Brackenridge Park’s Historic Miraflores Garden Opens to Public View

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Miraflores is located along Hildebrand Road adjacent the University of the Incarnate Word.

Just beneath the surface of San Antonio lie hidden histories that only come to light through the strenuous efforts of committed preservationists. Like the old walls of the Mission San Antonio de Valero found during excavations downtown, the original brick and concrete paths of the Miraflores garden were rediscovered recently during restoration.

For the first time ever, once-neglected Miraflores will open to the public Thursday evening, March 29, for the Brackenridge Park Conservancy’s annual Spirit of Brackenridge Park fundraising event. Money raised will support continuing restoration efforts in the old garden, once the estate of Dr. Aureliano Urrutia, a noted physician who emigrated from Mexico in 1914.

Until now, Miraflores has only been visible through locked gates, leading to a bridge over the San Antonio River from Brackenridge Park’s northern edge.

One goal of Thursday evening’s celebration, Brackenridge Park Conservancy Executive Director Lynn Bobbitt said, “will be to celebrate the launch of the restoration of the historic brick walkway that will connect Miraflores to Brackenridge Park.”

That walkway and bridge eventually will allow free public access from the park into the garden, situated along the east bank of the San Antonio River, across from the University of the Incarnate Word and a parking lot owned by AT&T. For the event, entry will be from the parking lot along East Hildebrand Avenue through the tiled main gates, restored in 2015.

On Thursday night, with lighting provided by the San Antonio Parks Department, the garden’s partially excavated paths will be visible, along with brilliantly colored and patterned examples of Mexican Talavera ceramic tile.

The garden also features numerous examples of statuary collected by Urrutia. A fierce representation of Cuauhtémoc, the Aztec ruler of Tenochtitlan, graces the property, made by artist L.L. Sanchez in 1921, as do several examples of trabajo rustico or “faux bois” sculpture by Dionicio Rodriguez, a noted Mexican sculptor who died in San Antonio in 1955.

Elise Urrutia, the great granddaughter of Miraflores’ original owner and a San Antonio resident, has written extensively on the garden and her forebear’s legacy, including a book titled Jardín Mexicano de la Memoria (A Mexican Garden of Memory), scheduled to be released this year by Wings Press. She will read from the book at Thursday night’s event.

Though the original garden “absolutely cannot be replaced,” she said in an e-mail to the Rivard Report, “I do think that we can restore Miraflores to a place of beauty that reflects an understanding of what the garden was and what it meant.”

Once the “completely unique” pre-Mexican Revolution garden is restored and open to the public, she said, “we can have a garden which can be a great outdoor classroom for Mexican history.”

After Dr. Urrutia sold the property in 1962, Miraflores fell into neglect under several corporate owners, including AT&T, which filled in the lot and covered the paths. The lot was sold in 2006 to the City, which then hired Kim Wolf of RVK Architects to develop a master plan for the garden restoration with the intention of it becoming a public park.

Now in Phase IV, the restoration does not yet have an end date, Bobbitt said. Fundraising will continue after Thursday’s celebration, as will discussions on “what can be restored and what should be left alone and interpreted,” Bobbitt said.

After Thursday, members of the public can schedule guided tours through the garden as restorations continue.

The conservancy is expecting more than 400 attendees at Thursday’s event. Bobbitt said that anyone interested in attending should call her office to find out whether seats are still available, starting at $175. Those interested in guided tours may contact the conservancy.

14 thoughts on “Brackenridge Park’s Historic Miraflores Garden Opens to Public View

  1. Drove by it today and it looked like crap. i hope they soon fix too the rest of it soon so you don’t have to take a tour to see the beauty.

    • Did we read the same article? The whole point of this story is how Miraflores Park had been neglected during the last century, but with the help of Dr. Urrutia’s great grand daughter and the Brackenridge Park Conservancy it is in the beginning stages of being restored to it’s former beauty. If you think it looks like crap, donate to the conservancy. No one benefits from you coming to the comment section to criticize the current state of the park and complain.

      Thank you to Elise Urrutia, Lynn Bobbit and the BPC, and the city for these efforts to restore part of San Antonio’s history.

  2. This area has so much potential, can’t they just plant some roses and other flowers place some benches and put a path into connect to the rest of the park? Why do we have to raise millions of dollars before the area can be opened up? Brackenridge Park is so disconnected it has the ability to be a great park but none of it’s connected well and the signage is terrible. The zoo needs to build a parking garage too it’s way outgrown that little lot.

      • Brackenridge park is a giant archeologically significant site. A historical and archeological assessment had to be done before they could begin work. And that park floods regularly so that had to be addressed. The statuary was significantly compromised and safety had to be addressed. The original gates had crumbling tile work. Personally, I find the park connected but you definitely have areas that have their own set use. Playgrounds, picnic areas, softball field, zoo, several pavilions, all a little apart from each other so you aren’t right on top of each other. The zoo parking garage is set to start construction this summer and be ready in the spring of 2019; that was part of the bond package that voters approved last May.

    • You can do it the easy way or you can do it the right way. There is history to Miraflores Park that has be handled with care. We’re not talking about ancient history, but there are still archaeological best practices that should be followed to preserve the artwork and architecture of the park.

      What your asking for sounds like the park version of gentrification: cover up the old and historical and replace it with something cheap and devoid of personality. I’d prefer to do it the right way the first time. We may not have another chance.

  3. Thank you Dr. Urrutia for settling here and building what once seemed like a jewel of a private garden. Thank you Elise U., thank you San Antonio, for bringing it back to a restored and interpreted life! Cannot wait for the completed final phase and book! 🙂

    • OK, “what once was a jewel of a private garden” I want more public green spaces! 🙂 Thank you again, Elise Urrutia (I hope the work is completed soon. I think most of us SAers could not really afford 175 bucks, but I’ll be glad to put in my two bits after rubbing ’em together…looking at you, RivardReport, to provide links so I can do this….)

  4. This historical place has the energy of mystery and drama. I have always wanted to walk around and just dream of what it once was. It has the strength of that of another world where time stood still. It is just beautiful. I can’t wait for it to open. I am a native SA and look forward to the day I walk among the history and culture of this amazing place.

  5. I have always viewed this project as a barometer of San Antonio’s progress. When I arrived here seven years ago, I was shocked that a city would allow a historic park area to sit behind a fence. As I have learned more about the park, my interest has increased. I am really looking forward to the opening of this area to public access one day.

    That being said, I understand that a lot of excavation and preservation work has to be performed first. It also will need to be upgraded for handicap access.

    Next, please work on eliminating more pavement from Brackenridge Park.

  6. Thank you to so many readers for your enthusiasm about this historic garden. If you’d like to learn more, I will be reading excerpts from my upcoming book about Miraflores, accompanied by a slideshow of photographs, at the Igo Branch Library (13330 Kyle Seale Parkway) this Thursday, April 5, at 2 p.m. This event is free and open to the public. You can also visit my blog, http://www.quintaurrutia.com, for further information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *