Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sullivan Carriage House

Today when you walk through this door you are entering the San Antonio Botanical Garden.  But if you had walked through this door in 1896 you would have been walking into Daniel J. Sullivan's newly built carriage house.

Daniel J. Sullivan was a banker whose loans to ranchers had enabled the legendary cattle drives of the 19th century. He hired Alfred Giles, a well known architect in the region, to design the carriage house to be located behind his home at Fourth Street and Broadway.  The ground floor had stalls for the horses and storage for the carriages, while upstairs provided quarters for groomsmen.

Back side of the carriage house viewed from the Botanical Garden
After Mr. Sullivan died one of his daughters and her husband continued to live in the home. In the 1960's, through a Sullivan descendant's will, the property was transferred to the Archdiocese of San Antonio.  The house was sold and eventually torn down. 
Side entrance with handicapped accessible doors.  The gift shop is just on the right as you enter.
Can't you just see a horse drawn carriage rolling through these big doors?
The neglected carriage house almost met the same fate.  The Hearst Corporation had acquired the property and was using the building to store newsprint used in printing the now defunct San Antonio Light newspaper.  They needed to get rid of the building and offered it to the San Antonio Museum Association who turned it down.  The Hearst Corporation then turned to the Botanical Garden with  an offer of the carriage house, but the 7,675 square foot building had to be removed from the property in three months.

With support from the San Antonio Conservation Society funding was arranged on December 31, 1987 and the carriage house was ready for a move.  Each block was carefully cleaned and marked after being disassembled from the structure; following a careful move to its new location it was painstakingly reassembled, one stone at a time. 

As with many preservation projects the progress was slow.  Lack of funds had caused the project to come to a standstill until a couple who had observed the lack of progress from the windows of their nearby high rise apartment questioned why there was no work being done on the building.  Upon learning that there were no funds to continue the work this lovely couple wrote a check that enabled the carriage house to be completely renovated and put into use in 1995.

Today, the stalls are quaint seating areas for a nice little bistro type lunch restaurant, but sometimes I almost hear the big carriage horses stomping their hooves impatiently while waiting to be fed!

Entrance into the Bistro
Salvaged wood was used to construct the shelves and cabinets in the gift shop, located in the carriage storage area.  The stair case in the picture above leads to offices and a meeting/event room.
Just inside the front doors another staircase leads to the upper floor rooms.
The doors were re-milled and iron work was repaired and replaced.  Air conditioning and a sprinkler system brought the building up to city codes; the floors were treated and reinforced to increase fire resistance and support the heavy foot traffic. The building is completely handicap accessible, making entry into the gardens convenient for all visitors.
The Botanical Garden with its ever changing displays is the perfect setting for the Sullivan Carriage House to showcase its unique beauty.
Thanks to dedicated preservationists and generous donations the Carriage House is still nestled in the cityscape of San Antonio and will be admired and enjoyed by the generations to come.

1 comment:

  1. What a great tour and history lesson! That was some commitment to preservation.