Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fort Davis & McDonald's Observatory

Our friends, Ann and Bob, recently treated us to quite a road trip!  Ann packed snacks and we headed out!  This is the view heading from B.C. Ranch to the community of Fort Davis and the historic fort located there.  Fort Davis is 24 miles from Alpine.
This is the location of an 1854 homestead.  The building ruins remain.  It's a beautiful pasture tucked among the hills.  I can see why the people were drawn to settle here.  They eventually had to leave due to the severity of the Indian raids.  The homestead served intermittently as a Ranger Station from 1880-1882.
Welcome to historic Fort Davis!  Fort Davis was established by Lieutenant Colonel Washington Seawell with six companies of the eighth U.S. Infantry in October 1854 for protecting travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road.  The fort was named in honor of the then Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis.  Fort Davis was deactivated in 1891.  The building directly behind the flag pole is the home of the commanding officer.  The homes to each side make-up up Officer's Row.  The red roof building behind the homes is the post hospital.  
Here is a look at the hospital.  The fort literature says that the soldiers suffered mainly from diseases and accidental injuries, and not battle wounds.  The hospital has a central walkway with interpretive signs at each of the rooms.
Most of the homes of Officer's Row have not been restored.  The fronts of the homes have been given nice facades.  
These are the backs of the Officer's Row buildings.  If you look in the window openings, you will see the rubble of the collapsed flooring and interior structures.  
The commanding officer's quarters were constructed by 1869.  It is a very nice home that would be exciting to live in today!  Note the nice breezeway through the front door and out through the back. 
The home interior pictures were taken through Plexiglas.  I must say, I'm getting pretty good at it!  The trick is to put the camera lens as close to the Plexiglas as possible and turn-off or reduce the flash.  This is the sitting room.
This is the bedroom.
This is the dining room.
This is a music  room.
This is the enlisted men's barracks.  One of them now houses the visitor's center and a nice museum.

From Fort Davis and the pioneer days, we traveled to McDonald's Observatory and studying the stars!  This is the observatory complex.  The observatory offers a variety of what they call Star Parties for guided star gazing.  We've heard that they are great!
 This observatory allows a free self-guided tour.
 This is the interior structure and mechanical workings of the dome.
 The dark metal at the top of this picture is one of the areas of the dome that opens.
This chart tells how the observatory works.  Click on the picture to enlarge it.  When I got to the description in dark blue on the right hand side of the chart telling that the astronomers operate from computers in an adjacent building, I felt a great sense of disappointment.  I think I had envisioned a scientist wearing a white lab coat looking through the eyeglass of a huge telescope and seeing the stars and planets first hand!  Sitting at a computer screen seems so boring by comparison!  We had a super day of good company, studying the desert flora and terrain, learning some area history and about modern stargazing!