Downtown San Antonio, Texas

There’s more to San Antonio than the Spanish heritage, though I personally think that period of time is the most poignant. San Antonio ironically was a relatively small city for most of its history, only growing to a million inhabitants in the last several decades. Art-Deco skyscrapers sit blocks away from Italianate row buildings. The…

Bexar County Courthouse, San Antonio, Texas

Completed in 1897 according to the plans of James Riely Gordon, the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio is a red sandstone interpretation of the Romanesque Revival. Its distinctive towers contrast nicely with the two twin Gothic Revival towers of the nearby cathedral. Numerous sympathetic additions cause the building to stretch down the block away…

Mission San Antonio de Valero, San Antonio, Texas

Mission San Antonio de Valero, dating from 1718, was the fifth and northernmost of the missions in the San Antonio area. Now in the heart of its namesake city, the old mission church represents a fruitful moment in Spanish Colonial architecture. Interestingly, the church was never finished; the front facade was completed up to about…

Governor’s Palace, San Antonio, Texas

The old Spanish Governor’s Palace is actually less interesting for its colonial heritage (which was largely annihilated from this building), but for its interesting perspective in how architects and historians renovated buildings in the 1930s. Three parts showmanship, four parts romanticism, and one part historicism, the renovation of the house gives a fascinating window into…

Cathedral of San Fernando, San Antonio, Texas

With some walls dating back to 1738-50, and undergoing a major renovation that transformed the Spanish colonial church into a Gothic Revival cathedral in 1868. It’s an interesting church; not particularly huge, and with strangely truncated and out of proportion bell towers, it nonetheless anchors one of the two major plazas of the colonial core….

Mission Espada Irrigation System

Harnessing the water of the semi-arid San Antonio region, Spanish friars turned to irrigation techniques invented by the ancient Romans. The dam diverted water in irrigation channels, many that are still in operation, and fed fields around the missions. This is referred to the Espada Dam, even though it is closer to Mission San Juan….

Mission Espada, San Antonio, Texas

I photographed the furthest south, and perhaps most humble, Mission San Francisco de la Espada sits among ranchitos, out in the shrubby brush at the edge of the city of San Antonio. Under heavy restoration, I had to take my photos through a chain-link fence. There are all sorts of legends about the “broken arch,”…

Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Antonio, Texas

Proceeding south, the next mission south of San José is Mission San Juan Capistrano, which is a much more humble and smaller site established in 1731. Interestingly, all churches at the missions are still the property of the Roman Catholic Church, and the National Park Service collaborates with everything outside the front door of all of…

Mission San José, San Antonio, Texas

Completed in 1782, the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo has gained the reputation as the “Queen of the Missions,” largely due to the restored, intact quadrangle of walls and residences. While all of the churches had plans for more elaborate decorations and size, only San José was able to complete its plans to…

Mission Concepción, San Antonio, Texas

All this week, and some of next, I will be examining the colonial development of the city of San Antonio, Texas, with emphasis on the series of Spanish Franciscan missions that line the San Antonio River. Contemporaneous with the earliest decades of the development of the city of St. Louis, which was founded at the…