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.
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.
I wonder what’s up with it. The stars of David in the windows imply that it was at one time a synagogue.
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.
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.
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.
I have to admit that I felt a wee bit of culture shock in San Antonio.
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.)
Next to Southtown is King William, the neighborhood of beautiful Victorian houses.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.