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  • Michael T. Berger, MBA

History Engaged: Auditorium Circle (Veterans Memorial Plaza)

As part of our on going series of engaging history, we are excited to bring you the story of the Historic Auditorium Circle. Bringing the information from the San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation, each of the historic areas and neighborhoods are going to be explored over the next couple of years.

Municipal Auditorium

The Auditorium Circle Historic District consists of four buildings and a war memorial plaza located along the northern downtown stretch of the San Antonio River. The buildings include: the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium (100 Auditorium Circle), the Southwestern Bell Building (105 Auditorium Circle), the Martin Wright Building (115 Auditorium Circle), and the Havana Apartments (1015 Navarro).

The San Antonio Municipal Auditorium, originally built as a memorial to American soldiers killed during World War I, is the most prominent building within the district and a visual focal point of San Antonio. The 12-sided, oval-shaped, domed arena on grounds encompassing six acres was designed by the San Antonio firm of Atlee B. Ayres and Associates and is one of the finest examples of the Spanish Colonial Revival Style in the city. The Spanish Colonial Revival style, first promoted by the 1915 Panama California Exposition at San Diego, was highly fashionable for all building types in Southern California, the Southwestern United States, and southern Florida until the 1930s. The limestone clad structure is detailed with carved stone ornament and features a variety of roofing materials including metal, clay tile, and glazed mosaic tile. An arcaded entrance pavilion with flanking domed towers on the south elevation is the focal point of the design. The building encompasses approximately 125,000 square feet. The interior of the auditorium was seriously damaged by fire in January 1979. Following the recommendation of architectural, engineering, and electrical consultants, San Antonio citizens voted a $9.1 million bond in April 1981 to renovate the auditorium.

Memorial Plaza

The Southwestern Bell Building was designed by architect Irving R. Timlin in 1929-30 and reflects a blend of Chicago School skyscraper and Spanish Mission-style design. The 14-story, brick-clad skyscraper features elaborate ground floor window and door surrounds similar to Spanish Baroque ecclesiastical architecture and geometric designs of colored tile on the spandrels of the central bays.

The Martin Wright Building is a Mission Revival-style structure built ca. 1928 for the Martin Wright Electrical Company. The Havana Apartments were constructed in 1914 by architect Arthur J. Herrmann. The Mediterranean Revival-style building originally served as a residential hotel. In 1938 the building became a rooming house, and in the 1970s it was converted into apartments. The property was restored in the early 1990s and currently functions as the Havana Riverwalk Inn.

Municipal Tower

The war memorial plaza located south of the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium and bounded by Auditorium Circle, Jefferson Street, E. Martin Street, and the Southwestern Bell Building, features two sculptures. The War Mothers Memorial, a marble monument commissioned in 1938, is a tribute to the mothers whose sons served in World War I. Hill 881 South is a 1986 bronze statue memorial to the men and women who served in the Vietnam War. In 2006, City Council voted to officially change the name of the district from Auditorium Circle to Veterans Memorial Plaza Historic District.

You can view a map of the Auditorium Circle Historic District by clicking here.

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