san antonio

All posts tagged san antonio

Okay, so you turn off of Grissom Road into the little parking lot at Cathedral Rock and see a little play area and a little picnic pavilion.

Cathedral Rock Playground, 2018

The playground at Cathedral Rock taken from a creative angle again because I didn’t want to risk getting any of the kids playing nearby in the picture

You walk a little farther and find this:

Cathedral Rock Park path

A path at Cathedral Rock Park.

And then a little farther on you find this:

Cathedral Rock Park Map

A map of Cathedral Rock Park

And you realize that there’s quite a lot of park to explore here. I focused on the corner of the map for the picture above because Cathedral Rock Park is also a trailhead for the Leon Creek Greenway and the Greenway takes up most of the map.

I took a lot of pictures here and don’t know how many I’ll use. I think there are actually more paths at Cathedral Rock than are pictured on that map, because I was following the map on Pokémon Go rather than using that map and almost all of the paths that they had on the game were there in the park (the only exception I can think of is I think it might be that loop there in the upper-left-hand corner looks like it comes straight back from the lower-left part and rejoins the main path in kind of a reverse D-shape rather than that lasso kind of shape it has on this map).

Most of the paths have the San Antonio trail levels assigned to them, where Level 1 and 2 are usable by people in wheelchairs and Level 3 is usable by really incredibly fit people in wheelchairs and Level 4 is probably not usable by people in wheelchairs. Some of the signs showing which level applies to which paths were in pretty bad shape when I was there and could use some replacement signs.

Finally, why Cathedral Rock? Beats me. The park itself is mostly level with the occasional scattered bits of limestone. Once you get to the greenway, though, you find this:

Cathedral Rock?

Is this “Cathedral Rock”?

Which is way more impressive than it looks in the photo. Maybe if the deer had stood there while I took my picture rather than freaking out and running away it’d look less uninspiring.

Now I guess it’s time for a gratuitous Amazon link. I looked at books about limestone, since the rocks of what I assume is Cathedral Rock are limestone, but, eh. So I went back to the same link as I used before and dug up Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Washington: Section Hiking from the Columbia River to Manning Park by Tami Asars. I’m not planning on going on the Pacific Crest Trail anytime soon, but the picture on the front sure is pretty and it has 4.9 stars (out of 5) so why not?

On my master list of parks, I say that not all of the parks in the San Antonio area are actually owned and operated by the City of San Antonio. This is one of those other parks, which is owned and operated by Bexar County. And it’s quite a bit larger than I expected it to be. The entrance to the park is on the access road for Loop 410 so I figured I could cover it in 15 minutes. I stayed for almost 45. I was also there late in the day, so many of my pictures are slightly overexposed.

One of the playscapes at McArthur Park.

McArthur Park has several picnic pavilions and a bit of walking path, but the main feature of the park seems to be playgrounds. The park has three of those playscapes where all of the equipment is connected into one big sort of piece of park furniture and there are additional pieces of playground equipment including swings and a small monkey bar thing that looks like a flying saucer. I found that last one particularly interesting, but couldn’t take pictures of it because there were someone’s kids on it and taking pictures of other people’s children is considered to be kind of creepy. Maybe I’ll return someday and get a picture of that.

Have you played the “You are Jeff Bezos” game? The point of the game is to demonstrate just exactly how much $156 billion is. You wake up as Jeff Bezos and you decide that maybe if you spend all of his money you can get back to your own life. I’m not 100% about the things that the game designers think are priorities. For example one of the options is to revive Mythbusters. I’ve seen like two episodes of Mythbusters and have heard of a bunch more and I’m just not a fan. I’ve just never believed that the five-second rule really means that it takes five seconds for germs to attach to an item dropped on the floor. It’s more a winking “if you fix it fast enough it never happened” thing, I think. So watching two guys drop things on the floor and measure the germs on it just doesn’t seem like gripping television to me.

sad turtle, mcarthur park, san antonio

Concrete turtle in need of repairs, 2018

What I would like to spend a bunch of Jeff Bezos’s $156 billion on is fixing up parks. And McArthur had a bit of stuff that I’d like to fix. For example there are several pieces of concrete art that need a bunch of TLC. The paint is peeling (or has peeled) off and in several cases there are actual chunks of concrete missing. I really do wonder how much it would cost to paint and repair those poor things, if Bexar County would take a donation for that purpose, and if I could write it off of my income taxes.

