Category Archives: History

San Antonio MLK March 2013

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

San Antonio’s 26th annual MLK March enjoyed beautiful weather on Monday, January 21.  The 2.7 mile march started at the MLK Academy and ended at Pittman-Sullivan Park.  Marchers enjoyed a program and festival at the park following the march.  Photos were taken by Peter Ray.


St. Paul’s Square

When I first moved to San Antonio in 1987 I worked for a city development agency located in St. Paul’s Square.  Now 20+ years later I’m back, living nearby.  The area is much quieter now that the trains no longer blow their horns as they pass through.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House/Prime Bar

The historical district seems to be on the verge of becoming a popular destination for tourists and locals.  Hopefully the influx of UTSA football fans beginning this Saturday will increase the visibility of the area.

Sunset Depot (built 1902)

Entertainment options in St. Paul Square includes shows at the Cameo Theatre and live music at Sunset Station. Restaurants in the district include Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Aldaco’s Sunset Station. Prime Bar and Alibis’ Sports & Spirits provide drink specials and outside patios.  VIA’s yellow trolley line and the Hop On Hop Off tour bus make regular trips from downtown to St. Paul Square.  Amtrak passenger trains depart from the station located between Sunset Station and the Alamodome.

Texas Born Musicians Mural

It would be great to have more restaurants open in St. Paul Square.  I would love to patronize a small pizza place or a homey bookstore/cafe in the neighborhood.

Cameo Theatre

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill at Trinity University

Marc Lamont Hill

Wednesday evening Trinity University hosted Dr. Marc Lamont Hill as the annual MLK Jr. Commemorative Lecture.   I greatly admire and appreciate people who are good speakers, and Dr. Hill proved to be one of the best speakers I have ever heard.   He was very funny and also very serious and passionate.  

Dr. Hill’s lecture was entitled “Leading, Learning and Loving in the Hour of Chaos: Understanding King’s Legacy in the 21st Centry.”  Dr. Hill pointed out that MLK, Malcolm X and Che Guevara all died at the age of 39 years.  He said that social change is always done by young people.  Dr. Hill noted that political activity on college campuses is dwindling.  He challenged the Trinity students in the audience to go out in the community to engage with and help people. 

Dr. Hill touched upon many other topics in his lecture.  He said that America has 1st class jails and 2nd class schools.  He noted the large number of poor and /or minority people incarcerated which he attributed in large part to a War on Drugs going on since 1984.  Dr. HIll said that democracy needs poeple to ask tough critical questions.  But he also noted that there is too much talk in American right now and not enough conversation.  Dr. Hill described how Martin Luther King Jr. engaged in “deep listening.”  Dr. Hill also noted that older people tend to want to sanitize the past for young people and send the message that the past was perfect.  But Dr. Hill said that we need to remember the bad parts and the pain of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.   

Audience questioners at Trinity lectures tend to often try to give their own lectures.  But the questions asked of Dr. Hill were very interesting and hit upon a number of diverse topics.  Subjects ranged from ethnic studies in Arizona to the Fairness Doctrine to what college students from Africa could do to help their home continent.  Someone also asked if President Obama might have a different perspective on racism since he grew up in Hawaii.  Dr. Hill answered all of these questions thoughtfully and at length. 

Dr. Hill, a professor of English Education at Columbia University, is described as a “hip hop generation intellectual.” He lectures widely and provides political commentary for TV, radio and print media.  A widely viewed video on YouTube shows Dr. Hill arguing with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News.   Dr. Hill was born in Philadelphia in 1978.

A Sampling of San Antonio’s Eastside

Fatty's Burgers

San Antonio’s Eastside area near downtown is home to grand old houses, colorful restaurants, parks and historic cemetaries.  The following pictures are from several weekend drives around the area.  A bicycle ride through the area is described on the Wheely Wonka blog

We stopped at Fatty’s Burgers on East Commerce on a sunny Saturday afternoon due to the excellent reviews the restaurant received on the San Antonio Burger Blog.  The restaurant was easy to find near the Commerce Street exit off Hwy 281.  The restaurant staff were very friendly.  The burgers tasted good and were reasonably priced.  Football was playing on several TVs and the large dining room seemed conducive to watching sports and relaxing with friends. 

Friedrich Refrigeration

Directly across the street from Fatty’s is the two-block complex that formerly housed the Friedrich Refrigeration Company.  The complex consists of multiple buildings built between 1923 and 1955.  The development was recently mentioned in a Cary Clack column as a possible new headquarters for the San Antonio Independent School District. 

Friedrich house at 805 Nolan

Edward Friedrich, founder of the refrigeration company, constructed a large Queen Anne style house less than a mile from the factory overlooking Dignowity Park.  The house has been restored and is currently for sale.   

Elmendorf house

Another distinctive house in the Dignowity Hill area is the Emil Elmendorf house at 509 Burleson.  The 1884 raised-cottage house has elements of Victorian and Greek Revival style.  The house was designed by prominent architect Alfred Giles.   The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

New trees planted at Dignowity Park

Dignowity Park was the focus of a volunteer beautification effort in September when Texas Public Radio (TPR)  commemorated National Public Lands Day by planting drought-resistant vegetation in the park.  TPR partnered with San Antonio Credit Union,  San Antonio Water System, and San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.  

