Restoring Miraflores

Entry gates

Entry Gate designed ca. 1920 by Marcello Izaguirre

The small park at 1184 E. Hildebrand across from the University of Incarnate Word (UIW) has always intrigued me.  In years past I saw people having parties there.  But the park seemed to be closed to the public.  Recently the park was cleaned up and chain link fencing installed around the gates and sculptures.  When I looked for information online about the park I found a wealth of photographs and vivid descriptions of the doctor who built the park and the art installed on the grounds.  Unfortunately the park still has a long way to go before it is restored to its former grandeur.    
  

Texas Escapes  gives a fascinating account of the life of Dr. Aureliano Urrutia, the original owner of the property.  Dr. Urrutia was involved in the highest levels of  Mexican politics in the early 1900’s.  In 1915 he fled to San Antonio with his wife and children.  In 1917 he is said to have given General Frederick Funston the “evil eye” in the lobby of the St. Anthony Hotel.  General Fuston died on the spot of a heart attack.  Dr. Urrutia seems to have lived a peaceful life after this, establishing a successful medical practice downtown.

In June 1916, Dr. Urrutia purchased land on River Avenue (now Broadway) and built an elaborate home, Quinta Urrutia, for his large family.  The Moorish-inspired house was built around a central courtyard and fountain.   Photographs of the house are available at Forever Texas.  The house was demolished in 1962.

 

Statue on grounds
Cement reproduction of the Victory of Samothrace
In 1921 Dr. Urrutia purchased 15 acres of land bounded by Broadway, Hildebrand and the San Antonio River.  There he built a lavish garden filled with sculptures, tiled benches, fountains, pools, a guest house and a library inside a tower.   Dionicio Rodriguez and Atlee B. Ayres were among the artisans employed to create artwork for the garden.  According to the National Register application, the garden served as a private retreat that Urrutia visited every morning to swim laps in one of the large pools fed by an Artesian well.    The garden was also used to entertain Dr. Urrutia’s large family and friends.  
Detail on entrance gate

Talavera tile on entry gate

In 1962 Dr. Urrutia, then 91 years old,  sold Miraflores to United Services Automobile Association (USAA) for construction of their headquarters building.  The property was sold to Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in 1974.   From 1974 to 2001 the 4.5 acre area on the river at the back of the property was used for events by the local chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America who named it Pioneer Park.   During this period the Pioneers poured concrete picnic pads, constructed an open air pavilion for social events, and filled the garden’s pools to eliminate safety hazards. 

 In 2001 Southwestern Bell transferred the 4.5 acre park area to UIW.  When UIW proposed turning the gardens into a parking lot the San Antonio Conservation Society got involved and worked to transfer ownership of the property to the City of San Antonio.   The City took ownership of the property in 2005 and published an extensive 284-page  Master Plan for Miraflores Park in 2007.   

Miraflores Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.  The National Register application provides a detailed description of the Dionicio Rodriguez sculptures located on the property.  According to the application Miraflores “remains as one of the most intact and concentrated groupings of Rodriguez sculptures in Texas, and it is believed to be his earliest work in the United States.”    

 According to a recent column in the San Antonio Express-News the City has completed Phase I of the Master Plan and is trying to secure funding to continue implementing the restoration plan.  Phase I included removal of all items not within the Period of Significance for the garden: picnic tables and concrete slabs, the pavilion with all utilities; four oval concrete benches; utility poles with no power and a chain link fence.  Phase I also included construction of a pedestrian bridge from Brackenridge Park over the San Antono River to Miraflores.  The bridge  will enable visitors to park their cars in Brackenridge Park and cross over the bridge to Miraflores.     
Tile bench by Atlee Ayers (front); statue of Dr. Urrutia (back)

Tile bench by Atlee Ayers (front); statue of Dr. Urrutia (back)

 

 

House on grounds

“Quinta Maria” guest house

The Master Plan describes a detailed plan to restore the artwork, plantings, pool, fountains and walkways to their original state.  Visitors will be allowed to enjoy the gardens on foot during the day with plans for outdoor clasrooms and performance spaces.   

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4 responses to “Restoring Miraflores

  1. Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking your feeds too now, Thanks.

  2. It’s now 2012 and the park is still not accessible to the public. I drive by the park every day 2-3 times a day. And all I see it’s that it’s going to waste.
    It’s not being kept up. I’ve been suggesting for years to put in a walking trail this way the ATT employees and anyone from surrounding business can use it at lunch or breaks. Now there’s a Hildebrand Rd widening that started last week. This Road Widening involves cutting into the park that means those stone walls will be coming down as the rod iron fences, gates, statues, etc. What a waste of beautiful land.

  3. Connect olmos & Brack make a greenway.

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