Archaeological Monitoring for Frio Street Utility Improvements from Houston Street to César Chávez Boulevard, San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas
The Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), in response to a request from Poznecki-Camarillo, Inc. (PCI), on behalf of the City of San Antonio (COSA), conducted archival research and archaeological monitoring for the Frio Street Utilities Improvement Project in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. The project falls under COSA’s Unified Development Code (Article 6 35-630 to 35-634) and the Antiquities Code of Texas. The project was conducted under Texas Antiquities Permit No. 7913 issued by the Archeology Division of the Texas Historical Commission (THC). Dr. Paul Shawn Marceaux served as the Principal Investigator for the project, and Andrea Thomas was the Project Archaeologist (PA). All archaeological work for this project followed the standards and guidelines of the THC and the Council of Texas Archaeologists. Archaeological work conducted for this project consisted of archival research, monitoring below-ground excavations during utility improvements, and the subsequent analysis of the historic structures recorded and cultural material collected during the project. From February to June 2017, the CAR monitored extensive below-ground utilities work along North and South Frio Street from César Chávez Boulevard to Houston Street. The Area of Potential Effect (APE) is located on the west side of downtown San Antonio in a highly urbanized and developed area. CAR archaeologists monitored excavations for more than 700 meters (m; 2,296.6 feet [ft.]) of gas, electrical, water, and sewer utility lines. Archaeological monitoring during this project did not locate any prehistoric deposits; however, it did identify 16 distinct historic archaeological features, four of which were stone-lined wall segments of the nineteenth-century Alazán Ditch (41BX620). Of the remaining 12 features, CAR archaeologists recorded five new historic sites. All were foundations, walls, and/or archaeological deposits associated with no longer extant historic buildings. CAR staff recorded part of a late nineteenth-century stone foundation and a trash pit associated with the Schoenert Bakery (41BX2194) on the west side of the Alazán Ditch, as well as a trash pit (41BX2196) associated with commercial activity of the A. Androlli’s Residence and Saloon. Other features recorded as sites included wall segments of two stores attached to the Pettus Commercial Building (41BX2195), a late nineteenth-century wood frame structure with an early twentieth-century brick veneer, parts of the north and south walls of the early twentieth-century Hotel Rex (41BX2198), and a small wall segment of the late nineteenth-century Gebhardt Chili Powder Company warehouse (41BX2197). The extent of archaeological work on all sites was limited, most often to the width of a utility trench. Therefore, it was difficult to determine if any of the newly recorded sites would meet the criteria for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) or as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL). From this narrow investigation, the portions of Schoenert’s Bakery (41BX2194), the early twentieth-century Pettus Commercial Building (41BX2195), A. Androlli’s Residence and Saloon (41BX2196), and the Hotel Rex (41BX2198) within the APE do not appear to meet any of the criteria. The Gebhardt warehouse (41BX2197) is potentially eligible for the NRHP based on Criteria B, as the site is associated with the life of a person who was significant to San Antonio’s history. Wilhelm “Willi” Gebhardt was significant in both San Antonio business and culture, particularly the popularizing of Mexican cuisine. Although the majority of the warehouse was destroyed from previous construction projects, including part of the wall segment located during this project (Feature 13), there may still be intact deposits related to the Gebhardt warehouse on the interior of the lot. Additional archival research and testing would be needed to definitively determine the NRHP and SAL eligibility of the Gebhardt warehouse. The portion of the Alazán Ditch (41BX620) within the project area is recommended as eligible for listing in the NRHP or for designation as a SAL due to the site’s integrity and significance. This supports the previous recommendation of Cox|McClain Environmental Consulting (Dayton 2014:i) that the Alazán Ditch is “eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and/or for designation as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL) for its potential to illuminate the development of water management infrastructure in San Antonio.” In addition to formal designation on the NRHP and as a SAL, CAR recommends avoiding impacts to the Alazán Ditch in the future, if possible. In the event of future construction or development in the project area, CAR recommends monitoring below-ground excavations or archaeological testing. All project-related documentation and artifacts are permanently curated at the CAR facility.