I was in San Antonio for a board meeting and hoped that I would have the time to visit at least a couple of colleges in the area. San Antonio is blessed with numerous public and private colleges and universities and a number of them are notable for the beauty of their buildings and grounds. I knew for sure that I would have the chance to visit one thanks to an hour or so of down time shortly after my and the proximity of my hotel on the Riverwalk to the campus. If you are familiar with San Antonio, you know that I am referring to the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Downtown campus. I have been to San Antonio many times and have been to a number of colleges, but I had never before set foot on the UTSA Downtown campus. The timing was perfect. I arrived in town on surprisingly nice December 1st. Although overcast, the weather was perfect for a walk around campus. The temperature was about 75° and with the clouds it was perfect walking around weather. The campus is actually two separate parts, with a couple of blocks and a freeway in between. A ten-minute walk had me to the first part of the UTSA Campus.
As you walk west from the Riverwalk area, the first part of the campus you see is the San Pedro I Building which sits adjacent to the eponymous creek for which it is named. The area is under redevelopment and this is but one of many newer things in the general vicinity. The site had other structures on it previously, although I can't say exactly what was there. As those structures were demolished, parking lots were initially placed on the sire. At the time of writing, the aerial images on Bing still showed those parking lots. A look at those images illustrates what a massive improvement the new building is to the area before its construction. It was one of several buildings constructed in the area as part of the redevelopment.
Groundbreaking for San Pedro I occurred on January 25, 2021, and progressed rapidly. The building was completed by August 2022, and opened to students of the School of Data Science in January 2023. Inside the six-story building are some 167,000 square feet of space which includes a variety of labs, office space, and classrooms. Additionally, it has a large meeting space and a café complete with outdoor seating. Construction of the building cost $91.8 million, with $71 million coming from the University of Texas Permanent University Fund, $5 million from UTSA, and $15 million from a donation made by San Antonio businessman Graham Weston. Among other accomplishments, Weston is the Founder, and former CEO & Chairman of Rackspace Hosting Inc. His donation for the project is the single largest gift to UTSA in its history. He has been working to improve the downtown San Antonio area for some time. You can read more about his efforts in an article in the Texas Monthly here. Interestingly, Weston is a graduate of Texas A&M University (Class of 1986).
The photos below being with a shot of the north and west façades taken just from just west of the building on Dolorosa Street. Photos two, three, and four are of the front (Dolorosa Street) side of the building. The fifth is the outside seating area for the café which is on the west side of the building. The plaques in photos six and seven are on opposites of the vestibule just inside the front doors. Readers from Tennessee may recognize UTSA’s president noted on the second plaque. Taylor Eighmy was the former Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement at the University of Tennessee from 2012 to 2017. Prior to that, he served at my other alma mater as the Vice President for Research and then Senior Vice President for Research at Texas Tech. The third plaque seen in photo eight is inside the building. The remaining photos are interior photos from the first floor. I found it neat to see a scooter lab in there! Those things are all over urban areas these days and are fixtures on most college campuses.
I have previously noted that branding is a big deal for colleges these days, and UTSA has outfitted the San Pedro I building with some notable examples. In the first photo, we see custom bike racks that have both the university’s official orange color and the stylized UTSA built into the structure of the racks which are at the rear (south side) of the building. The second photo was taken from the southwest side of the building. Two photos of a bright mural on the west side of the building follow, along with one last shot of the west façade.
The three photos below are of a sculpture which stands by the northwest corner of the building. The piece, Drum Rhythm No. 11, is a part of the UTSA Art Collection. It was created by the American artist Fletcher C. Benton. Benton was born in Ohio in 1931. After a stint in the Navy he returned there to complete his degree in fine arts. After graduation he moved to San Francisco where he stayed until his death in 2019. He began his work as a painter, but transitioned to sculpture in the 1970's. As the name of this piece indicates, he completed many sculptures in the Drum Rhythm series (it goes to at least thirteen). This particular piece was completed in 2012. The drum has a nine foot diameter. It is made of Cor-ten steel, a weathering steel often used for its dramatic orange appearance. As noted in the third photo, this piece was donated to the UTSA Art Collection by his daughter Ashlie, who is herself an artist based in San Francisco. You can see a photo of it here before its donation to UTSA (I do not know where it was located previously).
The next set of photos are of the new San Pedro Creek pedestrian area. Although not part of UTSA, the area greatly adds to look of the area, and gives it something of a campus feel. You can see on-going construction in the second photo. That is where a second UTSA building (currently being referred to as San Pedro II) is going to be (see below).
At the moment, the San Pedro I Building is the only structure on this part of the UTSA Downtown campus, but that is changing. Construction is underway on the west side of San Pedro Creek for a second building. The San Pedro II building is being built on a space which was previously home to the multistory structure that had served as a jail and detainment facility (and probably other things) over the years. The building was not particularly good looking, even for a jail, so razing it and erecting something better looking in its place will definitely improve the look of the neighborhood. The former building was a memory by the time of my visit, and general site work was underway which you see in the second photo of this set.
The San Pedro II Building was approved by the University of Texas System Board of Regents in 2022. The new building will come in at about 180,000 square feet and has an expected budget of $124 million. The first photo shows a rendering of the new structure on a fence on the San Pedro Creek pedestrian area. The second is a view of the construction site from Dolorosa Street.