St. John's Lutheran Cemetary

The Cemetary District is another interesting part of the historic Eastside area.  Between 1853 and 1904 a total of 31 cemetaries on 103 acres were developed.  Familiar-sounding surnames of people buried here include Guenther, Steves, Menger, Gunter, Witte, Driscoll and Maverick. 

Constructing entrance to the 13th Floor Haunted House on E. Commerce
House facing Dignowity Park

Tree of Life sculpture in Dignowity Park

House facing Dignowity Park

House near Dignowity Park

Emil Elmendorf grave

Childress Memorial Church, built 1908

Myra Davis Hemmings Resource Center

Hays Street Bridge

Entrance on Austin Street

The Hays Street Bridge  connecting Hays Street between Austin and Cherry Streets on the near Eastside of San Antonio officially re-opened for pedestrian and bicycle traffic on July 20.  The bridge was built in 1881 for railroad use and moved to its present site for vehicular use in 1910.  In 1982 the bridge was deemed dangerous and closed.  

Top of bridge

According to the Hays Street Bridge is a viaduct consisting of two wrought iron truss spans (one Phoenix Whipple 225-ft span, and one Pratt 130-ft span), and approximately 1000-linear feet of concrete approaches.  Records of the Phoenix Bridge Company archived at the Hagley Library in Wilmington, Delaware show that the Whipple truss dates from 1881 and was reconstructed from one or more salvaged spans over the Nueces River west of San Antonio.

Trusses over the railroad tracks

BridgeMapper says the Hays Street Bridge  is composed of a Whipple Truss and a pin-connected Pratt approach span.  The Whipple Truss segment with Phoenix column compression members is one of only a few such surviving examples in the country.  BridgeMapper says that while railroads often recycled their bridges to carry roads over their lines, Whipple trusses were rarely moved since they were much longer and much rarer than other types.   The Hays Street Bridge is a notable exception.  The trusses were relocated to the present site around 1910 and widened to carry two lanes of traffic.  

Art on railing

The City of San Antonio purchased the bridge and rehabilitated it as a bicycle and pedestrian facility using a Transportation Enhancement grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.  Sparks Engineering, Inc.  was the design consultant for the project.  The rehabilitation project incorporates benches, interpretive signage covering the history of the bridge, and a public art component along the new approach railings.   When I visited the bridge on a recent hot and sunny Sunday afternoon nobody else was on the bridge.  Hopefully with the cooler weather approaching more people will come and walk or bike this elegant historic bridge. 

Artwork on the bridge railing

View of Hemisfair Tower from bridge

House near bridge entrance

Enchanted Springs Ranch


Ranch "characters"

Saturday I journeyed to the Enchanted Springs Ranch near Boerne for a high school choir end-of-year picnic. We were trying something new rather than the usual formal banquet. 
The kids and chaperones appeared to have a great time.  We started with a tasty BBQ dinner in the large Saloon followed by a slide show and awards presentation.  Then we were off to see the Pistol Packin’ Paula show in the theater.  Paula entertained us with her World Champion pistol twirling abilities and bull whip cracking.  The kids got really excited when Paula called down the choir director to hold a piece of cardboard that she cut in half with her whip. After the show Pistol Packin’ Paula led the students in the “Electric Slide” line dance.  Students continued dancing to a DJ and enjoyed tractor rides around the ranch. The tractor ride drove down a bumpy trail to a field where numerous exotic animals were resting.  Animals included longhorn steers, zebras and exotic deer and cows. The crusty ranch “characters,” dressed in Wild West costumes, kept the students moving and entertained.  The afternoon flew by and too soon it was time to leave.
Enchanted Springs Ranch was originally built as a set for Western movies.  The “old town” area contains a Trading Post, one-bedroom Bed & Breakfast, and a children’s playground. The Ranch is open to the public for tours and a Chuck Wagon Dinner and Wild West Show.  Next time we have out-of-town relatives visit we plan to take them to the Ranch for the Chuck Wagon Dinner.  Following are some pictures of the ranch:

Pistol Packin' Paula show theater

Old Town graveyard

Paula leading the line dancing

Exotic animals

A young visitor

Pistol Packin' Paula show

Tractor ride

Lowrider Festival at Camargo Park

San Antonio’s 28th annual Lowrider Festival was held at Mateo Camargo Park on Sunday, April 11th.  The festival featured classic cars, trucks, bikes, food and music.  Cash prizes and trophies were awarded in 33 categories including Best Lowrider Bike, Best Early Lowrider, and Best Radical. 

The festival was organized by Centro Cultural Aztlan, a non-profit organization founded in 1977 to preserve and build upon the long tradition of Chicano/Latino culture by creating programs that would involve local artists and increase public awareness of their work. Central Cultural Aztlan describes the Lowrider Festival as a unique form of mobile public art.  The festival pays homage to local barrio artists and other community people who have turned their once factory standard cars into mobile works of arts through complex mechanical modifications, and elaborate decorative paint patterns. 

Classic cars on display provided a link to San Antonio’s past.  The owner of this 1948 car displayed a photograph of himself as a 17 year old with a car.  He said that 10 members of his 1940’s car club, the San Antonio Griffins, still get together for breakfast. 

Below are other pictures from the festival:


Fantasy II by Cindy Klatt

Lowrider Bikes