June 1-2, 2002: In the Wichita Mountains
February 23 - March 3, 2002: A Trip to Fort Lauderdale
Return to the Index for 2002


April 19-21, 2002
A Trip to San Antonio


 

Prudence has been encouraging Fred and I to come down to San Antonio more frequently, and so we've set aside a weekend to drive down and see her, Ron and Guy Blair. I'll also be doing some additional work on the web site for Ruckman Haus Bed & Breakfast.

 

Getting to Ruckman Haus

You've probably seen a map of the route from Dallas to San Antonio before. It is pretty simple, for once you get on the Tollway south from my house, and merge onto I-35 South, it is a straight shot for about 280 miles all the way to downtown San Antonio. See the map below, left.


Once in downtown San Antonio, all you have to do is follow I-35 South until you come to the exit for San Pedro Avenue. Once off the expressway, you just take San Pedro Avenue north.


Finally, you just take San Pedro Avenue by San Pedro Park on your left, and, one block past the park, you turn left onto French Place. Prudence and Ron have their bed and breakfast at the end of the first block on your right.


We'll just be "hanging out" with Ron and Prudence, and of course Guy, when he is not busy with his church duties at San Francesco di Paolo Catholic Church in downtown San Antonio.

 

 

A Visit to the Japanese Tea Gardens

On this trip, we didn't do much except relax with Prudence and Ron and Guy. We enjoyed two of Ron's excellent breakfasts, and helped out where we could. I worked with Prudence on her web site, which is coming along nicely, and Fred did some planting and pruning in her East Garden. The only attraction we went to see was The Japanese Tea Garden. The Garden is over near Trinity University, on the other side of US 281, about five miles from the B&B. It is one of San Antonio's oldest developed public attractions, and just celebrated its centennial.


In 1899, the San Antonio Water Works Company, through its president, George W. Brackenridge, donated 199 acres to the City of San Antonio for a public park- named Brackenridge Park in his honor- which opened in 1901. At that time, there was still an operating rock quarry in the northwest corner of the park used by the Alamo Cement Company, but they ceased operations there in 1908.

In 1915, Mrs. Emma Koehler, widow of Pearl Brewery owner Otto Koehler, donated additional land adjacent to the quarry for a public park, and the City Parks Commissioner, Ray Lambert, was faced with a challenge to create one. He ultimately came up with the idea of a lily pond which eventually became the Japanese Tea Garden. Even without significant funds, but with plans from his park engineer, Lambert was able to construct the Garden. Between July 1917 and May 1918, Lambert used prison labor to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda. The garden was termed the lily pond, and local residents donated bulbs to beautify the area. Exotic plants were provided by the City nursery and the City Public Service Company donated the lighting system. The pagoda was roofed with palm leaves from trees in City parks. When completed, Lambert had spent only $7,000. In 1919, The American City magazine reported that "the city of San Antonio has recently completed a municipal lily pond and a Japanese garden which we believe are unique."


Lambert continued to improve the garden, and in 1920, at the base of the old cement kilns, a small village of houses was constructed, termed by the San Antonio Express as "another dream of the artist of the Lily Pool, Ray Lambert, Commissioner of Parks." The village was designed to be a tourist attraction for the manufacturing and sale of Mexican arts and crafts and an outdoor restaurant. It is not known how long the village operated. At the entrance to the gardens, artist Dionicio Rodriguez replicated a Japanese torii gate in his unique style of concrete construction that imitated wood.

In 1926, at the City's invitation, Kimi Eizo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden and opened the Bamboo Room, where light lunches and tea were sold. After Mr. Jingu's death in the late 1930s, his family continued to operate the tea garden until 1942, when they were evicted because of anti-Japanese sentiment during World War II. A Chinese-American family operated the facility until the early 1960s, and it was known as the Chinese Sunken Garden. In 1984, the area was rededicated as the Japanese Tea Garden in a ceremony attended by the Jingu's children and representatives of the Japanese government.

In recognition of the Tea Garden's origin as a rock quarry that played a prominent role in the development of the cement business, as well as its later redevelopment as a garden, the site is designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a Registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The park became a beautiful oasis in the middle of the growing city, and by the time we visited this year was a very popular place. We didn't have a great deal of time, but we did have an opportunity to walk along many of the paths that wind through the bottom of the old quarry. It did seem as if the area was a bit run-down, and we came to find out that not much has been done to modernize the park or renovate it since the early 1980s. Even so, it was a very pleasant place.

(I am creating this album page in early 2012, and I can add that the garden underwent a renovation beginning in May 2007 in which the ponds and waterfall were repaired, and a recirculation system added to provide a safe habitat for new Koi and aquatic plants. This phase of what is to be a continuing expansion, cost over $1.5 million- over 200 times the cost to build the park originally. A grand reopening ceremony was held on March 8, 2008, which was attended by the Lambert family, descendents of Park Commissioner Ray Lambert, as well as numerous members of the Jingu family, including Mabel Jingu Enkoji, who was born in the Jingu House and lived at the garden as a child. The San Antonio Parks Foundation contributed $100,000 toward the Master Plan for the Garden, as well as $800,000 toward the restoration o the ponds and waterfall. The Foundation continues to fund-raise for the restoration. You'll have a chance, later in this photo album, to see the results of this renovation, as we came back for an extended visit.)

Today, though, Fred, Prudence, Guy, Ron and I have come by for a short walk through the gardens.


Guy at the Japanese Tea Garden

We had a pleasant time walking through the Gardens, but we took only a couple of other pictures. If you click on the thumbnails below, you can have a look at them:

Other than visit the Tea Gardens, we didn't do much on this trip down to San Antonio, but then again we really don't need to. It is always a pleasure to visit Prudence and Ron; they are great hosts and very good friends.

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


June 1-2, 2002: In the Wichita Mountains
February 23 - March 3, 2002: A Trip to Fort Lauderdale
Return to the Index for 2002