Now I need an Amazon link. Does Amazon have some kind of “pick a random book” feature? I guess I’ll try to come up with my own. So, searching for “Parks” and sorting by customer reviews, the first result is Urban Trails: San Francisco: Coastal Bluffs/ The Presidio/ Hilltop Parks & Stairways by Alexandra Kenin. I guess that’ll hold me for this post, particularly since seeing the San Francisco area is years away at this point unless this blog thing really takes off or I win the lottery.

This is going to be a twothree (see note below)-part post. The first part will cover the Witte Museum as I have visited it in the past and what I saw during my recent visit on June 21.  Then, once the renovations to the museum are finished (which is projected to be sometime in early 2017), I will return and take new photos and do a writeup of that visit.

I’m trying to remember the first time I went to the Witte Museum. Fairly soon after we moved to Texas, my now-ex and I attended a wedding there, but I think that was our second visit, or maybe our third. I cut my teeth on world-class museums like the Field Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, so the Witte was kind of underwhelming at first. Charming, in a sort of small-town way. My now-ex and I were particularly nonplussed by the selection of longhorn furniture (as in made from the horns of longhorn cattle, not furniture that supports the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns sports teams).

The entrance to the Witte Museum used to have a fountain and an elephant statue from the now-no-longer-extant Hertzberg Circus Museum in front of it. Flanking the doors (though a ways away) were two statues, “Mother and Child” and “Father and Child” by Charles Umlauf.  I think there was also a third Umlauf sculpture somewhere on the property as well.

There was one dinosaur, as I recall, a triceratops, I think. This was kind of a disappointment, as this area had lots of dinosaurs back in those days. There are dinosaur tracks at Government Canyon State Natural Area and also some were found along the spillway for Lake Boerne (only one, maybe two, of the lakes of Texas are natural lakes — the rest are man-made). Seems like they could have acquired some more local species of dinosaur.

Quite a lot of the first floor of the museum was taken up with the special exhibit area, which has an extra charge in addition to the admission fee (that was hard to type at 7:00 in the morning!), and most of the rest of the floor was taken up with a display on the fauna of Texas, including some taxidermy animals. There was also a room that had live exhibits — tarantula, snakes, and so forth.  The Witte had a coterie of prairie dogs, and a bee colony that had access to the outside.

Upstairs, as I recall, was primarily human history. There was a small exhibit on Ancient Egypt (for Ancient Egypt, back then, you’d be better off at the San Antonio Museum of Art) and some information on native cultures and the stone-aged people of Texas. There was also a room of artifacts from more recent Texas history (and this is where the aforementioned longhorn furniture used to stand).

I’m now about 500 words into this.  Maybe I’ll turn the Witte Museum into a series of three posts. Because I’m still not entirely done with the layout of the museum before the renovations started.

At the back of the first floor of the museum was another temporary exhibit space — this one for free exhibits (mostly of photographs, posters, that sort of thing, though I think that may have been where I saw the display of butterflies and moths on one visit). I think our first visit was because I was on a historical photograph kick and someone mentioned that they were having a display of historical photographs at the Witte.  Actually, if I recall, the person said, “There are historical photographs at the Witte,” and so I thought at first that it was a permanent thing. I was very disappointed to find that it was temporary.

At the back of that exhibit room there were several doors leading outside. There also used to be doors outside from somewhere in the vicinity of the room with the prairie dogs and bees. Out back of the museum there were a variety of historic structures including a limestone house, the studio of the artist Julian Onderdonk, and the home of José Antonio Navarro. There is also a replica log cabin constructed in 1939 by the National Youth Administration which, I guess, makes it historical, just in a different way from the others.

