Texas Heritage, Fall 1983 Page: 8
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San Antonio to host National
More than 2,000 preservationists from across
the country will be "deep in the heart of Texas"
for the 37th National Preservation Conference,
October 26 - 30. This is the largest annual meeting
of preservationists in the country and is appropriately
held in San Antonio, one of America's
most historic cities.
The participants, which include dedicated
volunteers as well as professionals, will be taking
part in five days of workshops, program sessions,
tours and special events. Two days of workshops
will be held for state-wide organizations. Morrison
Parrott, Executive Director of Texas Historical
Foundation, will co-chair a panel with Sharr
Proboska, President of the Historical League of
Oregon and Reid Williamson, President of the
Historical Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. This
panel will discuss state-wide historical organizations
and their membership development, programs,
planning, challenge grants and partnership
programs with the National Trust.
Mini-conferences from eight theme areas will
offer 48 sessions addressed by more than 100 authorities
in the preservation movement. Conference
participants can also select from a range of
program options in the areas of education, fund
raising, historic districts and neighborhoods, historic
properties, legal considerations, management
techniques, real estate development and smalltown
and rural issues. Attendees will also study
the preservation accomplishments of San Antonio
and other Texas cities and gather information on
preservation strategies and techniques they can use
in their own communities.
The conference participants will quickly see
that San Antonio is a case study in historic preservation.
Approximately $90 million of public and
private restoration and conservation works are currently
underway or has been recently completed,
including the St. Anthony hotel which will serve
as headquarters for the conference. The San Antonio
Conservation Society, which has been a pioneer
in historic preservation since its founding in
1924, plays a major role in helping to guide and
influence this development. The Society was directly
responsible for rescuing the now-famous
Riverwalk from being converted into a city street
and underground storm sewer and was instrumen
tal in preserving the King William Historic District,
a turn-of-the-century residential area for
wealthy German merchant families. "San
Antonio's rich heritage of Spanish missions and
commercial architecture, together with the Victorian
homes in the King William District, have
made an important contribution to the prosperity
of the city," says Michale L. Ainslie, President of
the National Trust.
Registration is open to all individuals and organizational
members of the National Trust. Nonmembers
may attend by paying a slightly higher
registration fee which includes a year's membership
in the Trust. Information and a complete conference
program can be obtained through: the San
Antonio Conservation Society at (512) 224-6163,
or from the THF offices in Austin.
Historic preservation in America today is a
blend of many diverse interests. The 37th National
Preservation Conference will be a meeting place
for concerned individuals to examine the issues
and develop a common agenda for the future.
When San Antonio's St. Anthony hotel first
opened its doors, it was the beginning of a new
year and early in a century filled with promise.
Since that day, January 4, 1909, the historic hotel
has played host to princesses and presidents.
Eleanor Roosevelt visited Peacock Alley, the
St. Anthony's elegant lobby-area cocktail lounge.
So did President Eisenhower, General Douglas
MacArthur and Princess Grace of Monaco.
Lyndon Johnson and many other prominent Texans
were members of the prestigious, private St.
Today, seventy-four years after its opening,
the St. Anthony has been totally restored and is a
state and national landmark and this notable hotel
will be the headquarters for the 37th National
Preservation Conference to be held in October.
San Antonio was a small town back in 1909
when three ambitious Texans decided to build a
first-class hotel. These men - F.M. Swearingen,
cattle rancher B.L. Naylor, and H.H. Jones (who
later became Mayor of San Antonio) - were convinced
that because of their city's rich history, its
diverse and charming architecture, and the numerous
tourist attractions, a distinguished hotel was
needed. The original hotel had 210 rooms in eight
stories and was called a "skyscraper" by the citizens
of the city.
Chandeliers glitter again in Peacock Alley,
the legendary lobby of San Antonio's famous
In 1935, the St. Anthony was purchased by a
far-sighted entrepreneur named Ralph W. Morrison.
More than anyone else, Morrison was responsible
for the St. Anthony becoming a
world-class hotel. The two towers were united
into a single structure and the facade was redesigned
to enhance the Spanish Colonial Revival
style. A new ballroom was added for social functions,
and in 1939 Morrison constructed a third
Morrison was an avid traveler and throughout
the years filled the hotel with many French Empire
antiques and museum-quality art objects, figures
of bronze and marble, original oil paintings,
and 19th Century French mirrors. Magnificently
restored, the hotel's lobby still features these treasures,
including the famous Steinway piano that
was custom-made for a czar, which Morrison purchased
from the Russian Embassy in Paris.
After Morrison's death, his beloved St. Anthony
was sold to William Ochse, a San Antonio
businessman. Ochse operated the hotel for 10
years before selling it to the Inter-Continental Hotel
Corporation in 1981. Shortly after the hotel
was acquired by the new owners a $20 million
restoration project was begun, all with the appropriate
approvals from state and local historical societies.
After being closed for its eleven month
restoration, this historic world-class hotel does
justice to St. Anthony's glorious past.
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Fall 1983, periodical, Autumn 1983; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45449/m1/16/?rotate=270: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.