San Antonio, Texas
Hosted by: William R. Sinkin Eco Centro
Photos by Leonard Ziegler
This month-long art exhibit is a celebration of the San Pedro Springs, one of the most important and historically significant places in the southwestern U.S.
The Springs and a small natural lake just below the Springs were a favorite meeting place and campsite for native Americans for thousands of years. The bones of mastadons, giant tigers, dire wolves, Colombian elephants, and extinct horses have been found here, along with projectile points and stone tools.
Among the first European settlers were Franciscan missionaries who named the springs in 1709. A decade later, the first San Antonio mission and presidio were established nearby. The garrison moved to Military Plaza in 1722; the mission San Antonio de Valero was moved to a site on the San Antonio River in 1724, which later included the Alamo. The king of Spain proclaimed San Pedro Springs and surrounding acreage to be an ejido, or public land, in 1729.
In 1852, the City Council officially established a reserve around the springs and then leased the area to John Jacob Duerler who built pavilions where visitors enjoyed food, drink and entertainment. Early 20th century postcards illustrate the formal landscape of San Pedro Springs Park including bridges, benches, planting beds, stone-lined pathways, and the lake inhabited by swans and ducks.
In the 1890s, San Antonio’s first artesian wells were drilled. As a result, spring flow dwindled and park conditions deteriorated. In that decade, the park went under renovations to restore damage and officially re-opened on August 11, 1899.
A natural history museum was established at the park in the 1920s, which was the precursor to the Witte Museum. San Pedro Springs was also home to the city’s first zoo, before moving to its current location in 1929. The first official swimming pool at the park was established in 1923, but faced drought at times, especially in the 1940s. The current San Pedro Park pool opened in 1954, renovated in the late 1990s and debuted again in 2000.
Today, the 46 acres of San Pedro Springs Park is one of the oldest parks in Texas and one of the oldest in the country. A few of the current amenities include a paved bicycle trail, gazebo, playgrounds, skate park, swimming pool, tennis court, and walking trails.
The San Pedro Springs in San Antonio are fed by water from the Edwards Aquifer; this water reaches the surface through faults along the Balcones Escarpment. There are 13 primary springs at this site.
The exposed limestone on the surface of the Balcones Fault Zone is known as karst. The karst located here is approximately 15 million years old. Studies in which non-toxic dye is injected into the aquifer have revealed that the water here can move up to 8 miles per day underground.
Projectile points and other stone tool artifacts have been found here that are more than 12,000 years old.
Culture and Art
San Pedro Springs attracted locals for social gatherings and sports. When the land belonged to the Republic of Texas, Texas Rangers held horsemanship contests at the springs with Mexican vaqueros and Comanche warriors.
In 2014, artist Susan Dunis created a series of paintings that depict a family of Lower Pecos natives on a sacred pilgrimage to the Edwards Aquifer springs sites about 4,000 years ago. Each painting illustrates a different aspect of cultural importance of the Edwards springs. In the painting below the theme is the use of the springs for gathering food and tools, and their use for simple pleasure and relaxation.
Many artworks and photographs depict the water as green, consistent with most groundwaters from limestone aquifers such as the Edwards. When the springs flow, the various pools of the San Pedro Springs are distinctly different shades of emerald green to aquamarine.
Art of the Sacred Springs: San Pedro Springs
March 23 - April 22, 2018
William R. Sinkin Eco Centro
at San Antonio College
1802 N. Main Ave.
San Antonio, TX 78212
Open Tuesday Through Thursdays, 10am to 6pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional dates and times.
Opening Exhibit Reception
Eco Centro invites you to enjoy wine, hors d'oeuvres, local art and a celebratory pilgrimage in honor of the historic San Pedro Springs. The night will include guest speakers, student, professional and community art, and a blessing of the San Pedro Springs. Our guest speakers are: Luis Lopez, Local Cultural Ambassador and Artist; and Gregg Eckhardt, Edwards Aquifer and San Antonio River Historian.