It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Quiet Place

Nestled deep in the heart of the city, along the banks of the river, is a quiet sanctuary.  The hum of the city traffic is audible, but seems far away.  A place for lunch, a place to sit quietly, a place to learn about art.  It is the Southwest School of Art. but in years gone by it was the Ursuline Academy, the first girls school in San Antonio.


 In 1851 7 French Catholic nuns were sent from New Orleans and Galveston to establish the school.  The First Academy was designed by Francois Giraud and Jules Poinsard for pise` de terre (rammed earth) construction.  It is the largest known structure of its kind in Texas.

Subsequent buildings would be built with locally quarried limestone.

The old lunchroom is now home to the Copper Kitchen.  They serve wonderful homemade lunches that you eat in this cozy room.  I've been eating an occasional lunch here for over 25 years, and I always think I can hear the chatter of the girls still lingering in the walls and their dainty steps on the lovely wood floors.
 The arched windows are part of the chapel, which is used today for social events and a meeting room.  Years ago I went to an event here and was able to go into the chapel.  It was beautiful!

I had eaten lunch one day back in January and then walked out, intending to make pictures.  I don't know what it is about cats, but they just seem to appear wherever I am.  This friendly little cat greeted me and then posed obligingly for a picture.  He didn't seem to mind the cold.  It was 40 degrees and I had no coat on.  Fortunately, the battery in my camera went out and I didn't freeze to death in the courtyard while making pictures.

I love this quiet place, and appreciate its serenity every time I visit.  I'm thankful for the San Antonio Conservation Society that purchased the property in 1971 after the school moved out to the suburbs.  A group of former students were instrumental in the initial efforts to protect the complex from demolition.  Restoration of the facades of the buildings began in 1974, using funds from a grant from the Economic Development Administration.  This would be the first time that federal grant funds were used for restoration purposes in the United States.  The property was sold to the Southwest Craft Center (former name of the SSA) in 1975; they have continued to use adaptive preservation on the property. Oh, and did I mention that the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in November, 1969?

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