Locals Bid on Precious Pieces of San Antonio History

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Edward A. Ornelas for the Rivard Report

Vogt Auction house employee Raul Carrasco points to a Brackenridge Park Skyride gondola during the San Antonio Tricentennial Auction.

The decor at a couple of Jim Bennett's bed-and-breakfasts in Fredericksburg will soon get a historical upgrade.

An addition at one B&B will be a gondola that carried passengers along the Brackenridge Park Skyline. Another B&B will become the new home of a 4-foot-by-10-foot hand-painted wooden sign for the skyride.

Bennett was the top bidder on two of the 150 items – many representing San Antonio cultural touchstones – that Vogt Auction Galleries, a Northside auction house, marketed Tuesday night.

The auction, which drew more than 150 people, featured three former skyline gondolas. Robert Vogt, the auction house director, had a little fun with the bidding on the gondolas, which were among the more popular items at the auction.

"Think of the selfie opportunities," he told the audience.

While Bennett picked up the sign for just $375, he had to lay out $2,100 to win the bidding on a gondola with a pelican painted on it. He plans to put it in the backyard of his B&B.

"We're gonna make it a photo [opportunity], like a little gazebo," he said. "The name of the B&B is the Girlfriend's Roost. We've got it fixed up with all sorts of vintage stuff, so it'll be perfect back there."

Vogt described the gondolas as the "fun, 'wow' sort of pieces that everyone remembers because it was so prominent in our skyline."

“Everyone as a child remembers going up there being scared or rocking back and forth," he said.

Vogt Auction typically handles European furniture, rugs, and home decor, and some of items were part of Tuesday's auction. But with this year being San Antonio’s Tricentennial, Vogt thought it’d be fun to mix in pieces of San Antonio memorabilia.

“Frankly, I was hedging my bets,” Vogt told the Rivard Report before the auction. “I didn’t know if anyone would come in.”

But a slew of bidders filled up the Blanco Road auction house, with more participating in the auction by phone.

Vogt Auction has spent the past year accumulating the local items, primarily from area families who have had them for years, if not generations.

“San Antonio is a unique city, and those who grew up here have unique experiences,” Vogt said. “We thought being the auction house of San Antonio, we wanted to bring those items – that people of San Antonio have so much nostalgia for – to market.”

The auction's offerings included:

  • Numerous posters, guides, plates, and other artifacts from HemisFair '68;
  • Five boxes containing hundreds of vintage matchbooks from several local businesses past and present, including Luby’s Cafeteria, the Gunter Hotel, the St. Anthony Hotel, and Earl Abel's restaurant;
  • Spurs memorabilia that included championship-related newspaper front pages, whole magazines with features on the Spurs, and signed basketballs;
  • Several books, dating back 70 years or more, detailing various parts of local history, including the battle of the Alamo and military aviation at Randolph;
  • Fiesta gowns, including a duchess dress with a train;
  • A wooden sign that once adorned the Olmos Pharmacy;
  • Artifacts from the former Playland theme park and the former Hertzberg Circus Museum;
  • Vintage photos taken in San Antonio by Eugene Goldbeck, including a 1925 baptism at the San Pedro Park springs and a 1922 exhibition game with the Babe Ruth-led New York Yankees;
  • H.B. Zachry's original architectural model of the Hilton Palacio Del Rio Hotel;
  • A pair of altar gates that once stood at San Fernando Cathedral.

“It kind of shocks me they’ve gone into general circulation and that they’re here, being such historic pieces,” Vogt said of the gates, which are about 80 years old and fetched $4,000.

A copper lamp floor lamp designed by late local architect Isaac Maxwell was another unique item up for auction. It went to a phone bidder for $5,500.

“This came from the Maxwell home,” Vogt said. “This is considered one of his masterpieces.”

Edward A. Ornelas for the Rivard Report

Vogt Auction owner and auctioneer Robert Vogt takes bids during the San Antonio Tricentennial Auction.

For a total of $850, Rick Samame acquired two nearly 5-foot-tall papier-maché tigers and a 7-foot-tall styrofoam Dumbo elephant head, all from the Hertzberg Circus Museum. The three figures will inhabit the new, larger storefront that Alamo Candy Co. is preparing to open soon at West Hildebrand Avenue.

Samame said the figures will act as playful decorative pieces for the family-owned candy store.

"We're trying to have some San Antonio history in the new store," said Samame, the company's vice president.

Trish Hoover's $1,150 bid scored her an original 1968 HemisFair promotional poster. She plans to place the poster in her husband Michael Hoover's office at DH Realty Partners downtown.

"I just thought it'd look really great in there," she said.

Delia Reed successfully bid $700 for a pair of original license plates from HemisFair. She originally set her sights on the cathedral gates, but the "$4,000 was beyond her budget," she said.

However, the plates were an ideal consolation prize because Reed's boyfriend is a used car dealer, and they both love vintage automobile memorabilia.

"I just had to have the license plates," she said.

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