Sunday, April 03, 2011
Walkin' the East Side #7: Downtown
The Tower of the Americas was built for the 1968 Hemisfair, a world's fair. The Handbook of Texas Online has a fantastic article on the subject. It's pretty balanced about the issues surrounding the fair, including how some 100 historic structures, initially supposed to be preserved, were instead demolished (leaving between 22 & 24 that were maintained as promised). It also discusses opposition to the project which was centered around the demolition of a long-standing neighborhood for a project of dubious value. Given that my post on the topic of changing the name of part of Bowie St. to Tower of the Americas Way generated a LOT of comments like "San Antonio had a World's Fair?" I don't think I'd be out of line to say that the potential wasn't realized. I'm putting all this here because almost all of today's pictures will be from what remains of Hemisfair Park + the Institute of Texan Cultures (which I believe was part of the 1968 construction).
Reading about how the fair was originally intended as "a fair to celebrate the cultural heritage shared by San Antonio and the nations of Latin America", I think this might also be one of the first examples of pretending SA's only heritage is Latino.
Institute of Texan Cultures. It's a fascinating little cultural history museum, & pretty much exactly what it sounds like--info on the different ethnic groups that make Texas, Texas. I think a lot of times we are seen as very homogenous, but we're not. It's fascinating if you are a history nerd as I am. My all-time favorite exhibit is the sharecropper's cabin. It's the real thing, and though you can't go inside it you can look in it. I've always loved it. The last time I was there was in July 2007, and it was then I noticed the addition of a (scale model replica) "Mexican-American house of the 1970s." It's spot-on, but I question its inclusion as I'm sure pretty much everyone around here knows someone who lives in the real thing. I guess it's so that the tourists can see how Mexicans live while not having to interact with any actual Mexicans (aside from the folks working the gift shop).
The next few photos are from the Back 40 at the ITC. There is an exercise path that runs around the perimeter of the property & through the Back 40, so even though we got there as the museum was closing we were able to look at these buildings, though of course not take the tour.
Tower Life building. That's got a pretty interesting story behind it, and is another iconic building in the city (which is to say, it is always in skyline drawings). I'll get pix of it one day.
Hemisfair Arena. My sophomore year, I attended my high school's graduation ceremonies to bid adieu to a few people I'd been in JRTOC with. This was in 1995. That was the last year anyone graduated at Hemisfair Arena (Brack wasn't the very last graduation, but close to it); it was demolished later on that year in order to expand the Convention Center. These two photos are of some artwork that is on the back wall of the center's expansion. Nice pieces. There are a few others, but I didn't like them as much, so I didn't take photos. The top is a nice riff on the Sacred Heart; embarrassingly enough it took Bobbie to point out to me the map of the Americas on the heart itself. The lower is a metal cut of St. Anthony of Padua, the city's namesake/patron saint. Strange bit of history: two Spanish expeditions happened upon the river here at two different times, to the best of my knowledge independent of one another. They both named the river for the same Italian saint. (I'm guessing it was next on the list they had?)
Luminaria the next night, so we worked our way out of the park pretty fast. This is a nice, old, wooden playground. We had planned to stop, but there were a couple of kids there just full-on screaming, and their dad was goading them into it, so we left without playing. I've taught my girls to only scream if someone is trying to kill them or steal them.
So, there you have it. A nice walk all-in-all. I have I think just one more in the queue after this, which means we need to get more batteries for my camera an go wandering again. I'd love to get more photos of downtown; there are some really great buildings.