Three centuries in the making, San Antonio’s historic journey continues.
By Julie Catalano :: Photography courtesy of VisitSanAntonio.com
1691 – Father Damian Massanet, part of a group of Spanish missionaries and explorers, encounters a Native American settlement on the banks of a river on June 13, the feast day of St. Anthony. The priest names both the area and the river in the saint’s honor.
1718 – San Antonio is founded with the establishment of the Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) and the Presidio San Antonio de Béxar at the headwaters of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek. Four more Spanish missions follow: Concepción (1716), San Jose (1720), San Juan Capistrano (1731), and Espada (1731).
1731 – Sixteen families for a total of 56 immigrants from the Canary Islands arrive to set up the first chartered civil government in San Antonio, joining the existing military community established in 1715.
1738 – The Canary Islanders build the original church of San Fernando, later San Fernando Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Texas and one of the oldest in the U.S.
1792 – Originally a Native American settlement, La Villita (“Little Village”) emerges on the south bank of the San Antonio River as one of the city’s first neighborhoods.
1836 – The Battle of the Alamo (February 23-March 6) cost the 200 defenders of the Spanish mission their lives at the hands of Santa Anna’s troops. On April 21, battle cries of “Remember the Alamo!” empowered the Texian army at the Battle of San Jacinto, defeating the Mexican army and liberating Texas from Mexican rule.
1845 – Under U.S. President James Polk, Texas becomes the 28th state in the union.
1852 – The site of the city’s founding, San Pedro Springs Park is officially established as a public park, the oldest in Texas and the second oldest in the U.S. after Boston Common.
1859 – The Menger Hotel opens next to the Alamo and remains the oldest continuously operating hotel west of the Mississippi. The bar was a gathering place of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.
1891 – The seeds of San Antonio’s annual 11-day celebration, Fiesta San Antonio, are planted as local women decorate an assortment of conveyances, meet in front of the Alamo, and pelt one another with flowers to commemorate the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. The “Battle of Flowers” parade was the first Fiesta event.
1921 – A devastating downtown flood takes 50 lives, and discussions begin on paving over the San Antonio River bend and creating a storm sewer. The San Antonio Conservation Society successfully protested. By 1929, SA architect and visionary Robert H. H. Hugman developed plans for what would eventually become the famed San Antonio River Walk.
1929 – The atmospheric Majestic Theatre opens — exquisite, ornate, and the first theatre in Texas to be fully air-conditioned.
1932 – San Antonio businessman Charles E. Doolin buys a corn chip business from Oaxacan native Gustavo Olguin and starts production in his mother’s kitchen on Roosevelt Avenue. Fritos® are born.
1960-1965 – According to African Americans in South Texas History, edited by Bruce L. Gasrud (TAMU Press, 2011), San Antonio was the first southern city to begin integration of its small restaurants. In 1965, the City Council passed an ordinance integrating all public accommodations. Today SA holds one of the nation’s largest MLK Day parades every January.
1968 – HemisFair ‘68 puts San Antonio on the map as a meetings and tourist destination. From April to October, seven million visitors explored the 96.2 acre World’s Fair site with pavilions and entertainment from more than 30 countries and 15 corporations.
1973 – Originally known as the Dallas Chaparrals, then the Texas Chaparrals, the championship Spurs basketball team play their first game at the HemisFair Arena in their new hometown in 1973.
1975 – With the election of former city councilwoman Lila May Banks Cockrell (1922- ), San Antonio becomes the largest American city at the time governed by a woman. A four-term mayor and the recipient of more than two dozen honors and awards, Mayor Lila is inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.
1985 – A record 13.5 inches of snow blankets the Alamo City, including the Alamo, garnering national news coverage from Los Angeles to New York.
1993 – The Alamodome opens on May 15, 1993, at a cost of approximately $186 million. Owned and operated by the City of San Antonio, it is now home to the annual Valero Alamo Bowl.
2009-2013 – The San Antonio River Walk is extended by 1.33 miles to the north in the Museum Reach expansion to the Museum District and the historic Pearl District; and eight miles to the south in the Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration and Recreation project that added 15 miles of hiking, biking and paddling trails.
2015 – The five San Antonio Missions are designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site.
2016 – San Antonio receives an All-America City Award from the National Civic League for the fifth time, one of only ten communities in the U.S. to be honored.
2018 – San Antonio turns 300. The official Commemorative Week from May 1-6 is filled with citywide festivities celebrating history, arts, education and more.