Archaeological Investigations of the Alamo Dam and Upper Labor Dam, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas




McKenzie, Clinton M. M.

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Center for Archaeological Research, The University of Texas at San Antonio


From February 2013 to November of 2014, the Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) conducted archaeological monitoring and test excavations within the boundaries of Brackenridge Park, 4.8 km north of downtown San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. The project was contracted by Ford, Powell and Carson, Architects and Planners, Inc. (FPC), under contract with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), in advance of planned park improvements along the east and west banks of the San Antonio River. These improvements consisted of pathways, lighting, and interpretive features. Brackenridge Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) with numerous contributing resources including historic buildings, cultural properties, and prehistoric and historic archaeological sites. In addition, Brackenridge Park is a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL). The park is owned by the City of San Antonio and additionally is a part of the City of San Antonio’s (COSA) San Antonio River Improvement Overlay (SA-RIO). Improvements within the boundaries of the SA-RIO are subject to review by the City’s Historic and Design Commission. The COSA is subject to compliance with the Antiquities Code of Texas. Both the Texas Antiquities Code and Chapter 35 of the Local Government Code of the City of San Antonio require coordination with the City’s Office of Historic Preservation and both the Texas Historical Commission Division of Archeology and Division of Architecture. CAR conducted these investigations under Texas Antiquities Permit Number 6449. Dr. Steve A. Tomka served as the Principal Investigator for the majority of the fieldwork. Following Dr. Tomka’s departure from UTSA early in 2014, Dr. Raymond P. Mauldin became Principal Investigator. Charles Stephen Smith served as Project Archaeologist for the field portion of the excavations, initial analysis, and production of several interim field reports. Clinton M. M. McKenzie served as Project Archaeologist for the final analysis, description of materials collected, and assembly of the final report. Principal activities undertaken included the monitoring of trenches and the excavation of both hand-dug trenches and units within two defined Areas of Potential Effect (APEs). APE 1 was focused on the Alamo Dam, and APE 2 was focused on the Upper Labor Dam (APE 2). Excavations documented the remains of both of the Spanish Colonial dams. CAR staff identified several buried twentieth-century walls in APE 1 and APE 2. Within APE 1, CAR identified a remaining portion of the Spanish Colonial Alamo Dam. Within APE 2, CAR identified architectural components related to improvements made to the Upper Labor Dam and related Headworks during the Civil War by the Confederate States of America (CSA). The work within APE 2 demonstrates that, despite numerous late nineteenth- and twentieth-century impacts, there are substantial remains of the Spanish Colonial and Civil War dam complex that warrant protection and further investigation. CAR recommends that prior to any impacts within either APE additional work should be undertaken on these features. In communications delivered in December 2016, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) and City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation concurred with these recommendations. Artifacts and records generated during this project were prepared for curation according to THC guidelines and are permanently curated at the CAR at UTSA.



archaeological investigation, archaeology, Texas archaeology, archaeological surveying, Bexar County, San Antonio, Brackenridge Park, San Antonio River