A look back at ol’ S.A.

As a San Antonio native, I have a strong appreciation for all things local, especially historic black-and-white images. Historic Photos of San Antonio wrangles in some 200 images for a journey through the Alamo City from the 1860s through 1969. San Antonio’s evolution from a town into a city is beautifully depicted throughout the book.

The coffee-table tome is broken down into four chapters — the beginnings of prosperity, from town to city, from the heights to the depths, and from depression to elation. In the preface, author Frank Faulkner, Jr. acknowledges that the text begins in the 1860s, although “the city is much older.” Of course, our city has a significant historical link to our neighbor to the south, but our history can be traced elsewhere. The book highlights these influences and more through it’s exceptionally well-selected images.

As I sat down with Faulkner to discuss the book, he told me a bit about his career — which paints him as somewhat of a Texas know-it-all. Born in nearby Poteet, Faulkner made his way to San Antonio to pursue a Master’s degree in library science at Our Lady of the Lake University. Since settling in San Antonio he has worked with the San Antonio public library for 25 years, he currently works as the public services manager.

The publisher gave him three weeks to write everything in the the book, including the preface, captions, and the introduction of each chapter. The images were culled from the archives of the Institute of Texan Cultures and the SAPL. The stunning photos highlight a very bare Alamo, downtown streets during the 1913 flood, a visit by president Lyndon B. Johnson as he toured he Institute of Texan Cultures during HemisFair ’68, and other San Antonio events.

One of Faulkner’s favorite images is a night scene of Municipal Auditorium — the reflection of the auditorium is visible in a pool of water before the building. The caption reads: Opened in 1926, the auditorium was designed by Atlee B. Ayres, George Willis, and Emmett Jackson as a memorial to those who died in World War II.

A few minor glitches can be found in the book, such as a handful of blurry pictures (the old Charles Hummel residence on Commerce Street and an almost unrecognizable image of the San Antonio River from the Commerce Street bridge) — however, these photos are decades-old, so it’s understandable that this occurs in the book.

It’s also interesting to see the development of a thriving cultural hodgepodge in the downtown area, from the 1875 dedication of Temple Beth-El at the corner of Jefferson and Travis streets to a mid-1960s snapshot of the north side of the 1100 block of West Commerce where Chinese, Mexican, and Italian eateries occupied the strip.

The Historic Photos of ... series has spotlighted cities such as Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston as well as other major cities around the U.S. Be on the lookout for Historic Photos of New Orleans to be released this month. Locally, the book can be found at The Twig, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.

Historic Photos of San Antonio
Text and captions by Frank S. Faulkner, Jr.
Turner Publishing Company
$39.95, 206 pages