Monday, April 21, 2008

8. San Antonio Missions & History

With a population of about 1.2 million, San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas (Houston is larger) and 7th largest in the U.S. But Texas has lots of room and low-density “urban sprawl” has flourished. The city spreads for miles and seems much smaller than more intense vertical cities such as Seattle, Chicago, etc. It’s easy to navigate the freeways and interconnecting loop routes. There are no mountains, lakes, coastlines or other major obstacles so streets and freeways radiate in all directions from downtown.

The Alamo was established in 1718 and its famous battle was a major event in Texas history. A small group of 189 Texans fought against Mexican General Santa Ana’s much larger army in 1836. The Alamo defenders, including Jim Bowie and Davie Crockett, were wiped out. Later, however, Sam Houston’s army defeated Santa Ana and Texas became an independent republic, and later a state.

Four other missions have been preserved as part of the San Antonio Missions Nat’l. Historical Park. We visited two of them. The following two pictures are of Mission Concepcion. The third is the famous "Rose Window" at Mission San Jose (long story).

The King William District was settled in the 1800s by prominent German merchants and was the first historic district in Texas. Many of the beautiful old homes in this neighborhood have been preserved. One of those early pioneers was Ed Steves and we had an opportunity to tour his family homestead. Mr. Steves came from Germany, sold grain to Mexico markets illegally during the Civil War, invested wisely and eventually operated a successful lumber business that still thrives in San Antonio. He died in 1890 but his wife lived another 40 years and kept the house in excellent condition, complete with mostly original furnishings. The following photos will give you an example of the types of homes in this district. Too many for this page.