Historic San Antonio

The main street in St. Paul Square

The main street in St. Paul Square

One of the first things I saw as I walked out of San Antonio Train Station was the St. Paul Square neighborhood. Of course, when I got off the train, it was dark. I came back later to take these photos.

St. Paul Colored Methodist Church

St. Paul Colored Methodist Church

It was the major African-American neighborhood in San Antonio in the late nineteenth century. It takes its name from St. Paul’s Colored Methodist Church, the oldest African-American church in San Antonio.

As I was walking towards the Alamo, I ran into this building.

A beautiful white-and-red brick building which looks partially boarded up.

I wonder what’s up with it. The stars of David in the windows imply that it was at one time a synagogue.

A mix of polenta and tomato sauce, topped with kale greens and vegan cheeze

For what it’s worth, the food I ate in San Antonio was very good. I ate at a restaurant in Southtown, and at another restaurant at the Pearl Brewery. I didn’t bring my camera to the Pearl, but it was a very cool place at night with the way they lit up the former brewery. The hotel there (at the Pearl) also looks really cool.

Speaking of hotels, I also went on the Sisters Grimm Haunted Walk. Obviously, the Alamo was included, as well as the Menger Hotel, which is supposedly the most haunted hotel in San Antonio (it’s also hosted famous people such as Ulysses Grant, Robert E. Lee, Teddy Roosvelt, and so forth). The Menger looks amazing inside – I almost wish that I had stayed there (alas, it was outside my budget – but they sometimes do offer substantial discounts, and it would be so worth it to stay there if you could get one of their special deals). Another hotel along the walk is the Holiday Inn Express which used to be the San Antonio jail. It was the site of the last legal hanging in San Antonio, which had been particularly gruesome. While it would be interesting to sleep in a former jail cell, I think I’d rather be at the Menger.

San Fernando Cathedral in the daytime

San Fernando Cathedral in the daytime

Another stop on the haunted walk, of course, was the San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest church in Texas. The guide pointed out burn marks from old Comanche attacks.

San Fernando Cathedral at night

San Fernando Cathedral at night

A lot of Texas history happened there – and now they have a laser light show where they put the illustrated history of Texas on the facade of the cathedral several nights per week. A lot of weddings happen there too – I saw a wedding when I passed by in the daytime, and another person on the tour had almost gotten married in the cathedral (she changed her mind when she found out that it would cost a thousand dollars).

We also passed by the Spanish Governor’s Residence, which was not actually used by the Spanish governor. According to the guide, it has one of the most haunted rooms in all of San Antonio – he says that he usually sees the ghosts of Mexicans who had been executed by Santa Anna during the Mexican Revolution of 1821, but other people see the woman who was murdered in this room in the 1860s.

 Here is the photo I took of this supposedly super-haunted room. Do you see any ghosts?


Here is the photo I took of this supposedly super-haunted room. Do you see any ghosts?

I have to admit that I felt a wee bit of culture shock in San Antonio.

There are signs like this in many businesses in San Antonio. Why, exactly, do you need to put a sign at the entrance of your business saying that weapons/firearms are not allowed inside? Isn't that common sense?

There are signs like this in many businesses in San Antonio. Why, exactly, do you need to put a sign at the entrance of your business saying that weapons/firearms are not allowed inside? Isn’t that common sense?

I liked Southtown. It’s an old neighborhood, it’s within walking distance of downtown, and it looks lived in. Historically, it was a neighborhood of European immigrants (German, Irish, Polish, etc.)

 I always like looking at the local community gardens and see what the local people are growing.

I always like looking at the local community gardens and see what the local people are growing.

Next to Southtown is King William, the neighborhood of beautiful Victorian houses.

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Even though San Francisco has lots of Victorian houses, most of them were built at low cost for working class people and are crowded together because there was not much space. By contrast, the Victorians of King William were built for the relatively wealthy business owners of San Antonio. Thus, they are much bigger and fancier than the typical Victorian of San Francisco.

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While I was in the neighborhood, the King William fair was going on. I got to talk to some of the local people. The people there were generally surprised to hear I was a tourist. “How did you know about this fair?” My answer was “I didn’t know about the fair, I just walked into it.”

The King William Fair, celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the King William Association

The King William Fair, celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the King William Association

I entered on of the houses, known as the Steve’s family homestead. It is a museum inside, trying to reproduce as faithfully as possible what the interior looked like in the late nineteenth century, when it was home to a German immigrant family who owned a local lumber company.

The Steve's family homestead

The Steve’s family homestead

I also got some shelter from the rain at the Briscoe museum of western art. It is full of art depicting the American West – paintings like this:

a cowboy is riding a horse into the sunset

The museum showed the American West as the culturally diverse place it is, as opposed to the white-washed version one sees in old Hollywood movies. It has art ranging from the 18th century (Spanish) up to art made as recently as 2015.

This was a Mexican ranger outfit. It belongs to the Guerra family, and is on display at the museum with their permission. The Guerra family has been in Texas since 1748 - they have been subjects/citizens of Spain, Mexico, the Texas Republic, the United States, the Confederacy, and then the United States again.

This was a Mexican ranger outfit. It belongs to the Guerra family, and is on display at the museum with their permission. The Guerra family has been in Texas since 1748 – they have been subjects/citizens of Spain, Mexico, the Texas Republic, the United States, the Confederacy, and then the United States again.

One of the things which really struck me about San Antonio is how culturally and ethnically mixed it is. I was also impressed by the friendliness of the people. Y’all made me feel welcome, and left me with good memories of Texas.

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2 thoughts on “Historic San Antonio

  1. Yeah, the gun thing takes getting used to. Texans love their guns. For the longest time there was no legal statue specifically prohibiting carrying a gun unless it was displayed “in an alarming matter” then it was considered “disorderly conduct”. People were allowed to carry concealed handguns in public with a state issued gun-licence until 2015 when a law passed that allowed concealed guns to be carried openly. However, since many businesses are considered private property they can forbid guns on the premises, but that falls under civil law, not criminal. It also became legal this year to carry a gun on all 4 year and state collages. In 2017 it’ll be legal to carry a gun on all junior and two year campuses. Sounds like the opposite of a solution to me and I believe the laws are racial bias since it’s probably only safe for a white person to openly carry a gun. If a black person or a Muslim were to openly carry people would cry “disorderly conduct” and it would escalate the situation. I’ve lived 30-40 minutes north of S.A. for 18 years and I’m still not used to the gun thing.

    • Yeah, I figured something like that was going on (and I even read about Texas allowing people to bring guns onto college campuses) and … I also do not get why anybody who isn’t required to have a gun to do their job (police, soldiers) would want to carry a gun in downtown San Antonio (assuming their intentions are lawful).

      I had no idea that you lived in Texas, let alone so close to S.A. If I had known, I would have given you a heads up that I was going on this trip.

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