Way off in the southeasternmost corner of the museum’s property was the HEB Science Treehouse. The Science Treehouse focused largely on physics, since that’s a pretty easy thing to do in a museum — there were exhibits on pulleys, for example, and a whole room of various musical instruments to demonstrate acoustics (you would not believe what I had to go through to find that word!). There was also a section on ecology of the San Antonio River (which flows right past the museum) and I think there was a meteorology section as well. Outside the treehouse was an assortment of water-related activities, including an Archimedes Screw.

For the last part of the older Witte, I’m going to have to take you back farther in time, to the early 20th Century. A Mexican artist named Dionicio Rodriguez mastered a technique that he called “faux bois,” which is making cement look like wood. You can see his work all over the city. He made a bridge in Brackenridge Park and several features at the nearby Miraflores estate (speaking of things I need to talk about later). There are a number of other examples of his work throughout the city. When Rodriguez died in 1955, it was expected that the secret had died with him. However, another local artist, Carlos Cortés claims that Rodriguez taught the technique to his family and they passed it down to him. Either way, Cortés has been making faux bois sculptures throughout the area. As I write this, Cortés has just recently been sent to prison for a year for tax evasion.

Little Treehouse Banister, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas

The banister of the stairs on the Little Treehouse. I took this picture just to see if it would work and was quite taken by the result.

Well, tax evader or not, Cortés built what is one of my favorite parts of the Witte Museum, the Little Treehouse, a faux bois, well, treehouse, that has educational signage on the wildlife of the region. I generally go out through the door on the, I think it’s the second, floor of the HEB treehouse and walk the bridge across to the top of the Little Treehouse then walk down from there.

Much of the Witte is handicap accessible. Some of the historical buildings have stairs and, of course, there is no way to get a wheelchair down the stairs of the Little Treehouse. The bridge across is stable, though I hate to admit that it totally slipped my mind to measure the width to see if a wheelchair would have room to make it across.

Today, Google Photos reminded me that this is the first anniversary of the day that Alex, my phone, and I went down to San Pedro Springs Park to take some possible header photos for my blog. I had just discovered the panorama mode on my phone. My older digital camera — which has a wrist strap, so I still use it in situations where I’m afraid of dropping my camera — has a panorama mode that takes separate overlapping photos which I can then stitch together into one. My phone’s panorama mode is one continuous shot. You move the camera from one side to another (or from top to bottom/bottom to top) and the camera makes one image out of it. This works out really well outdoors.  Indoors, it makes the walls look like they’re bowing inwards. It’s kind of a neat effect, but not exactly what you want for an indoor shot most of the time.

Below is the panorama I took of the inside of Grand Central Terminal so you can see what I mean.

Grand Central Terminal Panorama

Grand Central Terminal taken with my Samsung Galaxy S5 on panorama mode

As I said, though, the panorama mode is pretty good outdoors, so I went around to different parts of the park and took a variety of pictures of different parts of the park and sometimes the same part of the park from different vantage points with different aspect ratios (the width-to-height measurement of an image).

Then, once I was certain that I had the layout that I wanted, I looked for an image that could be cropped and/or resized to fit the dimensions of the header image for the layout without compromising the subject. The winner was the panorama I took from the top of the stairs above the springs. And now, one year ago later (to the day!), I’m still pretty proud of that photo.

Much to my shock, while digging through my past posts to see which locations I’ve covered, I cannot find a post on the main part of the River Walk anywhere. And, yes, it is officially “River Walk,” though you will see it spelled “Riverwalk” occasionally, including here on my blog. Also the word “walk” looks funny when you stare at it long enough.

The River Walk, which is one of the hundreds of city parks in San Antonio, actually has some of its history in the flooding that afflicts San Antonio every few years. There were major floods in downtown San Antonio in 1913 and 1921.  The damage in the 1921 flood was so severe (50 people died) that the city decided to build a dam upstream and then connect the river above the U-bend to the river below it with a canal so that water would go straight through the canal, rather than around the U-bend in the river, and then they would pave over the river and turn it into a storm sewer. Work began on Olmos Dam and canal, but the San Antonio Conservation Society protested paving over the river. The fact that there just was not enough money in the budget to pave over the river might have helped save it,  as well.

In 1929, an architect named Robert H. Hugman suggested that, rather than paving over the river, the city put in floodgates at the beginning and end of the U-bend and then lower them when flooding was expected. This would force the water to go through the channel and save most of downtown from the flooding.

