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Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Monday, May 5, 2014

More River Walk and San Antonio Missions NHP

Last Wednesday was our last day down in the River Walk. Our morning was spent the same as the previous two days, walking a stretch of the river. We did the last main section of the River Walk...
from the top of the "T" section down towards the right hand leg of the walk, to the King William Cultural Arts District. 

We walked down this man-made section and turned left...

to the Nuevo Street Dam and Marina. This is as far as the river barges can go, and are parked overnight behind the bridge to the right.

As with the Museum Reach Extension, there are far fewer people out and about as you get further away from the shopping/dining section, making it wonderful for a good exercise walk with the dogs. 
After the Mission San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) was secularized in 1793, the surrounding land and fields were distributed to the Native Americans and other local peoples to cultivate. Newly arriving settlers from both the United States and Europe purchased much of this land for their homes and farms. By the late 1800's the area became known as "Sauerkraut Bend" because of the dense German population and the curve of the river. The area thrived for about 50 years, then started to fall into disrepair. Preservation efforts begun in the 1940's gathered momentum by the 1970's, and today the King William area contains the city's most lavish and elegant homes.

We strolled down King William Street, known as the most beautiful residential street in all of Texas.

Some of the smaller homes date from the 1860's.

It certainly has some beautiful homes. There is also ample evidence of several of the older homes undergoing extensive restoration. I can only imagine the constraints they are under, and how expensive that must be.

One gate was still colorfully decorated for Fiesta!

Our morning was was done and once again we returned to the RV Park for lunch and to let the dogs have their afternoon siesta. Our goal for the afternoon was to visit the four remaining missions of San Antonio that comprise San Antonio Missions National Historic Park. We headed out, our destination being the Visitor Center to collect information and, of course, a stamp in our Passport book.

The Visitor Center is at the largest mission, Mission San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo. We aren't usually lucky, as everyone knows :-), but we got there just in time to join a ranger-escorted tour of the Mission. I'm very happy we did, as we learned so much more than if we had just wandered the grounds.

Right outside is this beautiful mesquite tree. In times of drought the branches curve down and enter the ground searching for water sources. In good times they will re-emerge again. I found that pretty cool.

The grounds of Mission San Jose comprised 600 acres of land. Now, the Franciscan friars' only objective in building missions, under the directive of the Spanish government, was to convert indigenous hunters and gatherers into Catholic, tax-paying subjects of the King of Spain. Conditions for the Native Americans were so awful (drought, disease and attacks from the Apache) that it was fairly easy to convince them to enter the missions, where they were housed, fed and trained in various trades. 
Mission San Jose was founded 2/23/1720. Three different Indian tribes were "recruited, and construction began on the compound's outer perimeter, the convento and the granary.

This picture gives you an idea of the size of the compound. I'm standing in the right back corner of the walled area looking out towards the other end.

The housing units for each family are all along the three walls of the compound ( with the fourth side being the cathedral and convento). Each extended family (grandparents, parents, children and unmarried older children, possibly between 12-15 people) were housed in a total of two rooms.

One room with a hearth...which is actually not historically accurate as the ranger told us they did all their cooking outside. 

Besides being housed, fed and trained in new trades, the Indians were given extensive religious instruction to prepare them to be accepted and baptized into the Catholic faith. The cathedral construction was begun in 1768, the peak of this mission's development. At that time there were up to 350 Indians residing in 84 apartments. The church is built of limestone with extraordinary Spanish colonial Baroque architecture and statuary.

The convento with it's arched entries come off of the back of the church. Many San Antonio weddings are photographed here.

The Rose Window is a highlight of the church. The Indians were denied entry to the Sanctuary until they were baptized, so they gathered here at this window to receive their religious instruction each day by one of the friars. Folklore credits Pedro Huizar, a carpenter and surveyor from Spain, with carving the famous window as a monument to his sweetheart, Rosa. Tragically, on her way from Spain to join him, Rosa was lost at sea. Pedro then completed the window as a declaration of enduring love.

Our tour ended here at the front of the church. It is still an active church community to this day, and we did have permission to enter to view the beautiful interior.

An interesting side note here: being an active church community, it was asked what happened during last October's government shutdown. The "grounds" of the mission belong to the National Park system, but the church belongs to its community. So the church was "open", just the sidewalks going to it "closed". however, there is an entrance through the convento that the community used to access the church for services.

Much of Mission San Jose has undergone reconstruction, as the limestone had started crumbling and much of the support structure had become compromised. The next mission on the tour, however, is much revered because it has withstood the test of time and is still completely intact.

Mission Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna

Enduring time and elements for 250 years, Mission Concepcion stands as one of the country's oldest original stone churches.

Original frescoes have endured as well.

Mission Concepcion

A much smaller mission, Mission San Juan Capistrano was our third stop.

The construction of the mission and church was completed by 1731. These partial walls are the remains of a plan to build a new and larger church in 1772. Dwindling numbers of Indian labor led to the abandonment of the project in 1786. 

All travelers arriving to a mission had to be approved and granted passage into the mission through the lone entry gate, the porteria. 

Mission San Juan is small, but still a vibrant community. We had to delay our picture taking here as a bride was posing for portraits while we were there!

It was almost closing time so we made a mad dash for the last mission, Mission Espada. Another very small mission, it is currently closed for extensive renovation. I did manage a picture through the chain link fence.

This brings to a close our three days of exploring San Antonio's River Walk and historical sites. We have one day left here that we spent up in Fredericksburg at The National Museum of the Pacific War. I'll talk a little bit about that and then our journey north to Santa Fe in the next installment. I hope you have enjoyed my tour :-)!


  1. Interesting facts about the mesquite tree. Beautiful postcard pictures!

  2. Yes, your photos are AMAZING!!! Thanks for that wonderful tour:o))

  3. Great tour! I love the missions, and have toured most of the ones in CA.

  4. We loved the missions but your tour added some interesting facts! Great photos!

  5. Great post! I loved visiting the Missions . . . we took many of the same pictures, but you have much more information in your post than I had in mine! Those historic homes were beautiful, too!

  6. I enjoyed your tour very much. Although we've been to SA numerous times, we've yet to tour ALL the missions. Definitely on my to do list. . .thanks for sharing!