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Old Posted Jun 23, 2010, 2:39 AM
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San Antonio | Historic Photos

Although it is a bit quiet on the new construction side, the re-use of older buildings is taking up a big chunk of the action, and setting the stage well for newer buildings. I thought I would take this time to share some photos that I scanned from a book of historic photos of SA.

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A busy Commerce Street, looking east from Main Plaza in the early 1900s. THe curved piping over the street is lighting. To the right is Frank Bros. (Gerson, Emil, and Sol Frank), established in 1868. Known for its fine men's clothing, it was sold in 1963 and ceased operations in 1995
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Alamo Plaza in the early 1900s, a beautiful garden area with a bandstand in its center. Beyond the plaza stands the Federal Building
The Federal Building is now the Post Office. Notice the retail stores where the long barracks of the Alamo are and the Gibbs building going up on the left side.

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Workmen are lifting the Alamo National Bank to place it on rollers and move it backward for the widening of Commerce Street. Most buildings on the south side of Commerce were partially demolished and rebuilt so that the street would be a uniform sixty-five feet wide, to accommodate automobiles and streetcars. The widening of Commerce begain during the later half of 1913 and was completed in 1915.
If you wondered what happened to those buildings on the right side of the first photo, this gives you that answer. This building might be known to some as "The Vault."

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A view from Alamo Plaza looking west down Houston Street about 1912. ON the left is the Swearington-McCraw (formerly Maverick Bank) Building. On the far right is the Federal Building, and next to it is the Hicks Building. Notice the wide open space with horse-drawn wagons, automobiles, and trolley cars going down Houston Street.
Side note about the Maverick Bank/Swearington-McCraw Building: it opened in 1885, on the corner of Houston/Alamo. Known as the workingman's bank, at five stories it was the tallest at the time. It had eight fire proof vaults and a water powered elevator.

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Looking north on Alamo Street on January 8, 1922. On the left is the Grand Opera House. In the back, at the right, is the Federal Building and Post Office, with the Maverick Bank opposite
Side note of the Grand Opera House (now the site of Museum of Wax): it opened in 1886 and hailed as the best of its kind in the South. It cost $125,000 to build, seated 1,800, served as a vehicle for vaudeville and motion pictures, and was torn down in 1948.

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Two men standing on steel beam atop the Smith-Young Tower in 1928. The view is looking north with St. Mary's Street on the left. The Smith-Young Tower was designed by Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres, a local father and son architectual firm. It sits on a former peninsula of the San Antonio River known as Bowen's Island. When finished, it would be thirty-one stores high and cost $2.5 million dollars.
Side note on Smith-Young: Opened in 1929, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi until the late 1950's. Sears had their first San Antonio store on the first six floors. In 1938, the name changed to Pan American Building. In 1942, it was renamed Transit Tower, and finally, in 1962, the Tower Life Building.

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A trolley stop on Broadway at Patterson was created by Dionicio Rodriguez, a native of Toluca, Mexico. Rodriguez, who came to San Antonio in the 1920s, is noted for his rustic sculptures that appear to be made of wood but are actually a cement process. Other examples of his work can be seen at the Spanish Governor's Palace and Brackenridge Park. When he died some of his secret processes died with him.
Still there, in front of Mon Thai and across the street from Central Market.

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Fiesta parade down Houston Street as seen from Santa Rosa Hospital. The front of the building housed offices of the famous Dr. Aureliano Urrutia. Born to a poor Indian family, he became personal physician to Mexico's president Porfirio Diaz and was minister of the interior under Vitoriano Huerta. He fled to San Antonio in 1916 and became world-renowned for his surgical skills. In the background is the Smith-Young Tower completed in 1929.
Its cut off here, but in the book you can see the Penners on the right side. Most of the buildings on the far left are no longer there (parking lots now) and the old towers are prominent in the skyline (Nix,EM, Majestic Alamo Bank,S-Y.)

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Houston Street looking east, with the Gunter Hotel to the left and the Empire and Majestic theaters on the right. The Empire opened in December 1914 with Neptune's Daughter. A beautiful Beaux Arts interior, complete with orchestra, seated about 1,700. In the 1930s, staff would dress in the theme of each movie. It ceased to function in 1978, and in 1988, the city purchased both the Majestic and Empire for restoration.
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San Antonio Traction Company employees at Garden Street (now S. St. Mary's) and S. Alamo repair a broken joint on an old streetcar-track crossing. On the right is John Kellogg Kight, welder; the seated grinder is Arnold Yarbrough; and standing is flagman William B. Kight. The San Antonio Traction company was the forerunner of the current city bus company, VIA
The Jordan Ford dealership in the back is now Rosarios.