Then, since the area would be pretty well safe from flooding, Hugman suggested building river-level shops and restaurants in the basements of the buildings lining the U-bend and having a river boat service carrying people from one area to another. The boat plan had one hitch, however. The river current tended to be faster than Hugman preferred owing to a drop in the level of the water both above and below downtown.  Hugman designed a limestone dam to be put north of downtown to slow the speed of the water.

The the Stock Market Crash of 1929 hit, followed by the Great Depression. Plans to build what Hugman had called “The Shops of Aragon and Romula,” were put on hold. Work began once the Works Progress Administration was formed in the 1930s.  At first, the people of San Antonio were, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about the construction.  Hugman’s plans involved paving along the river, and also building limestone bridges over the river. Plants were uprooted so that new landscaping could be installed.

And yet, it all worked out in the end. Hugman believed so much in his vision that he put his own architecture office on the river level. The office is still there today where the bridge takes Commerce Street over the river and the other side of the bridge is the Casa Rio restaurant, the first restaurant put on the River Walk.

Nueva Strete Bridge and Dam, San Antnio

The Nueva Street Bridge and Dam, San Antonio, Texas, 2015

In 1987, work began on a tunnel that would take flood waters from a flood control inlet at Josephine Street north of downtown to an outlet at Lone Star Boulevard south of downtown. This opened up a lot more retail, restaurant and recreational space. the flood control tunnel allowed them to add sidewalks and greenspace to the old flood control channel as well, so that one can walk the entire distance from the original River Walk to the farthest north (at the Witte Museum) or south (which I currently believe is at Mission San Francisco de la Espada).*

*It looks to me like if they could just keep it going another three miles or so (as the proverbial crow flies), the River Walk could meet up with Salado Creek and we could eventually have one linear park that leads from the Witte Museum, down to the confluence of the San Antonio River with Salado Creek, then up Salado Creek to Eisenhower Park, then down Leon Creek to the Medina River. Some of these connections, such as the one at Eisenhower Park, are already planned.

I’ll probably include this information on my post for the San Antonio Zoo, but I’m going to put this here just so that I have it in the blog until such a time as I can update the post. Or maybe I’ll just link this post there. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s probably the best way to go.

Lucky the elephant is no longer all by herself in her enclosure.  As of today, the San Antonio Zoo has taken on a middle-aged Asiatic elephant named Nicole. Nicole was formerly a performer with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The zoo says that they matched Nicole with Lucky by comparing their personalities, sort of like a dating app, I guess, and they hope that the two will turn out to be compatible.

One thing in Nicole’s favor is that she is a former circus elephant. This means that she is already socialized to humans and should pick up the routine at the zoo pretty quickly.

Let’s hope that the new roommates hit it off and have a long friendly association together.

This post is due to go live on June 27.  I had hoped to go to the Witte Museum on June 21 to take pictures and then write that post. It is now June 19 and I haven’t made that trip to the Witte yet.  So, since I did finally get to the San Antonio Museum of Art (“SAMA”) for a very, very fast trip (40 minutes!) on June 5, let’s do that instead and then I’ll visit the Witte on Tuesday and get some pictures and post that article on what looks like July 5.

Meanwhile, I have another National Geographic issue to get to reading.

I have been going to art museums for just about as long as I can remember.  So, again, once we moved to San Antonio, the now-ex and I had to check out the art museum. I think it took us a couple of years, but it was well worth it.  And one Alex was born, we started going even more often.

San Antonio Museum of Art

A slightly less-than-perfect panoramic photo of The San Antonio Museum of Art, 2016

SAMA has the usual portraits and landscapes and modern art (they have a Warhol soup can (Pea Soup, I think) somewhere; the last time I could find it, it was near the entrance to the auditorium).  But the two areas that the museum is best known for are its collections of Latin American and of Asian art.

