Saving San Antonio
The Preservation of a Heritage
The compelling story of the groundbreaking preservation of San Antonio's cultural and architectural past
Few American cities enjoy the likes of San Antonio's visual links with its dramatic past. The Alamo and four other Spanish missions, recently designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, are the most obvious, but there are countless other landmarks and folkways that lend San Antonio an "odd and antiquated foreignness." Adding to the charm of the nation's seventh largest city is the San Antonio River, saved to become a winding linear park through downtown and beyond and a world model for sensitive urban development.
San Antonio's heritage has not been preserved by accident. The wrecking balls and headlong development that accompanied progress in the nineteenth century roused an indigenous historic preservation movement—the first effective one west of the Mississippi River.
Its thrust gained momentum beginning in the mid-1920s with the pioneering work of the San Antonio Conservation Society. In Saving San Antonio, Lewis Fisher peels back the myths surrounding more than a century of preservation triumphs and failures to reveal a lively mosaic of San Antonio's cultural and architectural soul. The process, entertaining in the telling, has offered significant lessons for the built environments and economies of cities everywhere.
“A superb read.”
— Maury Maverick Jr.
“A thorough history of the organization and of the politics of preservation in the Alamo City.”
— Texas Observer
“Outstanding . . . Recounts the long, sometimes acrimonious struggle to preserve San Antonio's past.”
— San Antonio Express-News
“The American historic preservation movement is proof positive that democracy works. Made up, as it for the most part is, of citizen activists, it educates, motivates, and sometimes legislates the preservation of landmarks great and small that otherwise would fall to short-term selfish gain . . . What the conservation society started for San Antonio, it has helped to spread throughout America.”
— Jerry L. Rogers, National Park Service
“A story of heroism, vision, dedication, and victory . . . Perhaps it isn't too late for groups in some other cities to preserve a few of their golden eggs for future generations. . . . Some things are worth fighting for.”
— Curtis Tunnell, former executive director, Texas Historical Commission
“A balanced story of achievement and loss for one of [Texas's] most remarkable civic organizations.”
— Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“This . . . volume on . . . preservation in San Antonio and the economic base it has created for the city will set the record straight on some of the myths and actualities that have made San Antonio the distinct city it is today. In this throw-away society and age of homogeneity, San Antonio's unique quality as a city is largely due to the continuing efforts of many of its citizens."”
— William J. Murtagh, former keeper, National Register of Historic Places
“People across the United States view San Antonio as a unique, historic, and interesting city. Here historic preservation has flourished in a way that benefits the city economically and spiritually. Lewis Fisher's book tells the story . . . with a commitment to accuracy and a lively, inviting narration. I recommend it to all who care about the souls of our cities.”
— Peter H. Brink, National Trust for Historic Preservation