Alamo Heights United Methodist Church- A Spiritual Beacon on Basse Road

 

In the early fall of 1909, the Methodist Board of Church Extension paid $1,500 for a lot at 5101 Broadway with the intention of someday erecting a church there. At a request from several local ranching families, a tent was soon erected to offer worship and Sunday school in Alamo Heights. Reverend T.F. Sessions served as the first pastor of Alamo Heights United Methodist Church; however it wouldn’t be until July of 1910 that construction started on a wooden structure. From these humble beginnings, the church congregation grew alongside the surrounding neighborhood community. With demand for more space and additional functionality, the church continued to build and re-build their facility on Broadway until the early 1990’s.

In 1991, after conducting a capital campaign to once again enlarge the church campus only to be denied expansion by the City of Alamo Heights, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to move the location of the church to East Basse Road which was formerly part of San Antonio Portland Cement Company’s property. G.W. Mitchell Construction was commissioned to be the general contractor and in May of 1993 construction began of the new 87,000 square foot church complex. Mitchell worked very closely with both the church leaders and design team of Hesson Andrews Sotomayor Sprinkle Robey Architects from project inception to completion. The result is a timeless, elegant cathedral-like sanctuary with functional classroom and office space in both the east and west wings, a large fellowship hall and second worship area.

On September 18, 1994, the church held its first worship service on Basse Road. With over 100 years of history, Alamo Heights United Methodist Church now stands as an iconic landmark of San Antonio as well as a spiritual beacon for the community. Its magnificent workmanship and architecture of the structure itself is a beautiful representation of the inspirational and impactful work the church continuously does for their congregation and the city of San Antonio.

Trivia Question- Does the Alamo have a basement?

 

In recognition of San Antonio’s Fiesta festivities and the celebration of our city’s heritage and culture, we wanted to highlight one of G.W. Mitchell’s most historic projects completed in their 93 years of business. The Alamo’s history is widely known and memorialized by the legendary battle that took place on March 6, 1836 where roughly 200 Texian defenders made their last stand defending the mission. The following month, on April 21st, Texas won the battle of San Jacinto and thus, put an end to the Texas Revolution. During the eighteen-minute San Jacinto battle, Texian forces defeated the Mexican troops, captured Santa Anna and achieved independence to the cries of “Remember the Alamo!” As the centennial of the battle approached in 1936, the entire Alamo complex was renovated, expanded and converted into a park-like setting as a memorial to those who died. A Centennial Museum was built just behind the Alamo church, and soon found use as a gift shop. Proceeds from the current Alamo Gift Shop still support daily operations.

In 1992, The Daughters of the Republic commissioned G.W. Mitchell Construction to excavate and create an 8,000 square foot basement below the 60-year old Sales Museum on the sacred grounds of the Shrine of Texas Liberty. Additionally, a tunnel was dug out beneath the grounds of the Alamo to connect the new basement storage area to vendor access on Houston Street. Along with remaining open to the public during construction, this project called for several other unusual factors that had to be considered and accommodated for such a highly sensitive and historic sight. Archeologists remained on site throughout the duration of construction to monitor any historical artifacts that were uncovered during excavation. Additionally, the filming of James A. Michener’s Texas, a 1994 ABC miniseries, coincided with the basement project which added drastic complications and delays to construction. Lastly, with no staging area available for construction materials, they had to be moved directly to and from Houston Street as needed. Consequently, to attain access to Houston Street, Mitchell was forced to cautiously dismantle part of the existing historical north exterior wall, numbering each individual stone so that they were then able to rebuild the wall and ensure that each stone was put back in its original place at the conclusion of the project.

By February 1993, the project was completed under budget and before the scheduled completion date. The following year, this project was the 1994 local and state award winner in the AGC Outstanding Construction Awards Contest. G.W. Mitchell Construction takes pride and is honored to have been included in such an important preservation project that serves as the heart of Texas history.

Viva Fiesta and Remember the Alamo!

 

Reshaping the River Walk: Crockett Street Redevelopment

 

At the direction of four different owners and based on the innovative design of three renowned architects (Overland Partners, Kell Munoz Wigodsky Inc., and Jack Peterson), G. W. Mitchell Construction was commissioned to complete a highly complex street and River Walk renovation along the 200 block of West Crocket Street. The scope of the project was to remove and replace the existing street with an elevated road to create river level shell space that would give three consecutive buildings direct access to the San Antonio River Walk. The project also included handicap access, the addition of large planters and the complete replacement of the south bank wall and walkway of the River Walk.