In 1998, the museum opened the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art (you can just see the leftmost edge of this addition in the far right of the image above). Nelson A. Rockefeller was grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil (which was later broken up into various companies including ExxonMobil (which used to be two companies)).  Rockefeller also held a number of government positions, most notably as Vice President under Gerald Ford from 1974 until 1977.  In his private life, however, Rockefeller was an avid art collector. One of his favorite things to collect was pre-Columbian and folk art of Latin America.  After Rockefeller’s death in 1979, his heirs began searching for museums to display his art, and San Antonio became home to 2,500 pieces.  Not all of the art in the center is from Rockefeller’s collection, but a pretty decent number of them are. The center also has a gallery of modern/contemporary Latin American art.

The Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing (the big glass block in the left of the image above), which opened in 2005, is the other section that the museum is known for.  Walter F. Brown was active in the oil and gas industry and founded a company called Delray Oil.  The Asian Art Wing has thousands of artworks from China, India, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam.  the Asian Art Wing has an extensive collection of Chinese ceramics.

My own favorite, though, is the Art of the Mediterranean World section (the fist floor of the left-hand tower on the left of the above image). This is where our old friend Gilbert M. Denman, Jr., comes in.  You do see his name elsewhere in the museum but quite a lot of the artworks, including the wonderfully restored statues of Marcus Aurelius and Trajan, were his donations. Denman (and others, I think) also donated a number of pieces of carvings from the “Amarna” period, which is when Akhenaten ruled Egypt.  These pieces include at least one that I’m pretty sure is Akhenaten’s abdomen, and, my own favorite, solar rays that end in hands.

I’ve been debating whether to write up the Witte so early in my blog.  There are only, like, 11 museums in the city, and that’s including Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum, the Magic Lantern Castle Museum, and the US Army Medical Department Museum, all of which are already better covered by other sites (including Atlas Obscura) than I think I could do myself. So, since I’ve already covered two of the eight remaining museums, I was considering writing up the Witte later, particularly since there are something like 200 city parks (and that’s not counting county parks, parks of suburbs that are contained within the borders of the city, or state and national parks that are in or near the city), and I’ve only written up, by my count, five of them.

On the other hand, I will be doing two writeups on the Witte.  They’re in the process of a major remodel which won’t be done until sometime in 2017, so I will do one on the history of the museum and its current status and then another in another year or so on the finished museum.

So, should I do a park or two (or, you know, seven) and get those out of the way, or do Witte Museum Part 1?

I have to go to bed now, so I’ll sleep on this for tonight.  I can’t wait to see what I decide to do.

Remember the quarries in Brackenridge Park?  The ones that were put there, at least in part, to support the production of cement? We’re still there.

This area didn’t go immediately from empty land to quarry to park, though. For a period beginning in 1863, this area was a tannery. In 1863, Texas was part of the Confederacy, so the products of the tannery were used by the Confederate Army. This is why it’s generally referred to as the “Confederate Tannery.” I wish there were some photos from that era. It sounds like there was a quarry there, then a tannery, then maybe they did more quarrying, and then it became a park. There were cameras in 1863, so maybe someone took a picture of the tannery at some point, but if there is, I can’t find it.

The San Antonio Zoo actually began, from what I can tell, three times.  The first was a menagerie of sorts in San Pedro Springs Park.  From what I’ve read, there was also a menagerie at the Hot Wells Hotel (post to follow, perhaps not until the planned county park opens, if that happens in the next couple of years). George Washington Brackenridge actually established the zoo in the park, with bear, buffalo, deer, elk, lions, and monkeys. An article I read years ago, and that I cannot find now, said that the menagerie at the Hot Wells hotel (which consisted of a bear and some ostriches at the very least) was moved to Brackenridge Park once Brackenridge set up his zoo there.

Now the ex-husband and I have always been fond of zoos, and we heard good things about the San Antonio Zoo, so it was one of the first places we visited when we got here. We visited so early in our residence here, in fact, that we had no idea where we actually were going and we ended up going around the long way.

I love the zoo, but be warned.  A lot of the 750 species of animal at the zoo are birds.  I stopped and counted it up and it looks like around 25% of the species are birds. I’m not sure if that’s more or less than for most zoos, but it feels like more.  A lot more.  Of the good, the San Antonio Zoo is a player in the attempts to breed the Attwater’s prairie chicken and the whooping crane.

