April 26-30, 2015: A Visit to San Antonio
April 20, 2015: Lunch With Barbara Reynolds
Return to the Index for 2015

April 26-30, 2015
A Visit to San Antonio


On Sunday the 26th, we headed down to San Antonio to help Prudence and Ron celebrate Guy's birthday. In addition to helping with the low-key celebration, we hung out and spent some time in San Pedro Park.


Getting to the Ruckmans' House in San Antonio

You have probably seen an album page where we visit San Antonio, but in case you haven't, I want to show you the route to San Antonio from Dallas and where Prudence and Ron and Guy are located.

On the maps below, you can see the route to the Ruckmans' house. It is an easy matter to simply hop on I-35E from the Tollway in Dallas and take that highway all the way south through Austin to San Antonio. This 280-mile trip routinely takes about 4.5 hours. In San Antonio, we continue to follow I-35 into the city, eventually exiting onto San Pedro Avenue. We take that north about two miles, and either hang a left on Ashby and a right on Breeden or just a left on French to get to the Ruckmans' house on the northeast corner of Breeden and French.

In case you have not seen them, I have put below first an aerial view of the Ruckmans' house (it is the house on the corner and the garage/apartment building north of it where Guy lives) and a front view of the house (taken in 2010).


At the San Antonio Botanical Garden

On Monday, Guy, Fred and myself went over to the San Antonio Botanical Garden for a walk around. It was a pretty day, and a nice one to be in the gardens.

Prior to 1877, the eastern end of Mahncke Park was a limestone quarry that at one time became part of a reservoir system for San Antonio. When the city began using wells instead of surface water, the owner deeded the land to the city (1899). The idea of a Botanical Garden for San Antonio dates to the 1940s. A group of supporters developed and presented a master plan for a public botanical garden in the late 1960s, and the old quarry site was chosen. In 1970, voters approved $265,000 in bonds for the Garden. This money, along with a grant awarded five years later by the Ewing Halsell Foundation, other contributions from organizations and individuals, and a significant grant from the Economic Development Administration helped pay for the project. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on July 21, 1976. The official opening of the San Antonio Botanical Garden was May 3, 1980.

One of the first things Guy did when he moved to San Antonio in July was to get a membership at the Botanical Garden so he can come here frequently and walk. Apparently, he does this at least a couple of times a week. If I lived nearer to the Dallas Arboretum, I'd probably go more frequently as well.

Fred and I have been to the Botanical Garden before, and we found out some time ago that our memberships to the Dallas Arboretum would get us free admission to the San Antonio gardens (as well as fifty other gardens around the country) on a reciprocal arrangement among botanical gardens and arboretums.

Getting to the gardens is just a fifteen-minute trip from Ruckman Haus, and I knew the way quite well. I didn't put a distance scale on the map at right, but the whole trip is a little less than three miles.

I think there are a number of reasons why Guy comes to the gardens frequently. They, like the Dallas Arboretum, are not only a delight to the eyes, but provide rest for the soul as well. That rest is something Guy treasures, and something we should all get more of.

We were actually here as recently as last January; today we just came to stroll through the gardens, not following any particular route. There was no exhibit going on so we just took the occasional candid photograph.

We came in through the entry (where a display announced the rainforest exhibit) and walked over to the Japanese Garden. This always a quiet, restful place, and we walked across the little bridges and sat down on one of the benches to enjoy the afternoon. Here are clickable thumbnails for a couple of shots I took in the garden:

From the Japanese Garden, we headed over towards the greenhouses, passing by the Gardens' central fountain on the way. Click on the thumnbnails below for a couple of pictures taken at the fountain:

The greenhouses, with their amazing glass superstructure are always a pleasure to walk through. There are three of them, arranged around a central open area that has its own koi pond. One of them is filled with desert plants and has a path that takes you up through them. The other two house tropical plants- including a huge selection or orchids. We spent most of our time in the tropical house; it has its own waterfall. Here is a panoramic view inside that house:

I took a couple of movies, one in this house and one in another, and you can use the players below to watch them:

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We sat down on a bench in one of the houses to enjoy the sunshine and have a chat. It is nice to get off by ourselves, just the three of us, and talk of things that matter. Over on the wall beside where we were sitting was an interesting animal display. I think each of the figures was created by a schoolchild for the display. I took a series of pictures of it and stitched them together into the panorama below:

We spent a couple of hours here today, and just before we left I tried my hand at a selfie.


At the Japanese Tea Garden

When we were done at the Botanical Garden, we thought that on the way back to Ruckman Haus we would stop at another garden that is located near Trinity University- the Japanese Tea Garden.

The San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden, or Sunken Gardens, is located in Brackenridge Park, and opened in an abandoned limestone rock quarry in the early 20th century. It was known also as Chinese Tea Gardens, Chinese Tea Garden Gate, Chinese Sunken Garden Gate and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. We had just come from the San Antonio Botanical Garden which has its own Japanese Garden called "Kumamoto En".

