Thursday: Then & Now

                                                                                                          July 2018

Lesson learned:  do not wait to photograph an old building whose fate is being determined by school officials and City leaders.

Lesson I hope the San Antonio ISD learned: do not let your buildings deteriorate until they are crumbling and beyond saving.  Most likely, they did not learn this one.

I have searched for quite a while to find information on the history of the Beacon Hill Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, and have found very little information and no photos.  But, I will continue to search.  I do know that in the 1890’s San Antonio began expanding north of the City into what business leaders described as a wasted goat field.  Developers had vision and laid out the new subdivisions, one by one, and the people came.

Beacon Hill was one of those new fashionable neighborhoods with its Craftsman style bungalows lined along its quiet streets.  A two room brick school was built in 1906; sometime between 1915 and 1920 a much larger school was constructed, possibly in the form of two buildings. In 1933 the school was renamed as the Beacon Hill Elementary School.  It continued to serve students until it closed in the late 1990’s when a new school opened behind this building.

I have to believe from the pictures published in the San Antonio Express-News that the school was already in a sad condition when it was closed.  After seeing the pictures of the interior I could understand why parents and students had fought the preservationists and City Hall to demolish the building.  It was too far gone to repurpose.  It was an eyesore in the neighborhood with its boarded up windows and crumbling exterior.  In addition, the playground adjoining the back of the building could not be used as the danger of falling debris made the playground unsafe.

                                                       July 2018, back of building with playground on the right

Beacon Hill is an interesting neighborhood today.  Many of the original homes have been beautifully preserved and/or restored; however, many are on the edge of decline or already there.  Small, shot-gun style houses that are barely upright still provide shelter to occupants.  So, I can understand the participation of the parents in having the old school demolished.  They wanted only the best opportunities for their children and the old building was a hazard as well as a deterrent to any expansion of the modern campus. In July 2019 the bulldozers moved in and within a short time the building was gone and the lot cleared.

Beacon Hill Academy is seen across the vacant lot where the old school building was located. Steps on the left were the beginning of the sidewalk to the front door. November 2020

San Antonio ISD serves the inner area of San Antonio and has struggled for years to afford quality education for its students and for many years maintenance of all campus buildings was minimal. With much resourcefulness, the District is overcoming many obstacles and seems to be emerging from their struggles. The new Beacon Hill Academy serves grades PK-8.

                                The old school sat behind these trees, between the middle and far right tree. May 2020

As much as I hated to drive up and see the vacant lot, I also knew that what had been done had to be done.  After my first visit I had planned to come back with my camera and make more pictures, but I didn’t and time passed.  Now it is gone and I search for pictures and stories.

Entrance into the Academy today. This part of the school resembles the old building and I wonder if it was partly refurbished from an existing building.

6 thoughts on “Thursday: Then & Now

  1. Like you, I can understand the building being torn down, but it is still a loss. School districts with limited funds would not be able to justify the high cost of restoring this building. It is good to hear the school district seems to be emerging from their struggles. Thanks for your post, and enjoy your day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is often a tough call, but the Taborian Hospital in Mound Bayou was this bad or worse in ways and it was saved and renovated into a beautiful facility. Yes, the key is to not allow the deterioration in the first place–what is often called “demolition by neglect.” After years of hanging with the preservation crowd here in Mississippi, I have learned one lesson well: it is the political will that makes the difference. Lesser damaged buildings have been demolished, and buildings in serious deterioration have been saved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is the fickle hand of fate that decides which ones survive and which ones go. Demolition by neglect seems too common. Fortunately, SA has a very active Conservation Society (I’m an associate member) that has had some victories and some losses. In many cases they have taken protective steps to preserve endangered buildings and other items. I remember your posts about Mound Bayou and I want to visit there someday. The pictures of Beacon Hill were similar to the Taborian!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So many building meet this same fate. Time marches on and it is always sad to see cherished buildings from the past be torn down. Most of the time it is cheaper to build a new building than to restore an old building that was ignore for too long. Interesting story Beth.

    Liked by 1 person

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