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Earliest Permanent Structure Built by Europeans in SA Found

Earliest Permanent Structure Built by Europeans in SA Found

  The remnants of what is believed to be the oldest permanent structure ever built by Europeans in San Antonio, the remains of the Spanish Colonial Dam on the headwaters of the San Antonio River, have been discovered at the northern edge of Brackenridge Park, near the San Antonio Zoo, 1200 WOAI news reports.

 

  The dam was built in 1719, just one year after the Spanish reached San Antonio, and well before the construction of the Missions or any other permanent structures in what is now the City of San Antonio.

 

  UTSA Archaeologist Dr. Steve Tomka says he has new respect for the Spanish engineers who built it.

 

  "We didn't know how well they knew how to engineer water and engineer irrigation systems," he said.  "They used more traditional materials, but basically their knowledge was equal to our knowledge today, which is pretty amazing."

 

  Essentially, the dam was the region's first flood control project.  It allowed water to flow in and out of a channel parallel to the River, and helped provide water to farms which the settlers were constructing west of the river.

 

  The remnants of a hurricane heavily damaged the small settlement in what is now Brackenridge Park in 1724, and that prompted the Spanish to move the structure to the east bank of the San Antonio River, near modern day La Villita.  The construction of the Acequia Madre on that site led to the construction of the Missions San Antonio de Valero, better known as the Alamo, in 1744.

 

  San Antonio City Archaeologist Kay Hindes said the significance of the find is amazing.

 

  "Evidence of the dam associated with the Acequia Madre represents one of the earliest historic finds in San Antonio and will provide valuable information about our earliest Spanish Colonial Heritage.  The discovery that a large percentage of the Upper Labor Dam, stone walls, a possible overflow channel, and a stone headgate offers exciting opportunity for interpretation of the last Spanish Colonial acequia system built in San Antonio in the late 1770s.

 

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