Archaeological Investigations for the Mother of the Americas Faith Formation Center, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas




Zapata, José E.

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


The Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), in response to a request from the Archdiocese of San Antonio, conducted archaeological testing and monitoring for construction activities associated with the Mother of the Americas Faith Formation Center. Archaeological fieldwork was completed between June 2016 and April 2017. The Area of Potential Effect (APE) was adjacent to St. Joseph Catholic Church and Rectory in downtown San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. The St. Joseph Catholic Church is a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark and a contributing building to the Alamo Plaza National Register District. The property is traversed by the Acequia Madre de Valero (41BX8), within a River Improvement Overlay District, is reported as the possible site of the Battle of the Alamo funeral pyres, is reported as one of the possible sites of the second location of Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo (41BX6), and is adjacent to the historic Alameda (East Commerce Street). The APE included 0.185 acres of existing parking lot adjacent to the east of St. Joseph Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of San Antonio planned to construct the two-story Mother of the Americas Faith Formation Center in place of the parking lot. These improvements required below-grade excavations of between 3 and 14 ft. and excavations for foundation piers to depths of 30 and 36 ft. below the grade. The City of San Antonio’s (COSA) Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) Historic and Design Review Commission required archaeological investigations under the Unified Development Code, Chapter 35, for the Mother of the Americas Faith Formation Center Project. The project was on private property and did not receive or use any Federal or State funding; therefore, it did not fall under the Antiquities Code of Texas or require regulatory review by the Texas Historical Commission (THC). José Zapata was the Project Archaeologist, and Dr. Paul Shawn Marceaux served as Principal Investigator. There was no evidence of the Battle of the Alamo funeral pyres or the second location of Mission San Antonio de Valero, (the Alamo), but testing and monitoring resulted in locating a large intact section of the Acequia Madre de Valero (41BX8). For over 100 years, the acequia in this location had been forgotten, as it lay beneath a thin layer of road base and asphalt. Once exposed, a 23-ft. section of the acequia was thoroughly documented and studied before the majority of the feature was preserved and protected. A layer of commercial-grade landscape cloth and sand were laid down to protect the extant sections of acequia before it was backfilled. A 14-ft. section of the acequia’s east wall was removed to accommodate a new pier and beam foundation associated with new development on the property. In addition to architectural features associated with the Acequia Madre de Valero (41BX8), a total of 11,890 artifacts were recovered during the investigation. Of these artifacts, more than 95 percent were recovered from sediments inside the Acequia Madre de Valero (41BX8) associated with drainage settling. These sediments represent residuals left over after the very last channel-cleaning event. Based primarily on an analysis of the ceramics and personal items recovered from Area A (within the acequia channel), the artifacts date primarily to the mid-to-late nineteenth century. This date corresponds with historical data documenting the close of the acequia. The CAR recommends that the extant portions of the acequia be preserved and protected from future site development and recommends no additional archaeology at this time. CAR also recommends this segment of the Acequia Madre de Valero (41BX8) is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and designation as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL). In accordance with the Scope of Work for this project, all field notes, analytical notes, photographs, and other project-related documents, along with a copy of the final report, will be curated at CAR. After quantification and completion of analysis, artifacts possessing little scientific value will be discarded. Classes of artifacts specific to this project will likely include glass, metal, and modern material. All other collected artifacts will be retained by the owner and held at CAR under a held-in-trust agreement.



archaeological investigation, archaeology, Texas archaeology, archaeological surveying, excavations, Bexar County, San Antonio