The Japanese Tea Garden was developed on land donated to the city in 1899 by George Brackenridge, president of the San Antonio Water Works Company. The ground was first broken around 1840 by German masons, who used the readily accessible limestone to supply the construction market. Many San Antonio buildings, including the Menger Hotel, were built with the stone from this quarry.

In 1880 the Alamo Cement Company was incorporated and produced cement for 26 years in the kiln, the chimney of which still stands today. Supporting the workforce of the quarry was a small "village", populated primarily by Mexican-Americans who worked the site. They and their families became popular with tourists, who purchased pottery, hand woven baskets, and food.

About 1917, City Parks Commissioner Ray Lambert visualized an oriental-style garden in the pit of the quarry. His engineer, W.S. Delery, developed plans, but no work began until individual and private donors provided funds in 1918. Lambert used prison labor to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.

At the entrance to the garden, Mexican-born artist Dionicio Rodriguez (1891-1955) replicated a Japanese Torii gate in his unique style of concrete construction that imitated wood. In 1919, at the city's invitation, Kimi Eizo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden. In 1926, they opened the Bamboo Room, where light lunches and tea were sold. Kimi and Miyoshi Jingu maintained the garden, lived in the park, and raised eight children. Kimi was a representative of the Shizuoka Tea Association and was considered an expert in the tea business nationally. He died in 1938, and 1941 the family was evicted with the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.

The garden was renamed the Chinese Tea Garden, to prevent the razing and vandalism of the tea garden during WWII, as many other cities' Japanese tea gardens were being vandalized. A Chinese-American family, Ted and Ester Wu, opened a snack bar in the pagoda until the early 1960s. In 1984, under the direction of Mayor Henry Cisneros, the city restored the original “Japanese Tea Garden” designation in a ceremony attended by Jingu's children and representatives of the Japanese government.

For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism. Due to limited funding, the city threatened to close the garden, but the community and parks supporters rallied and lobbied to keep the park open. In 2007, the city began a $1.6 million restoration campaign to restore the ponds and waterfall and replant many of the walkways. On March 8, 2008, Jingu family members returned to San Antonio for the public re-opening of the gardens. Mabel Yoshiko Jingu Enkoji, the sixth child of Kimi and Miyoshi Jingu, who was born at the Garden, was the senior Jingu family member at the event.

The Jingu House (Tea Room) was renovated in 2011, and now offers the same type of light lunches that the Jingu family served in the 1930s. 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. Below are clickable thumbnails for some of the pictures I took on our walk through the gardens:


At Ruckman Haus

Around Ruckman Haus this trip we took just a few pictures. One of them had little to do with Prudence's house at all, but rather the house across the street. It sits on a double lot and overlooks San Pedro Park on Ashby, and has a large backyard that stretches over to French Place. That backyard is elevated, and an old retaining wall that had been keeping the yard up had started to collapse, so this week there's been a crew rebuilding it. I thought it was an interesting project so I had Fred take a picture of Prudence and I with the new wall in the background, and you can see that picture here.

At another time during our visit, Prudence, Fred and I went by Shades of Green, the nursery Prudence favors, to get some plants that Prudence wanted. I saw an interesting wall-mounted planter that contained a bunch of succulents.

Finally, I took a picture inside Prudence's new sunroom. It has been quite a project, but it seems to be slowly coming together, and we hope it won't be long before it's finished.


Walking Jax in San Pedro Park

On Tuesday the 28th, Prudence, Fred and I took Jax for a walk over in San Pedro Park, just a block south of where Prudence lives.

It was a beautiful day, and we took Jax for a walk around the pool which is now opening for the season. At one end of the pool building there is a beautiful mosaic, and just east of the pool there is a rose garden where Prudence sat down with Jax while Fred went around looking at the rose varieties. While we walked around, I took a few pictures with my phone, and you might like to see some of them. Just click on the thumbnails below to have a look at them:


Guy's Birthday

Also on Tuesday the 28th, we celebrated Guy's birthday (a bit early, but we weren't all going to be available on his actual date) by going out to dinner and and then returning to Ruckman Haus for cake.

Guy is trying a gluten-free diet, so earlier in the day, Fred and I stopped by a specialty bakery that Prudence knew about that produced gluten-free products. There, we found some gluten-free sourdough bread and a nice gluten-free chocolate cake. It was pricey, but Guy is definitely worth it.

After we got back from going out for dinner, we set out the cake in Prudence's dining room, Guy cut it and we all shared. Here are clickable thumbnails for a few of the photos that Fred took:

We had a good visit in San Antonio- as we always do. And we look forward to the next time we visit. As always, we are very appreciative of the hospitality that Prudence and Ron offer us.

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

April 26-30, 2015: A Visit to San Antonio
April 20, 2015: Lunch With Barbara Reynolds
Return to the Index for 2015