In September of 2000, G.W. Mitchell Construction began carefully dismantling the historic Hugman wall as well as the demolition and excavation of the existing 200 block of West Crockett Street down to river level. While the street was being excavated, G.W. Mitchell was also completely reconstructing 225 feet of the historic River Walk. The existing riverbank wall was badly deteriorated and several of the Hugman River Walk panels had failed or uplifted. As part of their efforts to correct these deficiencies, Mitchell employed skilled craftsmen to meticulously reconstruct these historic elements to match the original.

One of the largest challenges Mitchell faced in this project involved temporarily damming the river in order to replace the river bank wall. A coffer dam was constructed by the Mitchell team allowing boat traffic and the river to flow uninterrupted on one side while the River Walk was being constructed on the other side. All of this work had to be synchronized with the annual draining of the river in January 2001 in order for the coffer dam to be removed while the river was down. Despite numerous changes in the river draining schedule, the wall was completed ahead of time and the dam was completely removed during the twenty-four hour period while the river level was reduced to one foot. Once the river wall was complete, a solid foundation was established for the River Walk. New concrete panels were poured to match the originals, and the Hugman panels removed during demolition were reinstalled to create a seamless historic walk.

To further improve accessibility, a unique elevator and clock tower was installed. This distinguishing feature was recognized by the local A.I.A. chapter as an “Exemplary Urban Revitalization Effort.” Throughout construction, irreplaceable elements of the existing area, including the massive Cypress trees and historic structures, were carefully preserved and further enhanced by the new elements and configurations of the space. The project was successfully completed while maintaining the historic and aesthetic value of this section of the San Antonio River. The completion was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony on December 3, 2001 with three former Mayors and the current Mayor in attendance. This project has taken a dormant, underutilized section of downtown San Antonio and given it the life it much needed to become a significant part of the success of the San Antonio River Walk.

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Memories on Broadway

 

“Over 65 years ago, Bob Luby had a dream: To develop a chain of cafeterias that would provide good food, good service and reasonable prices.” This dream was as a result of his upbringing. Since the time Bob was born, his father, Harry Luby, had owned and operated the New England Dairy Lunch Cafeteria in Springfield, Missouri. Eventually, Harry’s small cafeteria business grew to include restaurants in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As a result from growing up in the business and developing a passion for it, Bob was determined to build upon his father’s principles and work ethic with his own new ideas. In 1947, Bob Luby with his partner, Charles R. Johnston, opened the first Luby’s Cafeteria in the basement of a building in downtown San Antonio. At the time, skeptics thought it to be an extremely risky endeavor due to downtown San Antonio often being deserted at night, and many people doubted that servicemen home from the war would stand in line for anything again. The cynics were wrong – the 180 seat cafeteria was consistently packed for both lunch and dinner. And so the tradition of, and adoration for, Luby’s Cafeteria by local San Antonians began. Within the same year of the first cafeteria’s opening, G.W. Mitchell Construction was commissioned to build the second location of Luby’s Cafeteria on Broadway in the heart of Alamo Heights. To the tune of a little over $71,000, Mitchell built a two-story mixed use building with the cafeteria on the first floor and office space above on the second floor. Luby’s second location opened for business in April of 1948 and quickly became a neighborhood and city-wide favorite. The second floor office space housed the company’s headquarters from 1948 to 1981, at which time the company outgrew the space. In April of 2000, after 52 years of business in this location, Luby’s on Broadway served their last Lou Ann platters to customers but the building still remained a local landmark. Although this Luby’s location has been closed now for 14 years, this iconic structure on Broadway holds many fond memories to devoted “Lubians” who dined there for generations. To this day, this unique building stands in fully functional use and currently is home to a popular steakhouse and sushi restaurant, Osaka. Through Luby’s strong imprint on the hearts and stomachs of its loyal patrons and G.W. Mitchell’s lasting footprint on the buildings in San Antonio, they both hold true to the same motto of being a “family tradition, serving the community”.