A Photographic Guide to the Many Faces of Alamo Plaza
Prior to the 1870s, Main and Military Plazas served as the center of commercial and communal activity. One of the most unique of these activities was partaking of a meal served outdoors by San Antonio's "Chili Queens." The construction of the new city hall on Military Plaza in 1890 forced the enterprising Chili Queens to move their food stands to Alamo and Milam Plazas.

San Antonio resident H.T. Edwards Hertzberg recalled the "chili merchants" on Alamo Plaza between the Alamo and Menger Hotel. His whole family would go to the Plaza where the queens "would bring little rolling carts full of tortillas, chili, a variety of other Mexican foods...They also carried little seats they would hang on the side of the cart [and planks]...would make a table...So we would sit at the tables...This was at night, so the city would bring settling lamps that could move anywhere you wanted...we would go and sit and eat our meals and many other neighbors and friends would come and they, too, would eat at our table. "

About this Image:
1.) Postcard showing the chili stands set up on Alamo Plaza in front of the old post office. The description on the back reads, "The open air CHILI STANDS are one of the characteristic features of San Antonio which, through their beautiful Senoritas and attendants, have carried the name of San Antonio throughout the states."

2.) Sadie Thornhill, seen in this carte de visite or card portrait, advertised herself as a Chili Queen in the 1890s. Unlike Sadie, most of the chili queens were of Spanish or Mexican descent.

Courtesy of San Antonio Conservation Society Foundation
Click to Enlarge
c. 1908c. 1908
2.)    Sadie Thornhill, Chili Queen2.) Sadie Thornhill, Chili Queen