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San Antonio history
Santa Rosa Hospital, west of San Pedro Creek, in 1884. Courtesy: Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Archive, San Antonio.

San Pedro Creek’s east bank—where the commandancia was—became the home of the Fashion Theater and Landa Brothers store. The once-important commandancia had been relegated to housing a feed store and a pawn shop. On the west side of the creek, the three-story Laclede Hotel (later known as the Continental) opened in 1898.

All the produce vendors and chili queens who had dominated the plaza for years were gone, too. They had been moved to Hay Market Square, which was west of the creek, near Milam Park.

By the time the early 1900s rolled around, the neighborhood west of the creek had attracted merchants who ran small shops. These merchants included another influx of immigrants; this time they were from Italy, China, and Mexico. There were African-American residents, too, in this diverse mix. In addition to all the merchants and their shops, the area became known for its saloons and the well-publicized red-light district that was advertised in the 1912 publication, The Blue Book for Visitors, Tourists, and Those Seeking a Good Time While in San Antonio, Texas, 1911-1912.

North of the red-light district, the market, and Milam Park, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word had relocated their infirmary from Military Plaza to Houston Street in 1875. The facility continued to grow into a multi-building complex known as Santa Rosa Hospital (now The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio). Because of this medical facility, physicians and pharmacists moved into the area.

By the time the 1920s came around, the neighborhood between Milam Park and San Pedro Creek had become the new home of refugees fleeing the Mexican Revolution. Shops, newsstands, and merchants of all kinds opened. Entertainment venues followed. On weekends, crowds came to Milam Park for everything from political rallies to musical performances. Vaudeville houses attracted popular entertainers of the time. Later, movie theaters screened the latest films.

Beyond Milam Park and Santa Rosa Hospital to the north, the neighborhood of Franklin Square was also thriving. It was here that the Christopher Columbus Italian Society, founded in 1890, later built their San Francesco di Paola Church in the late 1920s, and the park was renamed “Columbus Park.”

As you could probably guess, however, the existence of the creek in its relatively natural state and the growth of the city were destined for confrontation. And a bittersweet chapter in the creek’s story began in a new century.

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