Original source:
Faulkner Jr, F. (2007). Historic Photos of San Antonio. Nashville. Turner Publishing Company.



I'll post some more soon.
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Last edited by miaht82; Jun 25, 2010 at 12:01 AM.
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Old Posted Jun 23, 2010, 3:34 AM
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Hmmm....
 
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Did they ever publish a picture of what the completed Bowen's Island complex would have looked like?
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Old Posted Jun 23, 2010, 7:18 AM
adtobias adtobias is offline
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Wow. Downtown seem like the place to be back then. SA needs to set itself apart from every other city again. Build the tallest building on this side of the miss again.
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2010, 2:18 AM
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Or continue fixing up all the historic buildings and make it the "most historic" west of the Mississippi.
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2010, 4:40 AM
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^^^ agreed, I think keeping it historic... but not too brown and squatty... is key to maintaining this city's identity
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2010, 9:16 AM
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Very cool. I recognize some of these photos from a book that I have of old San Antonio. I'll have to look for it now and post some photos myself.
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Old Posted Jun 24, 2010, 9:12 PM
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What is the name of the book?
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Old Posted Jun 25, 2010, 12:15 AM
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Onward
 
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Awesome pics, I love this kinda stuff. Anymore? Thanks for sharing them with us.
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Old Posted Jun 25, 2010, 12:52 AM
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http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1321/...f4b93850_b.jpg


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The San Antonio River looking downstream toward the Houston Street Bridge. The original span on this site, then Paseo Street, was the first iron bridge in San Antonio, erected in 1870. This iron bridge was moved to Grand (now Jones) Avenue in 1885, and in 1927, to Hildebrand near Carey Street. The present concrete bridge on Houston dates from 1914.
Then, it was the back of the Texas Theater; now IBC Bank building, Embassy Suites, and Valencia across Houston St.

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The twelve stroy Bluebonnet Hotel, built between 1927-1928, was a San Antonio landmark for many years before being razed in 1989. For several years during the 1930s, record companies would record local and regional artists in a studio in the hotel. Over the years, Don Albert, W. Lee O'Daniel %& His Hillbilly Boys, Al Dexter, Eva Garza, and others made music history here by not legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, as has been erroneously claimed. His famous recording was made at the Gunter Hotel.
I remember this building and the shadow it would cast on the Greyhound station. I also remember it being demo'd around the time Weston Centre went up. St. Marys Garage is there now.

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Our Lady of the Lake College (now University), in 1932, is the oldest regionally accredited institution of higher education in San Antonio. It was established in 1895 as an academy for girls on property donated by Henry Elmendorf. The tallest building is the Gothic Coventual Chapel designed by Leo Dielmann. The Gothic Revival building just to its right is "Old Main" which was designed by James Wahrenberger.
Yes, 24th/Commerce was "in the country" and past the burbs back in the day.
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The Raleigh Connoisseur
It is the city trying to escape the consequences of being a city
while still remaining a city. It is urban society trying to eat its
cake and keep it, too.
- Harlan Douglass, The Suburban Trend, 1925
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Old Posted Jun 25, 2010, 6:35 PM
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Thanks for sharing.

Depending on what you consider to be the Height of the Tower Life building. I measured it to around 404' to the green tower. I am not sure how tall the new flag pole is or if that should even be considered.

Here are some other building built west of the Mississippi during the 20's and 30's, all around at least 400'.

Forshay Tower (Minneapolis) 447'
City Hall (KC) 443'
Mercantile National (Dallas) 430' (523' spire)
First national Center (OKC) 446' (493' spire)
Magnolia Hotel (Dallas) 430' (1923)
Smith Tower (Seattle) 465' (489' spire) (1914)
KC Power and Light (KC) 476'
909 Walnut Tower (KC) 453'
SWB Building (STL) 397' (1926)
Los Angeles City Hall (LA) 454' (1927)
Qwest Building (Minneapolis) 416'
City Place (OKC) 440'
Russ Building (SF) 435' (1927)
Pac Bell Building (SF) 435' (1925)
NB State Capitol (Lincoln) 398' (433' spire)
JP Chase Morgan (Houston) 428'
Niels Esperson Building (Houston) 410' (1927)
320 South Boston Building (Tulsa) 400'
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