My friends Elizabeth Porterfield and Shanon Wasielewski are mentioned in this article about the new walking tour. I’m going to have to check out the Conservation Society’s website and download the tour. You should do the same.
New brochure brings history to life
Self-guided tour of downtown has been updated.
By Scott Huddleston of the San Antonio Express News
If you’ve ever wondered where Santa Anna stayed during the Alamo siege or where Teddy Roosevelt outfitted his Rough Riders, you can find out in a newly updated brochure that tells some of the tales of downtown San Antonio.
The Texas Star Trail, created by the San Antonio Conservation Society for the state’s 1986 sesquicentennial, provides a self-guided 2.6-mile walking tour of downtown historic sites.
It includes lesser known jewels such as the O. Henry House, where the famed writer worked in the 1890s, and the Richter House, where barber-surgeon William Richter is said to have used leeches from a nearby irrigation ditch to treat patients.
Blood-sucking worms too weird for your taste? The brochure has been updated to include commentary by Elizabeth Porterfield, architectural historian with the city’s Office of Historic Preservation.
It shows 79 points of interest, identified by aluminum pavement markers, including 29 “must see” stops. The 12-inch circular discs depict the upper half of a Texas star over an outline of the Alamo. About 1,000 blue 3-inch markers line the trail, pointing pedestrians to the next stop.
Tuesday’s announcement of the updated brochure comes during National Preservation Month, as cities across the country celebrate their historic treasures, said Shanon Wasielewski, city historic preservation officer.
“We’re very fortunate that we have so many of them. We have treasures everywhere you look,” Wasielewski said.
The trail is designed to raise the local consciousness and promote exercise and cultural tourism, city officials said. Paula Stallcup, the city’s downtown operations director, said visitors often stare up at building features that locals don’t seem to notice.
“The walking tour is really to highlight that,” Stallcup said.
Since the trail has reached its 25th anniversary, now is the time to revive it, said Rollette Schreckenghost, president of the conservation society, which is trying to find funds to replace several missing markers.
The trail, funded by a $25,000 grant from the Meadows Foundation in 1986, no longer includes one historic house that was burned by an arsonist and three buildings that lost their historic significance in alterations.
The Wolfson Building, at 100 N. Main St. on Main Plaza, is Site No. 35 on the trail. As the home of Wolfson’s Dry Goods and Clothing Store, it was a cornerstone of a retail boom in the plaza in the late 1800s. It’s also on the site where Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna is said to have planned his army’s assault on the Alamo in 1836, said Marlene Richardson, the conservation society’s third vice president, who oversaw the route’s update.
Roosevelt’s Rough Riders were outfitted for their famous 1898 charge up San Juan Hill at one saddlery shop in Main Plaza and another nearby at 231 E. Commerce St. A stop at the Tower Life Building, a neo-gothic skyscraper that’s a familiar part of the city skyline, was added to the trail. Richardson recommends a look inside.
“Walk right in there. It’s gorgeous,” and offers relief from the heat, she said.
The brochure is available at conservation society offices, 107 King William St., and the San Antonio Visitor Center, 317 Alamo Plaza, and is posted on the society’s website, saconservation.org/pdf/texasstartrail.pdf.