Historic San Antonio

April 1, 2006
LONG a crossroads of history and a meeting place of cultures, San Antonio, Texas, is a rich blend of deeply rooted traditions and 21st century cosmopolitan

LONG a crossroads of history and a meeting place of cultures, San Antonio, Texas, is a rich blend of deeply rooted traditions and 21st century cosmopolitan flair, a place where America's past and present merge to create a unique vibrancy.

It's also the setting for the 2006 National Tank Truck Carriers annual Conference and Tank Truck Equipment Show May 7-11.

Now the nation's eighth largest city, San Antonio is a joyful melange of the flavors and sounds of Native Americans, Old Mexico, the Republic of Texas, Germans, the Wild West, African Americans, and the Deep South.

For visitors with an interest in gallant deeds of days gone by, San Antonio is history. Native Americans first lived along the San Antonio River, calling the area Yanaguana, which means refreshing waters or clear waters.

A band of Spanish explorers and missionaries came upon the river in 1691, and because it was the feast day of St Anthony, they named the river San Antonio.

The actual founding of the city came in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares when he established Mission San Antonio de Valero, which became permanently etched in the annals of history in 1836 as The Alamo, where 189 defenders held the old mission against some 4,000 Mexican troops for 13 days.

Rallying point

The cry “Remember the Alamo” became the rallying point of the Texan revolt against Mexico. Located in the heart of downtown, The Alamo is a shrine and museum.

Long Barracks Museum and Library are near the chapel. The museum contains relics and mementos from the Republic of Texas and offers narration on the fall of the Alamo. The Alamo is located in the heart of the city, inside beautifully landscaped grounds.

The Riverwalk

Paseo Del Rio (The Riverwalk) in the heart of downtown is the pride of the city. Lush green foliage lines the banks of this peaceful, historic river. Cobblestone walkways lead visitors to the river-level restaurants and shops.

The river bubbles to the surface on the grounds of the University of the Incarnate Word and flows to downtown, threading its way through the city one level below the hustle and bustle of city streets.

In addition to the Alamo, there are four other Spanish frontier missions. They were part of a colonial system that stretched across the Spanish Southwest in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and are preserved here.

Included are the Missions San Jose, San Juan, Espada, and Concepcion. The chain of missions established along the San Antonio River in the 18th century are reminders of one of Spain's most successful attempts to extend its New World dominion from Mexico.

Representing both church and state, these missions were charged with converting the local Native Americans, collectively called Coahuiltecans, into devout Catholics and productive members of Spanish society.

The missions were the greatest concentration of Catholic missions in North America and formed the foundation for what is today the thriving city of San Antonio.

A national park contains the historically and architecturally significant structures of missions Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada. Other important cultural resources included are the historic Espada Dam and Aqueduct, acequia (irrigation) systems, and the Rancho de las Cabras.

For another look at San Antonio's past, the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum reveals more than 120 years of Texas-style history.

King William District

For a more sedate adventure, take a look at the King William District, 25-block area near downtown on the south bank of the San Antonio River.

In the late 1800s the King William District was the most elegant residential area in the city. Prominent German merchants originally settled the area. It was zoned as the state's first historic district, and has once again become a fashionable neighborhood.

Guenther House, located on a bend of the San Antonio River at the foot of King William, is in one of the oldest historic districts in Texas.

Carl Hilmar Guenther, founder of Pioneer Flour Mills, built this elegant home in 1860. The restored house offers a museum featuring mill memorabilia. Of interest to collectors are the Dresden China anniversary plates made in Germany until WWII.

Another historic residence is the home site of Jose Antonio Navarro (1795-1871), a Texas legislator under Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States.