Today’s bridges and street names contain hidden annals of San Antonio’s deep history.
THE STREETS AND BRIDGES that span San Pedro Creek define the modern city. But they also echo the legacies of the early settler families of New Spain who built their dwellings on land granted to them by Spanish authorities in the 1700s. Herencia (heritage) is alive here. These pioneer residents drew water from the creek and nearby acequia, a hand-dug irrigation channel that delivered water from San Pedro Springs to nearby fields and homes. Their descendants inherited irrigated farms and homesteads, which were sold and subdivided as the town prospered and grew outward from the creek banks in the mid-1800s. Early unpaved streets were named, in Spanish, to reflect landscape features and known landmarks of the era. Among this array of early streets were Acequia (for the irrigation channel), Campo Santo (for the burial ground west of San Pedro Creek), Nogales (for pecan trees growing near the creek), Obraje (for adobe workshops in the area), and Arroyo San Pedro (the street alongside the creek). As the city grew and populations shifted in size and influence, some street names were changed to commemorate prominent residents and historical figures.
Campo Santo became Rivas, and Nogales was renamed Salinas–both recognizing influential families. Later, city streets would be renamed for heroes of the Texas Revolution, signalling shifting influence and power. Obraje became Travis Street in remembrance of William Barret Travis, commander of Texas troops at the Battle of the Alamo, and Rivas was changed to Houston Street to honor Sam Houston, the Texas army general who became the first president of the Republic of Texas. Though most of the adobe and stone buildings that served as tangible reminders of San Antonio’s past had disappeared by the 21st century, downtown street names still carry the memory of our city’s long, deep, and richly layered history.
Those who owned property and lived along the creek in this area included members of the Chávez, García, Garza, and Mojaras families. Prominent rancher Juan Antonio Chávez, who was born
near San Pedro Creek in 1827 and died nearby on Obraje Street in 1911, witnessed the colonial town grow to become a modern city.
Mariano García and his wife, Tomasa Chávez, built their home on Nogales (later Salinas) Street in the middle 1850s. The house was enlarged as their family grew. It was the home of García’s
foster grandson, Adolph Garza Jr., until 1981 when it was sold and converted into offices. The house is seen here as it appeared in the 1970s.
By the late 1800s streets and bridges spanned San Pedro Creek, and the land had been subdivided among many property owners.