Actually, never mind.  I found on the San Antonio Zoo’s website where they state that they have “One of the largest bird collections in the country.” So that answers that question. Definitely bird-intensive.

Hixon Bird House, San Antonio Zoo

Let’s see if you can guess what animals live here. Yep. Birds. This is the Hixon Bird House.

In fact, that page on the website says “we participate in over 230 endangered species programs.” The prairie chicken and whooping crane are two. They used to breed snow leopards, as well.  I think there was something else in the snow leopard cage the last time I was there, though. I wonder what the other 228 species are . . . .

One of the relatively recent upgrades to the zoo, and one that has gotten a lot of positive press, is their “Africa Live” area.  This is an area that has a focus on, as it says on the label, animals of Africa. The entrance is an air-conditioned building that has primarily smaller animals, fish and reptiles and things of that nature.  There is also a viewing window for pygmy hippos. Beyond that building is an open area with more animals, including a new (as of 2015) feature where for $5 you can feed three lettuce leaves to a giraffe.

Speaking of interactive things (and also going back to the bird theme), the zoo also has Lory Landing, where you can feed nectar to lorikeets. The Rainbow Lories tend to be the friendliest, so of course, I always attempt to coax one of the more standoffish species onto my hand. What can I say? I’m a rebel.

On the negative side, the zoo gets some bad press for Lucky, our one remaining Asiatic elephant. And, as much as I love the zoo, I do feel bad for her when I see her all alone in her enclosure. But the zoo has a page detailing her care, including the fact that the USDA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and “third party agencies” have examined her habitat and routine and said that it is, at the very least, adequate, and sometimes more than adequate.  She also has seven employees, including two full-time veterinarians, seeing to her physical and emotional health. The zoo has considered getting another elephant to be a companion for her, but they worry that, at the age of around 56, she is getting to the end of her life expectancy.  The stress of adjusting to another elephant might have negative consequences for her health. At the moment, there is a lawsuit seeking to send her to a sanctuary, but, again, she’s getting old and separating her from the only home she’s ever known and changing her routine may well also be bad for her health.  Personally, I don’t know why they would work as hard as they have to keep her (not to mention the expense of her staff!) unless they honestly believed, and were getting feedback from outside organizations they trust, that keeping her in her current situation is the best thing for her.

June 27, 2016:  Lucky now has a roommate.  You can read the update I posted here.

The zoo is open 365 days a year.  Whenever I tell anyone this, I point out that they have to send people in to take care of the animals anyway, why not have a few more employees there and make a few bucks? And San Antonians take advantage of the fact that the zoo is even open on Christmas. Christmas of 2015, Alex and I went to the zoo and there were no parking spaces available. We ended up going downtown instead.

Most of the paths at the zoo seem like they should be wheelchair accessible.  I think that the steep uphill path in the Rift Valley area at the back of the zoo might be a bit much for wheelchair users. I’ve also heard that some of the restrooms are difficult to access, but I seem to recall a restroom in the Africa Live building that didn’t have the sharp 90-degree turns of the restrooms in other areas of the zoo.

I really need to start a list of places I’ve written up so that I don’t repeat destinations.  On the other hand, so long as I don’t say exactly the same thing each time, I suppose that several writeups on the same destinations might be acceptable.  It’s not like I am likely to run out of things to say about any given destination.

Also, I’m now two months and almost a week out from my trip to Chicago and a return to Northern Illinois Destinations. I had planned to post this on June 2, but it’s been storming lately and I’m old school — I unplug my computer when there’s thunder and lightning.  This has cut into my writing time. I’m writing this very early in the morning of June 3, and more rain is expected, but it doesn’t look like it will storm any time soon.

I was hoping to find my photos of the San Antonio Museum of Art before now, but I haven’t.  Failing that, I was also hoping to make a trip out to the museum to take some new pictures, but that didn’t happen either.  So, on to another park (and then to three destinations within the park).  That should buy me another couple of weeks before I need to get those pictures.

