Friday, January 24, 2014

The Building of the Hilton Palacio Del Rio



   When the 1968 World's Fair was awarded to San Antonio, the city was in desperate need of additional, modern hotel rooms. In had been almost 30 years since the last hotel was built downtown. When builder H.B. Zachary stepped forward to build a new hotel between the Riverwalk and Alamo Street, there was less than nine months to complete the job.

   Not only would the new Hilton Palacio Del Rio have to be completed in record time, it would have to be built in with new monolithic modular construction techniques. A tower would be built in the middle of the hotel and complete rooms would be stacked on top of each other.

   The rooms were built on a site 7 miles away, complete with furniture, carpeting, lamps, TV's and even a Gideon Bible in the night stand. Crew worked around the clock to build the modular rooms that had steel cable handles to lift the structure into place.

   When the first room was scheduled to be lifted into place, H.B. Zachary and his wife rode on the balcony as a crane took it to it's new home. The builder had hoped to stack 10 complete rooms a day. By the end they had gotten so skilled at operating the special crane, they could lift up to 35 a day, enabling them to complete the building in record time. The entire project ended up taking just 202 working days, last than seven months.

A special crane was used to lift the completed modular rooms into place. Notice the balcony railing on the right side of the room 

  With the new Hilton and the 1968 Hemisfair, San Antonio was discovered by tourist and a new industry was created.

   Below is a movie made about the construction of the Hilton Palacio Del Rio








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Thursday, January 16, 2014

How Well Do You Know San Antonio?


   Have you lived in San Antonio your whole life?  Did you get stationed here in the military and decided to stay? Do you consider yourself an expert on San Antonio? Test yourself (Answers below)


1. This is the second oldest park in the United States. What park is it and where is it located?




2. Downtown's Fairmount Hotel holds a Guiness Book of Records for what accomplishment?



3. Gutzon Borglum was an artist whose studio was near the Brackenridge Golf Course. He created perhaps the most famous piece of public art in the USA. What was it?





4.  Do you know where the Ghost Crossing is? Have you ever been there?




5. What hotel is this and what is so special about the way it was built?





6. What product did John "Bet-A-Million" Gates demonstrate in front of the Alamo in the 1870's that brought an end to a way of life on the western frontier

7. Who is this gentleman?



8. What was the Southwest Craft Center in downtown San Antonio originally? And why does the clock tower only have a clock on three sides?




9. The bar in the Menger Hotel is named for a famous American. Who and Why?





10.  The San Antonio Zoo, Alamo Stadium, Sunken Gardens and Fiesta Texas all have this in common, what is it? (Hint: It has something to do with what the lion is sitting on)





11: Who is supposedly buried in San Fernando Catherdal?




12. The first movie ever to win an Oscar was filmed in San Antonio and premiered at the Texas Theatre. What was the movie?





13. Only one team from San Antonio ever played in the Cotton Bowl Classic. What team was it?





14. What former US President was once football coach at St Mary's University?





  Answers Below

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1. San Pedro Springs Park, on San Pedro Avenue across from San Antonio College, is the second oldest park in the US, behind Boston Commons. It is the second oldest park in the US, behind Boston Commons.  In 1729, Spanish King Phillip V, via his viceroy in Mexico declared the headwaters of this springs an elido, or public lands.  

2. In 1985, the Fairmount Hotel set a Guiness Record for the largest building ever moved. It was moved from it's original location (where the Marriot Rivercenter is now located) to its present location across from LaVillita on Alamo Street. Read More Here

3. Gutzon Borglum carved Mount Rushmore. He would work in his San Antonio studio in the winter and return to South Dakota in the spring. His studio is now headquarters for the Pan American Golf Association and is next to the clubhouse at Brackenridge Golf Course. 

4. If you don't know where the Ghost Crossing is, or you've never been there, you can find out here

5. The Hilton Palacio Del Rio, was built on the River Walk for the 1968 World's Fair. Constructed in a modular style, each room was completely built at a separate site, with all the furniture, carpeting and even a Gideon Bibles in the night stand. Afterwards, they were transported downtown and stacked atop each other


6. John 'Bet-A-Million' Gates demonstrated a new product in the 1870 called 'Barbed Wire.' In less than 10 years, large cattle ranches using his product had replaced the open plains, and the west was changed forever. 