After taking these pictures, I began to walk south along San Pedro Creek, enjoying the weather and pleasant walkway by the water. I thought I would do that for a bit, and then turn around and head west to the rest of campus. By the time I turned around, however, I realized that in enjoying the day I had lost track of time and I needed to get back to the hotel and dressed for a dinner gathering. That unfortunately left me – and this post – with an all too short of a UTSA Downtown experience. At least I had the sense of mind to get a number of good photos of the San Pedro Building. I have promised myself that I will return to San Antonio soon with sufficient time to not only see the rest of the UTSA Downtown campus, but to do some thorough explorations of a couple of the other colleges in town. If you have thoughts on which of the many schools I should see first, leave a comment or send me an email.
I will close this post with something different. I have been wanting to post video in addition to still photos and have been practicing filming for that purpose. I was only armed with my phone during this visit, but tried to take a video of the building. The quality of the video is limited by my phone's capability and, owing to a lack of a tripod or steady-cam, my hand movement. Not the best, but I edited it and added some background music. I will try to upload more videos in the future, and will do so if I remember to take a better camera.
In July 2021 I did a post on Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, TN. The campus is small, but very nice. In addition to great looking historic structures, the library there is fantastic. FHU was authorized by the state of Tennessee on November 30, 1869. Classes began two years later in 1871. As noted in that post, FHU struggled a bit in its formative years. For the most part, serious issues came to an end thanks to the work of two individuals: alumnus Nicholas Brodie Hardeman and community member Arvy Freed. Through their work to create what they called the National Teachers Normal and Business College in 1907 the institution stayed afloat. They bought the land at the corner of Main and Cason Street where FHU remains. The college would later be named in their honor as Freed-Hardeman College in 1919; it was changed to the current Freed-Hardeman University in 1990.
A few days ago, reader Alice Brown posted that she had a photo of the Pratt, O'Neal, and Hardeman houses on Cason Street taken some time in the 1900’s. You may recall that there are two older homes at FHU Cason Street that have been converted to university spaces. The Thomas-Landon House is on Cason Street near the library. The Joy Simon McDaniel House which has the dean’s office for the Honor’s College and other administrative offices is nearby. I wrote to Alice about the photo, and she sent me a copy to share here. She writes:
“Attached is the best photo I have. I am not absolutely certain whose house is whose, so I wouldn't post that initially. I think the left one is the Pratt house, middle Hardeman, and right O'Neal. The middle house has since then been demolished. I have a photo circa 1912 of O'Neal children with a pony in front of the house on the right (from looking at porch banisters and window frames). You will notice from my photo that the central porch extension with double height columns on the right house has been removed. Maybe some historian at Freed Hardeman or Henderson might be able to correct me if I am mistaken.
You can see the families on Cason St in the 1910 census (and before and after partially). They were all merchants, but I think did banking on the side. The census didn't have the street address, just the sequence of families surveyed.”
This is wonderful information, and the photo is fantastic! I truly appreciate the information and for her sharing the photo (all rights reserved to Alice).
If you find yourself in Henderson, swing by the campus and take a stroll. While you are at it, take in the sights of the quaint town. The people there are kind and welcoming.
This is a different kind of post as it's only partially related to the topic of the blog. I was in the Denver International Airport on my way to Bozeman, MT, when I had to change terminals. When I went down to the train level to make the transfer, I saw this statue of astronaut John "Jack" Swigert. I immediately recognized it as the same as the one inside McDonnell Douglas Hall at Saint Louis University. I knew this statue was in the airport, but I didn't make the connection to SLU until this day. It does seem bigger than the one at SLU, but that may be a combination of it being on a pedestal or perhaps my memory is a bit blurred a year later as to just how big the one in Saint Louis is. Many universities have statues that are unique (meaning they have the only one), but of course that is not always the case. The famous statue of Will Rogers and his horse Soapsuds at my doctoral alma mater Texas Tech is one of three castings of the same mold. Anyway, here is Jack Swigert again.
I believe I may be turning into Imelda Marcos. Younger readers may need to Google her name to get the reference. I do not, as yet, have 3,000 to 4,200 pairs of shoes like Mrs. Marcos, but as fate would have it, I now have three pairs of Texas Tech sneakers. I've posted about the other two pair previously (see here and here). They're both in the style of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. This new pair, a gift from my family for my birthday, is not quite as ornate as the others. None the less, I'm happy to add my new Texas Tech Under Armor shoes to my collection. I may have a problem, but I like to think I'm just a proud alum. Don't judge.
Earlier this year, I posted about finding a lapel pin for the College of Oak Ridge while doing some online browsing. I had never heard of the proposed college prior to finding that pin but my interest was piqued, and I have kept my eye out for more information about the school. As fate would have it, while once again perusing the web I made another find. Below are a few photos of a prospectus for the college from March 1965. I did not want to scan the entire document, but the plan it presented was both well thought out and quite ambitious. Aside from a glass ring on the cover and a little touch of rust on the binding staples it's in great shape. I really do like the seal! The oak leaves harkening back to Oak Ridge, the atom reflecting the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the torch reminiscent of the one held by University of Tennessee's Torchbearer in nearby Knoxville.
It is a shame the college never really came to be, and in reading this document I could only imagine the disappointment of those involved in trying to get it off the ground. I am still on the lookout for a CoOR tie bar and Founder's Card.
University Grounds is a blog about college and university campuses, their buildings and grounds, and the people who live and work on them.
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