Belknap centennial celebration captures a golden age

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Bill Ciggelakis, principal-in-charge at Progessional Services Industries, showcases the history of Belknap Place Saturday morning at Belknap and Woodlawn Avenue at a ceremony unveiling a historic marker for the street. The street was named after Augustus Belknap who served in the Civil War and established the first street car system in San Antonio. The Monte Vista Historical Association unveiled a Texas historical marker for the 100th anniversary of Belknap Place being constructed. Belknap is the oldest concrete street in Texas. Photo by Kyle R. Cotton

Bill Ciggelakis, principal-in-charge at Progessional Services Industries, showcases the history of Belknap Place Saturday morning at Belknap and Woodlawn Avenue at a ceremony unveiling a historic marker for the street. The street was named after Augustus Belknap who served in the Civil War and established the first street car system in San Antonio. The Monte Vista Historical Association unveiled a Texas historical marker for the 100th anniversary of Belknap Place being constructed. Belknap is the oldest concrete street in Texas. Photo by Kyle R. Cotton

Retired administrative assistant Doris Christensen, 78, discusses historic photos of Belknap Place with Rosanne White, Monte Vista Historical Association member, at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church. The Monte Vista Historical association unveiled a Texas historical marker for the 100th anniversary of Belknap Place being constructed. Photo by Kyle R. Cotton

Retired administrative assistant Doris Christensen, 78, discusses historic photos of Belknap Place with Rosanne White, Monte Vista Historical Association member, at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church. The Monte Vista Historical association unveiled a Texas historical marker for the 100th anniversary of Belknap Place being constructed. Photo by Kyle R. Cotton

Historical marker placed in the heart of historical Monte Vista neighborhood.

By R. Eguia

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

An a capella quartet warms up as they twist red-and-white bow ties that complement white button-down shirts and bowler hats.

Their voices surround the Model A vintage cars that line a street built in 1914. A man sporting a top hat and his wife in a flouncy beige period hat enjoy the cool morning and booths scattered throughout the centennial grounds.

Guests learn about the Old Spanish Trail and fencing classes at this college and sample cupcakes, brownies and popcorn at booths that surrounded a white lawn tent.

As 11 o’clock approaches, about 80 people seated in white chairs under the protection of the tent giggle and exchange pleasantries waiting for the program to begin.

This was the scene of a ceremony Saturday celebrating the 100th anniversary of the construction of Belknap Place and the unveiling of a historical marker that indicates the Monte Vista street is the oldest concrete street in Texas.

The bell from the 1927 American La France junior pumper vintage fire engine rang to bring attention to Paula Bondurant, president of the Monte Vista Historical Association, as she introduced city representatives, a concrete expert and historians.

The presentations took the crowd to a time when San Antonio was the largest city in Texas and a major hub for transportation and infrastructure.

Bill Ciggelakis, principal-in-charge at Professional Service Industries, talked about the street’s namesake, Augustus Belknap.

He was a soldier, sharpshooter and streetcar man born in New York who “moved to Texas as soon as he could,” Ciggelakis said.

He founded the company that operated San Antonio’s only streetcar system in 1877.

Jan Prusinski, executive director of the Cement Council of Texas, made sure everyone knew the difference between concrete and cement.

Although the terms cement and concrete often are used interchangeably, cement is actually an ingredient of concrete. Concrete is a mixture of aggregates and paste. The aggregates are sand and gravel or crushed stone; the paste is water and portland cement.

Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world, also supplying the basic ingredients of concrete, mortar, stucco and grout. It was developed from other types of hydraulic lime in England in the mid-19th century and usually originates from limestone.

San Antonio is recognized as the birthplace of the portland cement industry west of the Mississippi, and the city has a history of preserving this history.

The first cement plant in the West was built in 1880 in San Antonio by the Alamo Roman Co., the Portland Cement Co. and subsequently the San Antonio Cement Co., and now Alamo Cement, which is till operating on the Northeast Side.

That first plant and quarry were transformed into Brackenridge Park, where the Japanese Tea Garden now stands. The remains of the original kiln are the subject of a Texas Historic Commission marker.

The second plant, constructed in an area near Alamo Heights called “Cementville,” was where the portland cement for Belknap Place was manufactured. The stacks from this plant now serve as a recognizable landmark for the modern mixed-use development, the Alamo Quarry Market.

Eva Huey, member of the Alamo A’s Model A Ford Club of San Antonio, wore beige lace gloves and matching lace floor-length dress inspired by fashions of the 1920s. Her husband, Gerold Huey, wore a three-piece suit to matchas they watched the unveiling of the historical marker.

They have been traveling the country with their Model A car since 1979 and dressing up is a regular part of their presentation.

Among city officials at the event were San Antonio police Chief William McManus and, District 26 state Rep. Jose Menendez.

Small children dug for worms in the moist dirt as the speakers presented history lessons and unveiled the historical marker.

Well-groomed poodles, Shih Tzus, Pomeranians and other fluffy full breeds wandered around the event getting petted at every step.

Ending the day’s events were a classic dance presentation of the Charleston by the San Antonio Swing Dance Society and a tour of the sanctuary at Laurel Heights United Methodist church garden designed by Atlee B. Ayres in 1912.

In 1915, Ayres was state architect of Texas, a position that allowed him to design the Blind Institute, now the Texas School for the Blind and the Texas State Office Building.

The quartet sang their final song to exiting guests, echoing a much simpler time, “Soon we will be married, you will be my blushing bride. I will smile all the while, with you by my side.”

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