Archaeological Investigations of Sections of the San Pedro (41BX337) and Upper Labor (41BX1273) Acequias in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas
On January 21 and February 19 of 2020, the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) excavated five exploratory backhoe trenches within two project areas in central San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. Project Area 1 is located at 209 E. Fredericksburg Road, and Project Area 2 is at 712 W. Laurel Street. CAR was contracted by the VIA Metropolitan Transit Authority (VIAMTA) to conduct an archaeological investigation of the two locations as they planned to use the areas for employee parking lots. Plans called for the areas to be excavated to a total depth of 25.4 cm (10 in.), with 15.24 cm (6 in.) of new concrete and 10.16 cm (4 in.) of new base. Archival maps suggested that the proposed parking areas could include the intersection of two Spanish Colonial acequias, the San Pedro (41BX337) and the Upper Labor (41BX1273). Both areas are owned by VIA-MTA, a political subdivision of the State of Texas. As such, the work was carried out under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 9229 according to the requirements of the Texas Antiquities Code and the Unified Development Code of the City of San Antonio (COSA). Dr. Raymond Mauldin served as the Principal Investigator, and Sarah Wigley served as the Project Archaeologist. Five backhoe trenches were excavated in the two project areas. Three trenches were excavated in Project Area 1 and encompassed 0.024 ha (0.06 ac.). Two trenches were excavated within Project Area 2 and encompassed 0.089 ha (0.22 ac.). Four features were documented. Feature 1 was identified as a section of the Upper Labor Acequia (41BX1273), and Feature 3 was identified as a section of the San Pedro Acequia (41BX337). Feature 2 was a late construction dump and was found not to be significant. Feature 4 was documented within the channel of Feature 3 and is also part of 41BX337. The San Pedro Acequia (41BX337) has previously been found to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and is also eligible for designation as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL). The Upper Labor Acequia (41BX1273) has been previously recommended as eligible for the NRHP and for designation as a SAL. The acequia is also a contributing resource to Brackenridge Park's NRHP nomination (National Park Service 2011). Both sites are a part of the San Antonio's acequia system, which is a designated National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. CAR recommends that the section of the San Pedro Acequia (41BX337) and the section of the Upper Labor Acequia (41BX1273) documented during the course of this project are eligible for inclusion to the NRHP and for designation as a SAL. However, neither of these sites should be impacted by the proposed parking lot construction that has a maximum depth of impact of 25.4 cm (10 in.), which is a depth above the features. As such, CAR recommends that the construction of both parking areas be allowed to proceed, though with an archaeological monitor present. CAR further recommends that should buried cultural features be encountered during construction work in the immediate area cease and that the Texas Historic Commission (THC) and the COSA Office of Historic Preservation (COSA-OHP) be notified to consult on additional actions that may be necessary to protect the cultural remains. Both the THC and COSA-OHP concurred with the recommendations. However, prior to the issuance of the concurrence documents from the THC, VIA-MTA paved Project Area 2 (712 W. Laurel Street) without notifying CAR. No monitor was present for the excavation or paving. CAR subsequently photographed the area. In addition, VIA-MTA no longer plans to do any work in Project Area 1. No artifacts were collected from Project Area 1, but several historic artifacts were collected from Project Area 2. These artifacts along with all records generated on this project are curated at the CAR facility as accession 2259.