The Conservation Society of San Antonio
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Our mission is to collect, preserve, organize, and make accessible materials that document the history of San Antonio and South Central Texas with an emphasis on historic buildings, objects, places, and customs. The library is open to the public, as well as to the members and staff of the Conservation Society.

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Woman sitting at 1950s computer

You can’t find everything online. But you can still find a lot, if you know where to look!  Each week, I’ll feature a different website that focuses on San Antonio or Texas history.

This week, I “zoom in” on those intriguing bird’s-eye view maps from the late 19th century. These incredibly detailed maps look like hand-drawn aerial views of cities, only they pre-date the airplane and weren’t created with the aid of a hot-air balloon.

Featured Website: Texas Bird’s-Eye Views

Topic: Maps

Creator: Amon Carter Museum

Close-up of houses, streets, and map title from 1873 bird's-eye view map of San Antonio, Texas
Detail from Augustus Koch’s 1873 map of San Antonio

“Bird’s-eye views appear as something between a panoramic view and a map. They were drawn by hand using, most often, two-point perspective to produce a three-dimensional rendering. The city views are surprisingly accurate and represent a much-neglected source for understanding the history of Texas. This site showcases fifty- nine Texas views, documenting forty-four different cities” – from “Texas Bird’s-Eye Views.”

Beth’s comment:

Learn more about how these maps were made in the About and Artist Bios sections or skip straight to the fun of viewing with Browse.  It’s possible to search by city, year, or key word.  Best of all, these high-resolution images allow for an incredibly close zoom on details from structures and landscape to existing modes of transportation.  On San Antonio’s 1886 map,  you can even see people in Alamo Plaza and troops assembled at Fort Sam!

The brief historical context provided for each city, plus observations about what is (and sometimes what isn’t) depicted on the maps adds significant value to the graphics.  Sites of importance on the maps are identified by numbers that correspond to a key at the bottom of each map, but you’ll also want to use the Features links.  These connect to close-ups of selected drawn structures accompanied by an inset historic photo.

Tip: This site includes both the 1873 (the south is at the top!) and the 1886 San Antonio bird’s-eye maps.

All of the featured sites can be found by topic under Research Links.  If you have a question about any of these sites, or have one to share, please contact librarian Beth Standifird at

107 King William Street
San Antonio, Texas 78204
Telephone (210) 224-6163
FAX (210) 224-6168
Beth Standifird, Librarian


We are now open with the following restrictions:

    • By appointment only (see below).
    • Temperature must be taken to enter.
    • Wear your own mask at all times.
    • Bring your own pencil.
    • Gloves (provided) must be worn at all times.
    • Maintain social distance of 6 feet.

Hours – By Appointment Only

Monday – Thursday, 9:30 AM to noon and 1:00 to 3:30 PM.
Friday – reserved.
Closed major holidays and on April 24, 2020.

Parking & Access

Free parking is available on the grounds. Please go to the back door (off the side yard) while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.

The library on the third floor of the Wulff House is only accessible by stairs, however ADA accommodations are available on the ground floor of the adjacent Stuemke Barn building

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