please leave the information as a comment.
Disclosure: I am an intern at the Chinati Foundation, hence the blog name. I live in one of the old barrack buildings.
also by Theresa Bembnister
- The Ten List: Food and Art - March 2nd, 2011
- Do You Have What it Takes to Be an Intern? - December 31st, 2010
- Ian Hamilton Finlay at the Marfa Book Company - December 20th, 2010
- Ayn Foundation - December 15th, 2010
- Marfa Made Paper - December 1st, 2010