Above, Chapel of the Miracles, photo by Michael Cappelli, 1984
This is, in the words of the Abbe Dubuis, ‘a place of frequent emotions.’
Julia Nott Waugh, The Silver Cradle, 1955
El Senor de los Milagros, or The Lord of the Miracles, is suspended majestically above an altar in a small privately-owned chapel on the near west side of town. La Capilla de los Milagros stands somewhat in isolation on what was Ruiz Street, now Haven for Hope Way, severed from downtown by IH-10.
The age and origin of this crucifix are part of its mystery. In 1907, Charles Barnes wrote in the San Antonio Express that it was brought to San Antonio by Spanish friars as early as 1716 and placed in San Fernando Cathedral. In a 1928 edition of the Dallas Morning News, Vivian Richardson claimed its origins were local, that “it was revealed to a Mexican that he should make a crucifix for San Fernando Mission.”
The western front of Alamo Plaza. Is no news good news, or just a well-guarded secret?
It has been almost two years since the Alamo issued its request for qualifications to hire a firm to conduct an historical assessment of the significance of the Crockett Block (above, a personal favorite), the Palace Theatre and the Woolworth Building on Alamo Plaza. The RFQ included an evaluation of their appropriateness for reuse as a visitor center and museum for the Alamo.
The historical assessment is easy. These structures are well-documented as part of an historic district included in the National Register of Historic Places.
As for their reuse? That might depend on how the issue is approached. The illustration used on the Alamo website only highlights obstacles.
Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker loved and fiercely protected their land from encroaching, encircling development swallowing up neighboring farms. The towering trees shading walkers in Phil Hardberger Park result from their stewardship.
Max and Minnie were not well-known in San Antonio, unless you were a frustrated real estate developer trying to court them. They were just plain, ordinary people. Like most of us.
The Max and Minnie Voelcker Dairy Farm, located in San Antonio’s Phil Hardberger Park, was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places this past spring. The farmstead exemplifies a turn-of-the-century agricultural landscape with preserved late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings. The State Board of Review met on May 17, 2014, in Austin to review the application. The Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) received a matching $10,000 Certified Local Government Grant to hire a consultant to prepare the nomination. The nomination assessment was prepared by Brandy Harris, M. Kelley Russell, Lila Knight, Ryan Fennell, Nesta Anderson, and Karissa Basse. The $10,000 grant was matched in-kind by the OHP through the execution of a survey in the West Sector Plan area of the city. OHP staff members involved in the survey included Adriana Ziga, Kay Hindes, and OHP volunteer Brenda Laureano. The nomination will now move forward to the National Park Service.
I never met Max and Minnie but was offered the opportunity to delve into their lives deeply when retained by the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund to tell their story. The resulting book, Last Farm Standing on Buttermilk Hill, in turn led me to even more concentrated involvement in the history of the dairy farms that surrounded the Voelcker Farm on San Antonio’s near north side.
As I struggle to uncover bits and pieces of the lives of their neighbors from the Coker Settlement resting beside them in the Coker Cemetery and weave them together into a new book for the Coker Cemetery Association, I am grateful for that introduction to Max and Minnie. Getting to know them and digging into the past of the Coker Settlement has given me incredible respect for the tough-skinned early residents farming on the outskirts of San Antonio.
Life was hard for those pioneering farmers, and it’s wonderful the Voelcker Farmstead has been spared as testimony of the city’s vanishing rural heritage.