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Return to A National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

Return to A National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

Joe Minor and Tom Stewart stand behind a Texas State Historical Survey Committee plaque (left) and an NHCEL plaque (right). These are mounted next to a restored portion of the Acequia Madre de Valero, adjacent to the site of the former HemisFair Spanish Pavilion. Joe was a member of the San Antonio Branch committee responsible for researching and gaining approval for NHCEL status. Tom belonged to the San Antonio Branch and attended the ‘68 dedication ceremony. Photo: Allan Hayes

In April, Texas Section Past President Joe Minor of Rockport uncovered among his personal files a photograph taken by the late John Arnold Focht, Sr. The image was captured during the 1968 Texas Section Fall Meeting in San Antonio, held during HemisFair ‘68. Joe emailed the picture to Tom Stewart and Allan Hayes, his ASCE friends in Corpus Christi, and sought their help with identifying two of the five gentlemen pictured standing beside a plaque. Texas Section History & Heritage Committee Chair Melinda Luna was brought into the discussion, and the spark to create this article quickly occurred!

The October 4, 1968 event photographed was a banquet at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio where the official National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark plaque for the Acequias of San Antonio was unveiled. Only a few weeks earlier, on September 14, 1968, a ceremony was hosted at the site where the plaque would actually be permanently set.

Pictured during the September 14, 1968 ceremony for dedicating the Acequias of San Antonio as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark are (seated, L to R): E.H. (Ed) Sokolowski; Antonio Carbajosa; H.B. (Pat) Zachry; Marshall T. Steves; D.B. (Dick) Granger (standing at microphone); William R. (Bill) Sinkin; Tom Pike; J.E. (Joe) Minor; and M.L. (Mal) Steinberg. Photo: Joseph E. Minor

Shown in this October 4, 1968 photo are (L to R): Dick B. Granger, Texas Section President; Joseph E. Minor, Senior Research Engineer at Southwest Research Institute; Malcolm L. Steinberg, Senior Resident Engineer with the Texas Highway Department; Frank H. Newnam, Jr., ASCE President; and W.W. McAllister, the Honorable Mayor of San Antonio. Photo: John A. Focht, Sr.

50 years after the plaque was originally set, a historically-minded group consisting of Melinda Luna, Joe Minor, Tom Stewart, and Allan Hayes set their sights on taking a road trip to check its condition. Bailey Bounds, ASCE Texas Section Communications Specialist, agreed to join them on the trek to San Antonio, which took place in May.

What the group found is there were actually two plaques placed in San Antonio marking the acequias as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and they are in great shape! One is still in HemisFair Park, near where it was originally placed. The other is several blocks away, adjacent to another acequia segment in front of the Cadena Reeves Justice Center.

There were originally eight acequias (irrigation ditches) measuring approximately 15-miles in length. Two are actually still functioning, and sections of others can be seen to this day on the grounds of the Alamo and other spots around town. The Acequias of San Antonio are one of the earliest recorded uses of engineered water supply and irrigation systems in the United States.

Before starting the May 2018 search for the acequia plaque locations, this group of civil engineering history buffs met first for a tasty Mexican food lunch at La Paloma Riverwalk. Shown are (L to R): Corpus Christi Branch Life Member Joe Minor, Texas Section Communications Specialist Bailey Bounds, Texas Section History & Heritage Committee Chair Melinda Luna, Corpus Christi Branch Life Member Allan Hayes, and Corpus Christi Branch Life Member Tom Stewart. Photo: Allan Hayes

San Antonio is celebrating its tri-centennial this year. Three-hundred years ago as Mexico sought to settle and control the vast area now known as Texas, Martín de Alarcón, was named Governor. He led an expedition consisting of 72 persons to a site located between the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek. On May 5, 1718 a ceremony was performed by Alarcón, which founded “Villa de Bexar”. By January 1719 work had begun digging acequias for the village and Mission Valero. As the village grew, additional acequias were built to accommodate more missions and citizens, and to irrigate more farmland.