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SAN PEDRO PARK

SAN PEDRO PARK. San Pedro Park, also known as San Pedro Springs Park, the oldest park in Texas, is in San Antonio between San Pedro Avenue and Harp Street, facing the San Antonio College campus. Today the park comprises forty-six acres of land. The land surrounding San Pedro Springs was originally set aside as a public square in 1729. The area remained a popular camping and recreation spot through the 1840s. In 1851 the San Antonio city council took action to reserve a clearly defined area, referred to as San Pedro Springs Reserve, for what would become the city's first park. In 1852 John J. Duerler, a Swiss landscape designer, purchased land adjoining San Pedro Springs Reserve from the city and rented the land surrounding the springs. In 1854 Duerler built a house on the parkland and petitioned the city council to allow him to remain. The council agreed, on the condition that Duerler assume responsibility for protecting the parkland. In March 1858 the city council formally established San Pedro Park. In 1860–61 the area around the springs was used as a Confederate prison camp. In 1864 Duerler petitioned the city council to extend his lease on the parkland for twenty years. According to the terms of the agreement Duerler was to improve the park through landscaping and development of recreational facilities. Over the next ten years he planted numerous trees and shrubs. He also made ponds for boating, fishing, and swimming. He built bathhouses, a tropical garden, picnic and concession areas, a small zoo, an aviary, a racetrack, and a pavilion for concerts and dances. In 1866 Duerler had obtained a charter to build a street rail line from downtown San Antonio to the park, but the line was never built. Augustus Belknap bought the stock of the dormant San Antonio Street Railway, and in 1878 a street rail line from Alamo Plaza to San Pedro Springs began regular service. In 1882 Duerler's heirs, who had retained the lease on the park after his death, sold the lease and all improvements to Frederick Kerble. The city council approved the sale and extended Kerble's lease for an additional six years. After Kerble's lease expired in 1891 the city of San Antonio assumed control of San Pedro Park. In 1891 the city installed electric lights in the park. In 1892 the racetrack was replaced with a ballpark. The city's first municipally-owned zoo was operated in the park from 1910 to 1915, when it was moved to Brackenridge Park. A municipal swimming pool was built in San Pedro Park in 1922, followed by a community playhouse and a branch library in 1929. A tennis center was built in 1954. The same year the swimming pool, which had been closed since the 1940s, was rebuilt. The last major changes at the park occurred in 1966, when the old ballpark was converted into a softball center with two playing fields, scoreboards, bleachers, concession stands, and restrooms.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Cornelia E. Crook, San Pedro Springs Park: Texas' Oldest Recreation Area (San Antonio, 1967). Charles W. Ramsdell, San Antonio: A Historical and Pictorial Guide (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1959). Texas Pioneer, April 1929.

Dorothy Steinbomer Kendall

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Dorothy Steinbomer Kendall, "SAN PEDRO PARK," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/gks12), accessed July 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.