These ancient waters also served as a resource for San Antonio’s first entrepreneurs and aspiring industrialists.
SAN PEDRO CREEK was an invaluable source of water for residents who lived and farmed and grazed their livestock along its banks. The creek also provided water for businesses that manufactured a variety of products for the local market. The ingenious German immigrant Simon Menger, a music teacher by profession, purchased a soap-making business on the creek south of this site in 1851. He expanded the facility and advertised himself as a “manufacturer of soap, tallow candles and vinegar.” After his factory was badly damaged by a flood in 1859, Menger began purchasing property further upstream and reestablished his business here on the west bank of San Pedro Creek. Simon and Augusta Louise Menger raised their family in the home they built adjoining the factory. S. Menger and Sons, later known as the San Antonio Soap Works, manufactured products for household and commercial uses and by the late 1870s sold over 25,000 pounds of soap per month.
As their father grew older, Erich Menger managed the San Antonio business and August oversaw a branch factory in Houston. Erich purchased the soap works in 1882 and continued operating the business here until the early 1900s. The building was later used as a broom factory, printing shop, and apartments. Like other landmarks of early city history, the soap works was abandoned to decades of disuse. After surviving years of neglect, it was eventually threatened with demolition by the Urban Renewal program, only to be saved by the San Antonio Conservation Society in 1970. This historic structure, San Antonio’s earliest remaining industrial building, was restored and incorporated into the nearby Soap Works Apartment complex. Part of the creek’s long history lives within its walls.
Simon Menger’s soap works and surrounding buildings on the west bank of San Pedro Creek were illustrated by Augustus Koch in 1873.
The Menger family posed for a photographer in front of their soap factory in the late 1880s.
Soap was made by heating a mixture of animal fat from local butchers, lye, and acid with water from the creek, then cooling it in wooden frames.