Original city limits? Not so fast
Three versions of San Antonio's
historical city limits. Click image for a larger view.
But this “original city limits”
business is complicated. Old maps show two
other boundaries, both pre-dating The 36. One area is
much smaller, the other much larger, taking in all of
the presnt city of Olmos Park, a portion of Alamo
Heights, and even a short stretch of Loop 410, way north
Both of those earlier boundaries
appear on a map, titled “Plat of the City Tract of San
Antonio de Bexar.” The map was drawn by Jore
Gentilz “from field notes furnished me by Francis Giraud
in 1852, by which map the city lots were sold” Francois
(the usual spelling) Giraud was an architect and, from
1849 to 1853, the city engineer of San Antonio. He would
serve as mayor from 1872 to 1875.
| A footnote in
Corner’s book reproduces James’s field notes, which
make fascinating reading: “Beginning at an
old stone dam on the Concepcion ditch from the southeast
corner of which a pecan 30 in. in diameter bears south 27°
west, 7 1/4 varas, this place being pointed out to me as
the presita of the Concepcion ditch, by Rafael Herrera and
Manuel Cadena. Thence north 83° east, 6800 varas to a
pecan tree 10 in. in diameter, on the west bank of the
The Town Tract was a very irregular
polygon with its northern vertex near the present-day
intersection of Vance-Jackson and Jackson-Keller Roads,
a short distance outside of Loop 410; the southern tip
was well to the south of the present Port San Antonio
(formerly Kelly Air Force Base). Much of the Town Tract
boundary survives into the present as busy arterial
streets -- Jackson-Keller Road, Hillcrest, Acme Road,
Nogalitos and its extension as Somerset Road, and
1852 map of the City Tract, later called the Town Tract, ostensibly reconstructed the original Spanish land grant. Click image for a larger view.
Detail of a Bexar County property map from 1879 shows the Town Tract but not the 36-square mile city limits defined in 1856. Click image for larger view.
|A Bexar County property
map of 1879 shows the Town Tract, but not The 36, the city
limit officially established in 1856. A Bexar County map
of 1887 shows both boundaries, with The 36 drawn in
thicker lines and evidently taking precedence.
But go back to that Giraud-Gentilz map of 1852 in which the Town Tract first appears. That map also shows a rectangular boundary, the northern leg of which coincides with the present Grayson Street and falls a little south of the present San Pedro Springs Park. The southern leg almost coincides with one leg of the Town Tract boundary between the Paso Nogalitos (where Nogalitos Street meets San Pedro Creek) and that pecan tree on the Concepcion ditch, roughly where the present Roosevelt Avenue meets the railroad tracks.
A portion of the eastern side of this rectangle is identified as the “Old 2 League Grant Line” on a map that appears in an 1894 ruling by the Texas Court of Civil Appeals. (The details of the lawsuit will put you to sleep, so I’ll not repeat them here.) The map also shows the “Present City Limit Line” (as designated in 1856) less than half a mile farther east.
To make a long story short, by the 1850s the Old 2 League Grant Line was “always well known, and established on the ground,” according to the court. The city commissioned the Giraud map of the Town Tract to gain or regain control over a much larger swath of territory that, ostensibly, comprised the original Spanish land grant.
The 36-square mile boundary of
1856 apparently has no basis in the city’s Spanish
or Mexican history but was a Yankee interloper --
an artifact of the Public Land Survey System established
by the Continental Congress of the United States. Under
that system, townships were generally surveyed as
squares, six miles on each side, and oriented so that
their boundaries ran north-south and east-west.
At any rate, it seems to me that the city ought to pay respect to both of the earlier boundaries, but especially to the Town Tract, which has the deepest historical roots and which continues to leave traces on the street map into the present.
in an 1894 court case shows portion of "Old 2 League Grant
Line" in relation to "Present City Limit Line" of 1856.