San Antonio is a romantic, historic city of many firsts

San Antonio River Walk

Alamo at night (Jack Dennis)

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Millions of visitors travel to San Antonio each year to visit the Alamo, River Walk, SeaWorld, Six Flags Fiesta Texas and other attractions. A little known fact to many of these visitors is that San Antonio is city known for many ‘firsts’ in history.

When President William McKinley came to San Antonio in 1901, a young boy in the crowd took a candid picture of the most important man he had ever seen passing by during a parade. That nine year old was Eugene Omar Goldbeck, who became inspired to become a photographer.

E.O. Goldbeck saved enough money to purchase his first camera and soon started taking photos of his teachers and classmates. Years later he invented the moving camera mounted on a tripod geared in synchronized movement for panoramic photos. Literally thousands of these large and long images–from military battalions, to skylines, to school classmates–have been photographed by the Goldbeck Company. Goldbeck Photography is located at 4407 Centergate, San Antonio, TX 78217, 210-656-1445.

This is just one of many “firsts” that occurred in San Antonio through the years.

CHILI

Chili was invented in San Antonio in the 1700s. ‘Chili Queens’ would set up each weekend and during lunch time during weekdays to sell their popular Mexican gravies, stews and broths near the area of present day City Hall, Bexar County Courthouse and San Fernando Cathedral. Although a staple food in the San Antonio area for years, chili was officially introduced to the nation at the 1893 World’s Fair of Chicago. (The San Fernando Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the United States, built in 1750).

CORN CHIPS

Vintage Fritos

Fritos corn chips were discovered and created in SA by C.E. Doolin in 1932. He found a local man who was deep frying corn masa and other ingredients and selling them as corn snacks. He bought the patent from the man and had his mother help perfect the recipe in her kitchen. He later created Cheetos the same way. It’s little wonder that Frito Pie was naturally invented in San Antonio. Another first!

LBJ AND GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, at 315 East Pecan Street, across from Travis Park in downtown has splendid history. Construction of church began prior to the Civil War when General Robert E. Lee, a Lt. Col. in temporary command of the U.S. Army’s Department of Texas, was stationed at the Quadrangle (where the Gunter Hotel now stands) Not until after the war ended was the building completed. General Lee was one of the first members. St. Mark’s is also the place where future President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Taylor were married in 1934.

FIRST AIR CONDITIONED HIGH-RISE BUILDING

The 21-story Milam Building, also located downtown at 115 East Travis Street, was the first fully air-conditioned high-rise building in the entire US. It was built in 1928 and the system used pipes that would carry the chilled water past fans which then circulated the cool air throughout the building.

FIRST DRIVE-IN RESTAURANT

The “Pig Stand” at 1508 Broadway, just north of downtown, has a unique claim to fame. It is the first “drive-in” eating establishment in the United States. The fore runner of “drive-in” famous in the 1950s and 1960s, the Pig Stand was a pioneer for such establishments as Sonic. 210-222-9923.

FIRST BARBED WIRE

The first ever demonstration of barbed wire took place in Alamo Plaza in 1876. A rectangle of barbed wire fencing became popular when ranchers and farmers witnessed its capability to hold back cattle.

FIRST MODERN ART MUSEUM

The McNay Art Museum, 6000 N. New Braunfels, 78209, 210-824-5368, is the first modern art museum in the state of Texas. It’s located in the former Spanish Colonial Revival mansion of Marion Koogler McNay, an artist and collector.

FIRST ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST PICTURE

WINGS over San Antonio

The first movie to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards was filmed in San Antonio at Campus Bullis, Kelly Field, and Randolph Air Field in 1927.

FIRST PERSONAL COMPUTER

First personal computer and mass produced, First network intrusion detection system, first telecommunications phone-system firewall, first commercial Local Are Network (LAN), first microcomputer and first client-server computer

FIRST AMUSEMENT PARK FOR SPECIAL NEEDS

Morgan’s Wonderland, in northeast San Antonio, is the world’s first ever amusement park especially designed for children and adults with cognitive or physical challenges.

FIRST AND OLDEST CATHEDRAL IN THE U.S.

The San Fernando Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the United States, built in 1750.

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