Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Heart of San Antonio

Located on the south bank of the San Antonio River, La Villita was San Antonio's first neighborhood. And we thought that its status warranted a visit, especially since it was in the heart of downtown and near the River Walk.
"Originally, La Villita was a settlement of primitive huts for the Spanish soldiers stationed at the Mission San Antonio Valero (the Alamo). After a flood in 1819, brick, stone and adobe houses replaced the earlier structures. In 1836, La Villita was the site of General Santa Ana's cannon line in the Battle of the Alamo.

(It seems only appropriate that the Village Weavers [below] is located in the Kiln and Weaving Building, which was used to house the arts and crafts programs which were integral to the La Villita restoration project. Clay pavers, plaques and other materials used were fired in the kiln. Classes were also taught here for many years.)

"Late in the 19th century European immigrants from Germany and France moved into the area, becoming San Antonio's business leaders, bankers, educators, and craftsmen. The cultural mix that occurred at this time can best be illustrated by the variety of architectural styles reflected in La Villita's evolution of buildings from palisado to Victorian Houses.

"La Villita declined into a slum area in the first part of the 20th century. In 1939, as ground broke on the San Antonio River Walk development, city fathers acted to preserve this colorful part of San Antonio's history.

"Today, La Villita Historic Arts Village is a nationally registered, thriving collection of artisan shops,art galleries, restaurants and other points of interest located right off the River Walk (thefairmounthotel-sanantonio.com).
La Villita covers the area of a large city block, but its streets are walking streets with traffic limited to residents', merchants', and delivery vehicles.

The cornerstone of The Little Church of La Villita was laid on March 2, 1879.
Several denominations have held services here.

It is now an active non-denominational church and a favorite site for weddings.
Opposite the Little Church is the Cos House (the cream-colored building below in the background and a likely stop on this segway tour). This structure is believed to be one of the oldest in La Villita, predating 1835. General Perfecto de Cos reportedly signed the articles of capitulation for the Mexican Army here on December 9, 1835, after being defeated by the Texan Army.

Today it is often used for small wedding receptions or dinners.

The building below is home to the Starving Artist Art Gallery. St. Philips College was begun in an adobe house just north of this building in 1898, but the present brick buildings date to the 1900s.

As you can see, the tree-lined brick walkways invite leisurely walking and the historic restored businesses welcome study an well as shopping.

The building in the foreground on the right (below) is the former kitchen building, constructed during the National Youth Administration restoration in 1939. The small building stands on King Phillip V Walk where the legendary Mrs. Womble's Boarding House once stood.

Today it is Casa Manos Alegres.

The New York Star Cleaning and Dye Works replaced town small adobe houses. The New York Star Cleaning and Dye Works operated here until 1933 when the property was leased by the Joy Kist Candy Company.
Today it is Scentchips USA.

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