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Spanish Governor's Palace Now Connected To Culture Park Project In Downtown San Antonio

Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
The new back wall and gate at the Spanish Governor's Palace is part of lush courtyard.

A new Spanish Colonial era-looking wall with barred windows and two heavy wooden doors now connects the Spanish Governor's Palace to the San Pedro Creek Culture Park project in downtown San Antonio.

But the creek walkway behind the palace, off West Commerce Street, remains closed to the public.

Construction on the massive $300 million, 2.2-mile-long park project continues along the creek through the West Side of downtown until at least the spring of 2023.

Christine Clayton, the manager of the creek project for the San Antonio River Authority, or SARA, said the improvements on the creek side of the palace is another milestone to celebrate.

The gate may be opened at times and passersby on the walkway will be able to see the palace through the wall windows.

"These openings that you see here really increase the visibility. We're really excited to have that, you know pedestrian interaction, between the two amenities here in this block, so we're excited really about that," she said.

She said SARA worked with the city's World Heritage Office on the back wall and doors at the palace that are part of a courtyard.

The Spanish Governor's Palace derives its name from its very brief tenure as the home of the interim governor of Texas, Juan Ignacio Perez, from July 1816 to March 1817, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

The front of the Spanish Governor's Palace, off West Commerce Street
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
The front of the Spanish Governor's Palace, off West Commerce Street.

Before that, it primarily served as the home of a series of Spanish presidio captains.

It then served as a private residence for families and from the 1860s through the 1920s, it served a number of commercial purposes and as a school.

The City of San Antonio purchased the historic property and completed restoration in 1930 during the height of the Spanish Colonial Revival movement.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

The restoration resulted in a structure that was larger than the original building and incorporated an embellished, even romanticized interpretation of the lives and activities of the families who lived there, according to the palace's website.

That interpretation, although not historically correct, has now become a part of the site’s history.

Plaques in the walls in each room during the restoration process illustrate this early interpretation. Text panels detail later, more accurate research, according to the website. It's on the National Register of Historic Places.

Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
The Conquistador statue outside of the Spanish Governor’s house was a gift to the city from Spain in 1977 to mark the close ties between them.

The river authority is building walkways, retaining walls, public performance space, art installations and water features all along the creek. They're also adding landscaping to convert what was once a trashy creek and cement culvert for floodwaters into linear park space.

The artworks include a five-panel mural that tells the county's 300-year-old history and a lighted waterfall that will sync to music or voices speaking into a retro 1950s style microphone in front of Texas Public Radio, which sits on the creek banks in the 300 block of West Commerce.

The firm chosen to create the murals is meeting with community stakeholders to ensure the panels tell a diverse story. The lighted waterfall has been tested, but tweaking continues. There is no microphone yet.

There have been bridge replacements and road closures too along the creek's path from near I-35 and Santa Rosa to the confluence of the Alazan and Apache Creeks. The creek channel has also been widened to improve flood control, which means wider bridges had to be installed.

The county is funding the project, but says its $300 million cost will more than pay for itself in the form of billions of dollars of new economic growth in downtown, including new apartments, offices and businesses.

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