JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
The Quadrangle at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, or the “Quad,” as it is commonly known, is an iconic structure rich in history dating back to the end of the Civil War.
After the Civil War in 1876, construction began on the Quadrangle, as well as the water and watch tower. The U.S. Army started its move from the Alamo in 1877 and established the Quartermaster Depot, with the headquarters element soon to follow.
The water and watch tower was later converted to the clock tower in 1882. Both the Quadrangle and the clock tower are the oldest buildings on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.
In 1886, the U.S. Army famously held Apache leader Geronimo and 32 other Apache men, women and children prisoners inside the Quadrangle for approximately six weeks.
Two myths about Geronimo’s stay have been debunked, however: he wasn’t housed at, nor did he jump from, the clock tower.
The Quadrangle is now home to the U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) where Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan commands as the senior mission commander for both JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Camp Bullis.
The Quad is also well known for its wildlife, particularly the ever-present peacocks with their piercing squawks, which roams freely amongst the visitors.
Jacqueline Davis, the Fort Sam Houston Museum director, said in a JBSA Legacy article earlier this year, “The first mention I have of the peacocks is from a newspaper article dated 1898. In the article, a Soldier is making little wooden boxes to place the peachicks in, so that the deer also living in the Quadrangle won’t eat them.”
Visitors commonly ask Davis why peacocks are living in the Quadrangle.
“There is no good reason other than having peacocks was a popular thing to do in the 1800s,” Davis said. “Peacocks are native to Asia and were more than likely brought to Texas from India.”
The grounds of the Quadrangle is currently home to various animals including deer, peacocks, ducks, geese, turkeys and numerous other bird species that fly in occasionally.
“It is a gift that everyone should come out here and enjoy,” said Adam Quintero, a Vietnam veteran who continues to serve as wildlife caretaker after four decades. “Whether they come just to visit the animals or come to the museum, they should come to enjoy it.”
The Quadrangle is also the home of the Fort Sam Houston Museum, which is housed in what were once storerooms at the former quartermaster depot, constructed in 1876. The museum contains six rooms of exhibits and displays, beginning with the establishment of a U.S. Army post in San Antonio in 1845, to the construction of the fort and how the post evolved to support the units and service members who served in numerous conflicts at home and abroad.
“The Quadrangle is the most historic site on the post and the oldest building on the post,” Davis said. “It has been a tourist destination since the walls went up.”
Davis said visitors to the museum will come away with a greater appreciation of the fort’s history.
“One of the comments we get is, ‘I didn’t know Fort Sam Houston had a lot of history,’” she said. “There is always something to be learned. I learn something every time I do research on the fort. For people who served and lived here, it tells them something about their history. It’s an easy way to learn because it’s visual. I hope people get enjoyment out of it.”
The museum has more than 8,200 artifacts on permanent display or housed in two storage rooms. A reference library contains books, publications and sources related to the history of JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and other JBSA installations, unofficial records, military manuals, personal papers of service members who were stationed at the installation and publications on identifying and taking care of artifacts. The reference library includes archival holdings that contain a collection of approximately 10,000 photos and a small document collection.
Visitors can access the museum by entering through the Quadrangle’s Sally Port, going right to the east wing of the Quadrangle, building 16, where the museum entrance is marked by a blue awning.
The museum offers orientations and guided tours, which should be reserved one week in advance, and the reference library and archives can be used for research by appointment. In addition, the museum conducts outreach programs for schools and colleges and supports professional development training for military organizations. To reserve a guided tour or orientation, for information on museum programs, or to make an appointment to use the library and archives, contact the museum at 210-221-1886.
Visitors who want to come to the museum, but do not have DOD access to get into JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, should refer to the JBSA website at http://www.jbsa.af.mil/library/visitorinformation.asp for base entry requirements.
The Fort Sam Houston Quadrangle is open to visitors every weekday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 12-8 p.m. The museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 12-4 p.m. Saturday.
(Sources: U.S. Army North Public Affairs, Fort Sam Houston Museum, 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs)