Introduction to Abilene, Texas
The central Texas city of Abilene, county seat of Taylor County, is located about 180 miles west of Dallas. The city is situated near the geographic center of the state on Interstate I-20, at the junction of U.S. Routes 83 and 277. Also servicing the city are Texas State Highways 36 and 351. Abilene maintains a full-service regional airport offering commuter flights to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
Abilene was established in 1881 when the Texas and Pacific Railway completed its tracks to what was then a small town site. The railroad promoted the site as the "Future Great City of West Texas" and town lots began to sell at a rapid pace. Named after Abilene, Kansas, the original endpoint for the Chisholm Trail, Abilene became incorporated as a city in 1883 and in that same year became the county seat. During the ensuing century, Abilene evolved from a community reliant almost entirely on agriculture to a diversified community whose economy also included oil, commerce, and light manufacturing. The city's economy received a boost during World War II with the acquisition of Camp Barkeley, a U.S. Army post, whose arrival changed the demographic composition and economic profile of Abilene. The flow of federal dollars was even further enhanced in 1952, when Congress approved the establishment of Dyess Air Force Base. Expansion followed in several industries, most notably the oil industry with the development of exploration, drilling, refining, and oilfield services. Parallel expansion occurred in banking, construction, service employment, and retail and wholesale business industries. Abilene today functions as a significant regional center for distribution, commerce, industry, transportation, and education.
Arts, Culture, and Recreation in Abilene
Abilene is home to the restored Paramount Theater, which hosts art films, plays, and concerts throughout the year. The Grace Cultural Center, a beautifully restored 1909 hotel located in historic Downtown Abilene, houses a history museum, an art museum and an interactive children’s museum. The structure was originally constructed by Colonel W. L. Beckman and named for his daughter, Grace. The Abilene Zoo boasts over 200 species of wildlife over its thirteen-acres and offers a wide variety of children’s programs and special events. The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum celebrates the history of the unit which became one of the most feared fighting machines of World War II. The Center for Contemporary Arts is home to dozens of exhibits by regional, national and international artists and photographers. Frontier Texas! is a multimedia facility which brings to life the Texas frontier as it existed between 1780 and 1880. Visitors can interactively "meet" some of the real people who lived and died on the Texas frontier, including buffalo hunters, Comanche warriors, pioneers, and explorers. Abilene's western heritage is showcased every May at the Western Heritage Classic, a three-day weekend event which celebrates the western lifestyle. The West Texas Fair and Rodeo is a ten-day event held each September which features food, music, rides, and exhibits celebrating West Texas.
Youth sports are very popular in Abilene and the city's local high school teams have won hundreds of district championships and dozens of state titles over the past several years. The city also has more than 40 college sports teams playing at the Division II and Division III levels. Professional sports are a few short hours away in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, home to the following teams:
- Dallas Cowboys (National Football League)
- Texas Rangers (Major League Baseball)
- Dallas Stars (National Hockey League)
- Dallas Mavericks (NBA basketball)
- Dallas Desperados (Arena Football League)
- FC Dallas (Major League Soccer)