Members Only Area
Bookmark and Share
sidebar menu icon


SAN ANTONIO MISSIONS NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park was established on November 10, 1978, by the joint efforts of the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the San Antonio Conservation Society, and the United States Department of the Interior. The park includes the sites of San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission, which was restored in the 1930s, and three sister missions, Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción, San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco de la Espada. It began operation on April 1, 1983, under the direction of José A. Cisneros, who was appointed superintendent in September 1979.

Initial restoration work began on San José Mission in 1933. Congressman F. Maury Maverick and Archbishop Arthur J. Drossaerts had agreed to work for the formation of a mission park. The church, Bexar County, and the San Antonio Conservation Society hired architect Harvey P. Smith to coordinate the restoration of San José. Local authorities agreed to furnish materials, and federal relief agencies provided labor. By 1935, in preparation for the Texas Centennial, the United States Department of the Interior and the Texas Centennial Commission agreed to work to preserve San José and other historic sites. The agreement of 1941 among the National Park Service, the Texas State Parks Board, and the San Antonio Conservation Society formalized the joint efforts of local, state, and national agencies to preserve the mission as a historic site. This document assured the Catholic Church of the right to retain title to the mission church, empowered the parks board to preserve, manage, and interpret its mission properties, and enabled the Department of the Interior to designate San José Mission as a national historic site.

Once San José was established as a state park and declared a national historic site, local interest turned to joining all four missions along the San Antonio river into a single national park. Through the efforts of the local congressional delegation, headed by Representative Abraham Kazen, a bill authorizing a park was introduced and passed in 1978. In the Senate, Lloyd Bentsen introduced the bill, which was cosponsored by John G. Tower. The park was authorized to acquire the four missions and adjacent lands, a total of 475 acres, through purchase, donation, exchange, and cooperative agreements. In a subsequent cooperative agreement signed on February 20, 1983, the National Park System agreed to provide for the preservation, restoration, and interpretation of missions Concepción, San José, San Juan Capistrano, and Espada. Concerns over the issue of separation of church and state were resolved in a legal opinion by the Department of Justice on December 2, 1982, allowing the National Park Service management of the missions, while the archdiocese continued use of the missions as churches. Additional agreements with the city and the San Antonio River Authority gave the National Park Service authority to use its lands along the river for historical-park purposes; recreational use remained under the auspices of the city Parks and Recreation Department and the river authority. The park has also acquired a donated scenic easement over San Juan Acequia. Work is progressing to restore the historic water flow in the irrigation canal, as well as to continue a fifteen-year plan for the preservation and rehabilitation of the four missions. Los Compadres, a non-profit organization, helps raise funds for the continued preservation of the missions. The park had 950,496 visitors in 1992 and is in the process of acquiring the site of Las Cabras, a colonial ranch of Mission Espada.

Gilberto R. Cruz, The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: A Commitment to Research (San Antonio: Lebco Graphics, 1983).
Gilbert R. Cruz

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Gilbert R. Cruz, "San Antonio Missions National Historical Park," accessed April 30, 2016,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.