7. Henry B. Gonzales was a former San Antonio city councilman and the first hispanic citizen to be elected to the US House of Representatives. The Convention Center is named in his honor.

8. The Southwest Craft Center was the original home of Ursuline Academy. The tower does not have a clock on the north side because, when built, there wasn't development north of the school.  Later, it became legend that the clock wasn't installed on the north side, because no proper southern girl would give the time of day to a northerner

9. The bar in the Menger Hotel is named for Teddy Roosevelt, who recruited his Rough Riders in the hotel bar


10. The San Antonio Zoo, Alamo Stadium, Sunken Gardens and Fiesta Texas, like many other things in San Antonio, were all built in abandoned rock quarries

11. Davy Crockett, James Bowie, William Travis were supposedly buried in San Fernando Cathedral. Read the story here on why many doubt there remains are actually there

12. Wings, premiered in 1927, was a silent movie depicting World War I ariel dogfights. The filmed premiered in 1927 and won the first Oscar for Best Picture


13. The 1943 Randolph Field Ramblers a team the played at Randolph Field (Now Randolph AFB) during World War II played the University of Texas in the 1944 Cotton Bowl Classic. With travel restricted during the way and many of the top collegiate players serving in the military, many bowl games invited military teams to play on the New Years Day contests. The game, played in a downpour, ended in a 7-7 tie.

14.  A young Dwight D Eisenhower, while stationed at Fort Sam Houston,  coached the 1916 St Mary's Rattlers Football team.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

San Antonio Sets World Record: The Largest Building Ever Moved, The Fairmount Hotel

The Fairmount Hotel today, at it's new home


   It seems hard to imagine, that the Fairmount Hotel on the corner of Alamo Street and Nueva Street across from La Villita once sat on the other side of downtown where the Rivercenter Marriot now stands.

   The boutique hotel was built in 1906, but it had become an abandoned building in the way of the new Rivercenter development. As is often the case in San Antonio, many realized that the decrepit building had value, it just sat in the way of a multimillion dollar development. If only the building could be moved to another spot in downtown, it could be saved.

The Fairmount, abandoned, sitting in it's previous site, blocking the construction of Rivercenter Marriot

The Fairmount Hotel, in it's earlier heyday

   The idea of moving the building became reality on March 30, 1985 when, after weeks of preparation, the building was ready for its half mile trek thru downtown. The 1,600 ton building wrapped in steel cables, was placed atop 36 dollies each with 8 tires.

   Before it left its old home at the corner of Bowie and Commerce, the Market Street Bridge over the River Walk had to be fortified for the passing of the Fairmount. The weight of the building was such that no one was quite sure if the old hotel would be able to cross over the bridge without crushing it and landing in the river. The Auxillary Bishop Bernard Popp blessed the building moments before the journey.

The building, mounted on 36 dollies, ready for it's move

   It took six days for the Fairmount to make it the half mile across downtown. Turning corners took 4 hours. Top speed was a mere 4 miles an hour on the straightaways.

   Six days later, the hotel reached it's new location. It was then planted on its new address on Alamo Street and converted into a luxury hotel. It's been over 25 years since the building was moved and few remember the festival scene downtown during the moving. Food vendors, souvenir hawkers and crowds lined the streets to watch the record setting event.

   The building was refurbished and reopened on September 5, 1986 along with certification from the Guiness Book of Records as the Largest Building ever moved.

   I thought about the Fairmount the other day when I was telling the story of its moving to my wife. It's seems almost unbelievable today that such an event took place. I ran across this old film that recorded the event and posted it below.  Please enjoy and relive six days when San Antonio was international news.

Note: The film's narration is done by legendary WOAI Newscaster Bob Guthrie



                                    


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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Did you have this poster when your were a kid? Remembering The Bruise Brothers


For the 1980 - 1981 NBA Season, new Spurs Coach Stan Albeck brought together a group of big men to give the high scoring Spurs a more physical presence under the basket.  This collection of centers and forwards were nicknamed 'The Bruise Brothers' by former Express-News columnist Kevin O'Keefe. The intimidating big men helped lead the team to a division title that year. 

This was a free promotional poster that was distributed by local Kinney Shoe Stores in the early 80's

Dave Corzine, , Reggie Johnson, Paul Griffin, Mark Olberding, Kevin Restani and George Johnson were the Bruise Brothers.



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