Traveling on Fredericksburg Road: 120 Years in 12 Miles

(September 10, 2013) -- It’s the address of DeWese’s Tip Top Café, the Woodlawn Theater, Wonderland Mall and thousands of San Antonio memories. Since the 1840s, Fredericksburg Road has been a trail to the Texas Frontier. From September 19 to December 15, the Institute of Texan Cultures will showcase a student exhibit, “Traveling on Fredericksburg Road: 120 years in 12 miles.”

From an architectural perspective, Fredericksburg Road is a living timeline on the city’s development. For the UTSA College of Architecture, it’s a case study for graduate students to observe changes in land use, building typology, residential densities and lot sizes, historic events and notable places.

“I chose Fredericksburg Road because it offers a classic example of suburban morphological development, yet still retains a number of unique characteristics associated with its location in San Antonio,” said Ian Caine, assistant professor at the UTSA College of Architecture.

To museum visitors and San Antonians, the exhibit is an opportunity to look back on places they remember, miss, and treasure. San Antonio recently saw the re-opening of Cool Crest Miniature Golf and a renaissance of sorts that brought renewed vitality to the “Deco District.” But Fredericksburg Road was the address of long-since closed businesses including the Fredericksburg Road Drive-In, Handy Andy, Piggly Wiggly, Woodlawn Bowling, and Uptown Theater. This major arterial has been an avenue for commerce, residence and transit for decades.

In the exhibit gallery, visitors will see maps, photographs, analytical diagrams, economic data, morphological data and population data. Additional perspective on the road’s history and change over time will come from videos featuring a drive along Fredericksburg Road and oral histories from residents and business owners.

“We’re all very passionate about this neighborhood,” said Jacob Valenzuela, owner of Deco Pizzeria at 1815 Fredericksburg Rd. “In fact, I would bet that of all the owners that you speak to or people who run businesses on Fredericksburg Road, I would bet that all of them or most of them live in the neighborhood still, which is unique to a lot of areas. The owner of Tip Top lives two blocks down. I live six blocks down. The Andrys who own Cool Crest, they went to Jefferson High School and are still very active in the community. So it’s a connection that I don’t think exists in any other part of town.”

Fredericksburg Road was established in the 1840s as a route to the recently established town of Fredericksburg, a jumping-off point to the Texas Hill Country and the Fisher-Miller land grant. The route has served as a route for the United States Army Camel Corps, as a path for troops during WWI, as an automotive link to the Old Spanish Trail highway, and in modern times, as one of the most traveled commercial arterials in the city.

“The project has given me a greater insight on how cities have drastically evolved through the adaptation of vehicles,” said graduate student Raul Montalvo. “This evolution has led to the current condition we now know as decentralized cities.”

Images courtesy of UTSA Libraries Special Collections from the Institute of Texas Cultures.

The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210.458.2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.

Related Flyer: Traveling on Fredericksburg Road

Related Gallery: Traveling on Fredericksburg Road