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PUBLIC NOTICE

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is soliciting comments from all parties having an interest in the undertaking’s effect on historic property 41BX2359 located on San Antonio River Authority managed project, the San Pedro Creek Culture Park. A previous public notice and request for comment regarding this effort was published on January 21, 2021. Due to technical error, comments submitted directly to the email address [email protected] between January 21 – March 8 were not received and should be resubmitted. Comments submitted through the project website or regular mail have been received and do not need to be resubmitted.

 All comments should reference the Section 408 Request ID#SWF-2015-00281 and project name Archaeological Site 41BX2359 at San Pedro Creek Culture Park. Please resubmit any previously emailed comments to [email protected] between May 14, 2021 – June 14, 2021. For additional information, please contact :  Ms. Leslie Crippen, P.O. Box 17300, Fort Worth, TX  76102-0300, or [email protected]

Click here to read the US Army Corps of Engineers Public Notice

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We invite you to:

  • Learn about the San Pedro Creek Culture Park
  • Learn about the foundations discovered at the park and the history of occupation associated with the foundations
  • Help guide the design of the area by sharing your input

Meet the Project

In early 2020, construction activities uncovered a series of foundations near the southwest corner of the W. Houston and Camaron Street intersection in Phase 1.2 of San Pedro Creek Culture Park. Through archival research, four components were identified to be associated with the foundations: Klemcke/Menger Soapworks, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Alamo Icehouse, and Alamo Icehouse & Brewery.

Multiple community stakeholders downtown supported the need for a public gathering space that could accommodate events and programming below the busy street level and in closer contact with the water. The current design of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park entertainment plaza overlays the archaeological site. Discovery of the foundations led to the evaluation of design options that incorporate the foundations to varying degrees. Additionally, a group of community leaders and history experts weighed in on the significance and research of the archaeological site. It is now imperative to the River Authority to capture citizen’s preference and feedback on the revised design options.

Click here to read the US Army Corps of Engineers Draft Report

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Meet the Site

A series of foundations were uncovered in early 2020 near the southwest corner of the W. Houston and Camaron Street intersection. Through archival research and limited archaeological investigations, four components were identified to be associated with the uncovered foundations.

The oldest component (1847-1859) in this series of foundations was associated with soap making by two mid-nineteenth century German immigrant families, the Klemckes and the Mengers. The component is hereafter identified as the soap factory.

In 1871, the A.M.E. Church, known as St. James Chapel, began using a portion of the Klemcke/Menger soap factory for religious services. Sited just south of Houston Street, the church fronted onto San Pedro Street (now called Camaron Street) and backed up to San Pedro Creek. The church congregation consisted of freedmen and formerly-enslaved people who were seeking religious freedom and a place where they could establish a community, shortly after emancipation. The A.M.E. Church served the African American population on the west- side of town. Spurred by the growth of the congregation, in 1873 the trustees of the church purchased the property and in 1875 contracted with San Antonio builder, A. Earhart, to enlarge the building used for services.

The remaining two archaeological components are associated with the manufacture of artificial ice (1878-1887) and the brewing of German-style lager beer (1887-1904). The Alamo Ice Company occupied the site between 1878 and 1887.

The integrity of the architectural elements and deposits that are part of the four archaeological components was reviewed as part of the process to assess the significance of these archaeological components and their eligibility for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and formal designation as State Antiquities Landmarks (SAL). Part of this discussion relied on the results of the preliminary archaeological investigations conducted by RKI staff to uncover the boundaries of the site and assess some of its partially buried features.

After extensive archeological research and field investigations, RKI staff concluded that the extensive disturbances that have impacted the site’s deposits during the multiple sequences of construction and demolition, have destroyed the integrity of setting, feeling, and association of the two most recent components (i.e., Alamo Ice Company and Alamo Ice and Brewing Company and Alamo Brewery).

Therefore, the design options presented below will focus mostly on the A.M.E. Church and soap factory foundations.

Click here to read the entire summary and recommendations.

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Design

The current design of Entertainment Plaza, the area of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park that overlays the archaeological site under review, has always recognized the basic location and history of the St. James A.M.E. Church prior to the discovery of the foundations. The design of the plaza incorporated multiple community stakeholders that supported the need for a more open public gathering place that could also provide performance and programmed events below the street level noise and in closer contact with the creek water level.

Learn more about the efforts of the interpretive plan and focus group.

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Following the discovery of the foundations, the project design team considered alternate designs that explore various means of preserving and interpreting the foundations . The alternative design studies include:

  1. Various surface treatments within the current design limits at street level.
  2. Expanded footprints that encroach on but maintain a creek level plaza design.
  3. Several options of entirely new design that partially or completely retain the foundations and full footprint of the church.

Interpretive Plan Members

Sylvia Alcarez, Zona Cultural
Dan Arellano, Historian and Bexar County Historical Commission
Betty Bueche, Bexar County
Jerry Geyer, San Pedro Creek Subcommittee
Claudia Guerra, San Antonio Office of Preservation
David Haynes, Historian
Kay Hindes, San Antonio Office of Preservation
Mickey Killian, Bexar County Historical Commission
Michael W. Lackey, SARA board member
Dr. Carey Latimore, Trinity University
Jimmy LeFlore, San Antonio Office of Public Art
Clinton McKenzie, UTSA Center for Archaeological Research
Jo Anne Gonzalez Murphy, 1718 San Antonio Founding Families and Descendants
Maria Pfeiffer, Historian
Jesus “Corky” Rubio, Los Bexareños and Bexar County Historical Commission
John Phillip Santos, artist and historian
Mari Tamez, Canary Island Descendants
Stella Tenorio-De La Garza, San Antonio Conservation Society
Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, historian
Belinda Gavallos, Casa Navarro
Steve Tillotson, Munoc & Co.

Interpretive Plan author: Dr. Anne Toxey, Toxey McMillan & Associates

Focus Group Study Participants

Dr. Raymond Bryant, St. James AME Church Elder
Betty Bueche, Bexar Heritage and Parks, Bexar County Historical Commission
Everett Fly, Architect, Landscape Architect, SA African American Community Archive and Museum
Gary Houston, Bexar County Historical Commission, San Antonio Conservation Society
Dr. Cary Latimore, Trinity University, SPC Interpretive Plan Committee
Clinton McKenzie, UTSA, Bexar County Historical Commission
Vincent Michael, Executive Director San Antonio Conservation Society
Pastor Alvin Smith, St. James AME Church
Lon Taylor, Active St. James AME Church leadership, & African American Community Expert
Johnnie Davis, AME Church

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