...with a little help from the friends
San Pedro Springs pool in the 1920’s
San Pedro Springs Park is located in the heart of one of San Antonio’s oldest neighborhoods bordered by San Pedro on the East, Ashby on the North, North Flores on the West and Myrtle on the South. Spanish Explorers named the springs after St. Peter in 1709. The Spanish Government founded Mission San Antonio de Valero and the “Villa de Bejar” a short distance downstream in 1718 and marking the recognized year of the founding of San Antonio. The mission was later moved to the site we now know as the Alamo. In 1729 King Phillip of Spain proclaimed the land around the springs an “Ejido” or a public place. It is this decree that gives San Pedro Springs Park its claim to being the second oldest public park in the United States, next only to Boston Commons. San Pedro Springs served as the principal water source for San Antonio until the late 1800’s. The springs and the area around them has served throughout history as a meeting and trading place for Native Americans, a camp site for travelers along the Camino
Real, a Confederate Prisoner of War compound, US Army Dragoons headquarters, site of wild west shows and rodeos, county fairs, beer garden, dance halls, band concerts, experimental US Cavalry Camel Camp, horse racing, site of first city zoo, tennis matches, baseball games, swimming hole, San Antonio Little Theater and this city’s first branch library that has continuously served the community since 1929.
The park had been neglected for many years and in the 1980’s the expansion and renovation of San Antonio College was the catalysis for Doug Harlan, Chancellor of the Alamo College Community District, to form a task force to create a master plan and obtain funds for restoring San Pedro Springs Park. Under the leadership of Mayor Nelson Wolff, Dennis O’Malley, President of the San Antonio Parks Foundation, and Chancellor Harlan the San Antonio Parks Foundation funded the initial conceptual plans designed by Beaty & Saunders Architects for the park. Ron Darner, former director of the City of San Antonio’s Department of Parks & Recreation, and leaders from Alta Vista Neighborhood Association and other neighborhoods surrounding the park, served on this task force. This new support group brought life back to the campaign to restore the park with the respect and dignity it deserved.
A City Park Bond Issue was passed in 1994 with $4.2 million dollars allocated for San Pedro. A Master Restoration/Renovation Plan was adopted and the architectural firm of Beaty-Saunders began Phase I work in 1999.
The initial monies were used to reconstruct the 1920’s style pool/lake, relocate the McFarlin Tennis Center grandstand, remove asphalt roads, reconfigure parking lots, restore the “Victorian Garden”, expansion of the pool house and the planting of over 100 new trees by volunteers. A 1999 bond of $1.2 million dollars along with a $65,000 Parks Foundation grant was used to address the Master Plan’s Phase II items. Completed in 2003 were the full restoration of the “Old Fort” and the preservation of the 1890 Band Stand by Fisher-Heck Architects. The irrigation of the northern section of the park, installation of a new playground and the construction of a new parking facility by the McFarlin Tennis Center designs were by Beaty & Partners Architects. In 2003 Texas Public Radio took the lead in getting over 100 volunteers to create a “Butterfly Garden” above the springs. There are still several Master Plan items that are unfunded. The most critical item is the creation of more green space by the removal of one baseball diamond. Other items on the unfinished list are: reinstallation of the “Crane Fountain”, remove the parking lot facing San Pedro Avenue, irrigation to southern section, restore all historical features, park perimeter lighting and the planting of more trees.
Present day (2007) springs and pool