George Washington Brackenridge was a “Yankee” from Indiana who made a fortune, near as I can figure, selling cotton on the black market during the Civil War. After the war finished, Brackenridge moved to Texas.  He settled in San Antonio, where he founded the San Antonio National Bank and its sister institution the San Antonio Loan and Trust (I believe that the San Antonio National Bank that existed in the late 20th Century and is now known as Vantage Bank Texas is a different bank).  Brackenridge designed the headquarters of the San Antonio National Bank, which still stands on Commerce Street and, at the time I’m writing this, is a law office.  I’ve always wondered where the vault was in the bank.  Perhaps someday when I’m downtown I will knock on their door and ask.

Brackenridge also was involved in the San Antonio Water Works Company, one reservoir of which is now on the property of the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

In 1869, Brackenridge bought a house near the headwaters of the San Antonio River and enlarged it into a mansion, which he named Fernridge. He purchased land alongside the river to the south of Fernridge as well, though I’m not sure how much of the land between the two, which is now the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word, Hildebrand Street, and the Miraflores estate, he owned.  The land to the south of Hildebrand, which was owned by Brackenridge, was, at first, part of the San Antonio Water Works. Two of the pumphouses still stand in the park today, one is at the northern end of the park and the other is near the clubhouse for the Brackenridge Park Golf Course.

The land which is now Brackenridge Park was also the original headquarters of the Alamo Cement Company (which has had several names, including the Alamo Portland and Roman Cement Company).  In 1880, two men, William Lloyd and George Kalteyer, realized that the stone near the river was of a quality suitable for making cement.  They founded the Alamo Cement Company and set up operations.  Some of the buildings of the company, including the kiln, still stand in the park today.  The quarries are now the sites of the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Antonio Zoo.

Alamo Cement factory kiln, San Antonio, Texas

The smokestack of the kiln of the Alamo Cement factory.

Brackenridge’s original gift to the city was of 199 acres.  Brackenridge was fairly progressive for his time, supporting women’s right to vote. Brackenridge did live to see the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave the vote to most American women. There was a hink in that women who married foreign nationals between 1907, when the Expatriation Act, and 1940 lost their citizenship.  Some women who married  foreign nationals got to retain their citizenship after 1920, when the Cable Act was passed, but the Expatriation Act was not repealed until 1940.  There were also practical barriers, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, to voting for immigrant and non-white women in much of the country as late as 1966.  But that’s all beyond the scope of this blog post.

Brackenridge was also a prohibitionist.  The argument went that alcoholism (and alcohol use in general) was hurting the people of the United States, women and children in particular, and so prohibitionists wanted to make alcohol illegal.  And they got their way for 13 years.  Prohibition didn’t work out. Illegal production and sale of alcohol flourished which just exacerbated the problems that the prohibitionists had wanted to stop.  Additionally, since the sale of alcohol was illegal, it wasn’t taxed, which hurt the economy. Since Brackenridge was a prohibitionist, he forbade the drinking of alcohol in the park.  In a twist ending, though, Emma Koehler later donated an additional 144 acres to the park.  Koehler’s late husband had been owner of the Pearl Brewery.  Since Koehler’s money had come from the sale of alcohol, she allowed consumption of alcohol in her gift.  This divide is still present today.  In the Brackenridge gift, there is no consumption of alcohol, but it is allowed in the Koehler part of the park.

Today, Brackenridge Park holds three pavilions, 1.7 miles of walking trails, the San Antonio Zoo, the Japanese Tea Gardens, sports fields, the Sunken Garden Theatre (an outdoor venue for plays, concerts and other kinds of gatherings), a golf course, and the Witte Museum.  The park also has several interesting bridges across the San Antonio River, including a cement bridge carved to look like wood and an iron bridge which was moved to the park from St. Mary’s Street downtown (see image below).  I will be doing writeups on the zoo, the tea gardens, and the museum in future South Texas Destinations postings.  The Museum Reach portion of the River Walk goes around the golf course and then through the park.

St. Mary's Steet Bridge, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio, Texas

The St. Mary’s Street bridge in Brackenridge Park. I cannot for the life of me remember how I managed to get this angle on the bridge. I think that the river must have bent right there. I do know that I was not standing in the water when I took this.

Most of Brackenridge Park is wheelchair accessible. I’ll try to cover specifics as I write up other parts of the park.