A Photographic Guide to the Many Faces of Alamo Plaza

From open lands once traversed by Native American tribes, to a Spanish Colonial Mission and the ruins that bore mute testament to the fierce Battle of the Alamo - how did Alamo Plaza, located east and across the river from the town growing up around the original Spanish presidio, come to be the bustling heart of nineteenth and early twentieth century San Antonio?

Within three decades after Texas won its freedom from Santa Anna's dictatorship, the town of San Antonio expanded to the very edges of the state's most famous battlefield. Early pioneers like Samuel Augustus Maverick, German immigrants such as William Menger, Anton Wulff, and Julius Joske, and the chili queens, whose names have been lost to time, brought commerce and a productive mingling of cultures to the once desolate area. Then, as now, men and women found the need to temper the march of progress with the desire to preserve the Alamo site, which symbolized the heroic sacrifice that made the prosperity achieved outside its walls possible. Ultimately, the evolution of Alamo Plaza represents the Alamo defenders' legacy - the opportunity to flourish, purchased at great price - which did not end with the famous 1836 battle, but rose from its ashes.

This exhibit tells the story of the plaza's transformation from the 1850s through the 1980s in historic photos. Journey counterclockwise around the plaza, starting at the Alamo, to learn more about the enterprising men and women who shaped the plaza as a destination, leaving their own indelible mark on San Antonio's history. Interspersed between photos of the plaza's notable historic buildings, you will find windows into social life on the plaza: meals served by lively chili queens, stirring parades, and strolls through the lush tropical landscape of the park.

Exhibit Specifics & FAQ:

  • The images are interrelated, so to get the full story, we recommend going in order from start to finish. However, you may click the Table of Contents to select any image to view.
  • Visit a total of 39 sites on the plaza. We have illustrated many with multiple photos, including historic building interiors, "then and now" views, plus people and notable events.
  • Each site has an associated map on which its location is highlighted.
  • Clicking on an image opens an enlarged version of the picture in a new window.
  • Several exhibit pages include links to other websites where you can find more detailed information on a particular topic. You can also click the link provided for most photos to access the full record in our Online Catalog .
  • Click HERE to view a list of our other exhibits.
  • History & photo documentation was compiled by Librarian Beth Standifird & Intern Elizabeth Pople.
  • Funding from the Society's Capital Club made this exhibit possible.
  • Additional Related Links:

Exhibit Navigation Tips:

  • Exhibit Home Page will return to this page of the exhibit.
  • Library Home Page will take you to the Society & Library web page.
  • Table of Contents takes you to a list of individual images. You may jump to any one by clicking View Full Record.
  • Jump to Beginning will return you to the first content page of the exhibit.
  • Jump to End takes you to the last content page.

Click Here to Start the Exhibit.

A Photographic Guide to the Many Faces of Alamo Plaza
Print, Photographicc.1883-1891
Print, Photographicc.1882-1886