Friday, August 30, 2013

Brackenridge Golf Course

A recent post covered the history of the Borglum House.  I had a double surprise when I visited it to make pictures for the post (I love it when this happens!)  .  It was July 3rd and my office had closed at noon; since the Borglum House was just around the corner I headed out to find it.  I have to admit that although it is close to where I work and that I've been in and around this area for many years I had never been down on the golf course property where it is located.  

After I finished making pictures I noticed this clock by the clubhouse and decided to walk over.

There was a marker with information about the early history of the golf course. As I stood in the hot sun reading and photographing the marker I saw a small building sitting to the side.  I probably wouldn't have paid it much attention except that it had several plaques embedded in the wall and that means it might be a building with a story.


It is a building with a story, it was part of the New Deal.  It was one of several projects done on the golf course by the National Youth Administration and is referenced in the Park's nomination to the National Register of Historic Places (see below). This simple marker is the only clue to the building's past.
View of the back of the clubhouse, seen from the course

The nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places summarizes the history of the golf course so well that I have to quote it here:

Noted golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast of Philadelphia designed the eighteen‐hole Brackenridge Golf Course, which was completed in 1916. The wooded site, filled with native trees, spanned both sides of the river and the water works channel that ran directly through the course. Footbridges spanned the river and channel. The course has been extensively remodeled since its completion, most notably in the late 1960s when US Highway 281 cut through the park’s western edge. The Tillinghast layout was left intact with the exception of the twelfth and thirteenth holes. The course was redesigned to fit the reconfigured site by course manager Murray Brooks and consultant George A. Hoffman. A major course renovation in 2008 restored Tillinghast’s design, to the extent possible.

Three stone bridges, built to span both the old water works channel and river, still stand at various points on the golf course. Originally there were five of these structures, all likely built by NYA workers; NYA construction of the bridge over the water works channel on hole number three is documented in newspaper accounts. NYA workers also completed a starter house (standing), caddy house, tee boxes and drinking fountains.
The Tudor style clubhouse of rubble stone, concrete, and wood was designed by local architect Ralph Cameron and completed in 1923. The main entrance to the building is on the north through an arched doorway topped with a fanlight. The west elevation features a tall chimney and rounded tower with conical roof. The tower is topped with an original weather vane depicting a golfer. An open porch and doorway on the east elevation has been closed in. A gable‐roofed room projects from the east elevation, connecting to a second story gabled dormer with tall chimney.  Walls are of rubble stone and the east elevation features half timber finishes on the upper level. Chimneys are of brick and stone. Windows and doors have a combination of curved and flat brick lintels and arches and brick and concrete sills. Windows are a combination of wood casement and steel frame. The original shingled roof has been replaced with asphalt shingles. The building was remodeled in 1968 by Johnson and Dempsey architects.

The Tudor style of the clubhouse is obvious from both front and back. 
 I have been unable to confirm that this is one of the three remaining bridges, but suspect that it probably is

I stepped inside the pro shop to ask if anyone knew about the history of the little, at that time, unidentified building.  One of the guys walked out to look at it with me; he didn't know what the building originally was, but he did know about the history of the course and explained how the construction of the freeway altered the course design! The inside of the building was beautiful, too but I was so distracted thinking about the little building that I didn't look around or make any pictures!

Some interesting facts: 1)  The golf course, and much of this area, has been the subject of numerous archeological studies and surveys that turned up valuable information about earlier cultures. 

2) In February 1922 the course was host to the first Texas Open tournament.  Other tournaments followed and eventually led to the creation of the PGA Tour.  Mike Souchak set a PGA Tour record  for lowest 72-hole score in the 1955 Texas Open played on this course; that record stood for 46 years. 

3)"Old Brack" had the honor of being the first course listed in the National Registry of Historic Courses.

Today the course is managed by the Alamo City Golf Trail, a non-profit management group that oversees seven courses. 

The view of the course from the Borglum House looks at the 17th hole

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Little Church of La Villita

There are many delightful surprises awaiting the visitor who passes through these gates into the La Villita Historic Arts Village. One of the pleasant discoveries in the Village is the Little Church.

The cornerstone of the church was laid on March 2, 1879.  Today it is a non-denominational church, and is a favorite setting for weddings.

In 1846, the Rev. J.W. De Vilbiss had bought a  site across the street from the current day church with the intention of building a Methodist church . He set up a bell, to denote the worship site, but did not build due to a problem with the title to the lot.  In 1879, German Methodists erected this Gothic Revival style church. 

A Norwegian Sailor named Olaf carved pegs and hinged the lancet shaped casement windows. The Episcopal diocese of West Texas bought the church in 1895 and in 1945 the title of the church property was acquired by the City of San Antonio.  (The church is a designated Texas landmark, but the medallion is missing.)


The Little Church holds regular services, but it is not unusual to pass by and see a wedding in progress.  Many years ago I had my little Brownie Scouts on a Saturday tour of downtown and we came upon a bride about to go up the steps to make her walk down the little aisle.  We quickly hushed the girls and told them to watch.  Most of the girls had never seen a real live bride, so they were quite impressed.  The adults were reaching for tissues to dab our eyes!

 An early picture of the church can be seen at History of La Villita.