Last Updated on January 30, 2024
Welcome to the quarterly Creative Currents series! Public art, cultural programming, and artistic design enhancements express what is authentic about today’s culture and explore the historical significance of area waterways through a contemporary art lens. This series provides an inside look at the many ways artists are incorporated into the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) projects, including the growing San Pedro Creek Culture Park (Culture Park).
In February 2020, construction in Phase 1.2 of the Culture Park uncovered a series of foundations near the southwest corner of W. Houston and Camaron Street. Through archival research, four businesses were identified with these uncovered foundations: Klemcke/Menger Soapworks Factory, St. James African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, Alamo Icehouse, and Alamo Icehouse & Brewery. After further investigation by the project archeologist and history experts, the cultural significance of these findings became clear.
In 1871, the St. James A.M.E. Church, known as St. James Chapel, began using a portion of the Klemcke/Menger soap factory for religious services. It was the first A.M.E. Church in San Antonio and only the second in Texas. Sited just south of Houston Street, the church fronted onto San Pedro Street (now called Camaron Street) and backed up to San Pedro Creek. The church congregation consisted of freedmen and formerly enslaved people seeking religious freedom and a place where they could establish a community shortly after emancipation. The St. James A.M.E. Church served the African American population on the westside of town. In 1873, spurred by the growing congregation, the church’s trustees purchased the property. Two years later, they contracted with a San Antonio builder to enlarge the building used for the church services.
Current view of construction on the Culture Park. You can see the St. James A.M.E. church foundation to the right of the red vehicle.
With input from local historians, community leaders, and current church members, the design for this section of the Culture Park was completely reworked to accommodate the preservation of the St. James A.M.E. Church foundation, the largest and most intact of the foundations. Planning is now underway to develop a series of programs and events that celebrate the storied past of this historic site.
Plan view of the current design, which preserves most of the St. James A.M.E. church foundation.
As part of this year’s Juneteenth celebrations, the River Authority invites the public for a sneak peek of the site, which is still under construction. The event takes place on June 18, 2022, at 9 a.m. This event is the second collaboration with the St. James A.M.E. Church (the first was a virtual event part of DreamWeek San Antonio 2022). Attendees will gather on the Houston St. bridge for remarks from the River Authority and church leaders. They will then march on foot to the St. James A.M.E. Church (currently located at 402 Richter, just a mile away from the Culture Park) for a festive celebration.
For more information, visit the Juneteenth March event page.
The River Reach is back!
River Reach is a quarterly, 12-page newsletter that is designed to inform the San Antonio River Authority’s constituents about the agency’s many projects, serve as a communication vehicle for the board of directors and foster a sense of unity and identity among the residents of Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties.