Thursday, June 19, 2014

Those Places Thursday: San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, 1978 and 1997

I hope those of you going to San Antonio for the Federation of Genealogical Societies' 2014 Conference (#FGS2014) in late August plan to stay in San Antonio a few days more (either before or after the conference) so you can see some of the sites outside of the downtown area.  This week, I am writing about destinations to the north and to the south of downtown.

If you were to head south of the River Walk along the San Antonio River, you'd eventually reach the first of four sites in the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.  Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuña, simply known as Mission Concepción, was dedicated in 1755, and is the oldest unrestored stone church in America.
Mission Concepcion at San Antonio, Texas, 27 June 2010 / Travis Witt / CC BY-SA-3.0
Next is Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, or simply Mission San José, the "Queen of the Missions."  It was almost completely restored by the WPA (Works Projects Administration) in the 1930s.  Thus, it is the largest of the missions and gives the visitor an idea of how all the missions (including the Alamo) might have looked in the mid-1700s.
Mission San José at San Antonio, 27 June 2010 / Travis Witt / CC BY-SA-3.0
Further down the San Antonio River is Mission San Juan Capistrano, usually just called Mission San Juan.  It started in east Texas in 1761 and moved to this location in 1761.
Mission San Juan Capistrano facade at San Antonio, TX, 30 June 2011 / Travis K. Witt / CC BY-SA-3.0
Furthest south is Mission San Francisco de la Espada, or Mission Espada.  It is the oldest mission in the state, originally founded in east Texas in 1690 and moved here in 1731.
Mission Espada Chapel at San Antonio, TX, 30 June 2011 / Travis K. Witt / CC BY-SA-3.0

I'd suggest allowing at least an entire day to visit the missions.  All four are still active Catholic churches, and San José and San Juan offer bilingual mariachi Masses on Sundays. (Note that the church at Mission Espada is closed for preservation work until December 2014).

You might also want to visit the nearby Espada Aqueduct.  Built in 1745 as part of the irrigation system for the missions, it is the only remaining Spanish aqueduct in the United States.

I was privileged to work as a park ranger at Mission San José in the summer of 1978, when it was still part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department system.  I've written about and posted pictures of Mission San José before, but here are some additional photos from a visit by my family of origin that summer, and another visit with my offspring in the summer of 1997.
Dad and me at the former entrance to Mission San José, on the southwest corner of the complex, summer 1978.
The entrance has been moved to the southeast corner and this sign was removed sometime after August 1998.

Mark, me, Mom, Dad, Mary, and Brian, just outside the San José granary with its flying buttresses, summer 1978

Mark, Sister Jean Marie, Brian, Mom, Dad, and Mary at the entrance to the San José church, summer 1978

Mark, Mary, Dad, Mom, Brian, Nani, and Sister Jean Marie in front of the Rose Window, summer 1978

Eric and Diane in front of the Rose Window / Rosa's Window, summer 1997

 © Amanda Pape - 2014 - click here to e-mail me.

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