Commerce Street Bridge

Bexar County

Commerce Street at the San Antonio River, San Antonio, Texas

History

Located at the historic main ford across the San Antonio River, the Commerce Street Bridge was constructed in 1915 as part of a major street improvement program. The bridge is noted for its many decorative details including noted Texas artist Waldine Tauch's sculptured Indian drinking fountain.

History of the Commerce Street Bridge
Located at the historic main ford between San Fernando De Bexar (the city) and San Antonio De Valero (The Alamo), the river crossing has long been a focal point of history for the city of San Antonio. On February 23, 1836, Albert Martin, an emissary from the Alamo met with one of Santa Anna's aides during a critical moment of the Texas War for Independence. In 1842, mayor John W. Smith hired R.T. Higginbotham to construct a timber bridge over the river. The bridge was described in landscape architect Frederic Law Olmstead's account of traveling across Texas. The bridge is also thought to have been a favored spot of noted author Sidney Lanier when he lived in San Antonio. The present bridge replaced an 1880 iron truss bridge. The concrete bridge was constructed in 1915 as part of a major street improvement program that widened Commerce Street between the Main Plaza and Alamo Street.

The Commerce Street Bridge consists of a 3-span continuous concrete T-beam superstructure resting on square pier columns. On the north side of the bridge are two curving flight of stairs that link with the River Walk below. The bridge is noted for its many decorative details including open concrete molded railing and architectural treatments to the outside pier columns and projecting spandrel walls. On the south side of the bridge is located a sculpture of an Indian brave created by noted Texas artist Waldine Tauch. Entitled " The First Inhabitant," the sculpture consists of seven foot tall Native American in full, feathered headdress bordered by a background of corn. Carved onto each hand is a shallow Indian-patterned bowl, which once had drinking fountains concealed in each bowl. The sculpture was commissioned by the San Antonio Express, which offered Tauch $1,000 to complete the work. The bridge was most likely widened in 1929, and may have been subsequently widened again. Other alterations to the bridge may have occurred during the 1930s, with the creation of the San Antonio River Walk. In 1990, 20-foot section of railing on the south side of the structure was damaged when a car plunged into the San Antonio River. The Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

© 2003 Historic Bridge Foundation. Photo by Lila Ethridge.