Readers ask for help with ‘orphan’ pavers in downtown San Antonio

I just read your article on the (Houston Street commemorative) pavers. I purchased one for my late dad, and it has been relocated. It was originally somewhere around The Palm (restaurant, 233 E. Houston St.,) that has been cut out for valet parking. The certificate states it was located in the 200 block of East Houston Street, North side, Section 7, and was dated Jan. 28, 1992.

My father’s name was Marco A. Botello; he grew up in and loved downtown. We would go sit on a bench and look at (his paver) while hanging around downtown. Can you give me an idea where on Houston Street to go look? Is there a way I can get a replacement or purchase another in his name?

— Mari Botello Feist

My mother had purchased bricks for herself, me and my three daughters. I can only find the certificate for the placement of her brick. My daughters and I were downtown this past weekend for Mother’s Day and went to look for our bricks. We only found two, my mother’s and one of my daughters’. They both were in the 500 block of East Houston Street, section N-15. There were so many trash receptacles, and they’re too heavy to move around. I was wondering if you know of someone who has these records so we can see if ours were moved to another location. Originally we were all in the same area.

— Nina Johnson

I go downtown frequently to enjoy the old buildings and their architecture. I was on Alamo Street and turned left (west) onto Houston Street. Years ago, I had purchased several bricks with family names on them, and they were placed on the sidewalk on the north side corner of Houston Street (across from the old Woolworth building.) I could see they were gone. Red bricks were there but without any writing. These (commemorative) bricks were costly, and there were hundreds of them, some on the south side of the street, too. Can you tell us what has happened to them?

— Connie Fuller

This is in reference to the engraved brick I bought in August 1990, located in the 500 block of East Houston Street, south side, Section 20. My name has worn off after 30 years. Will you help me correct my brick, which is in need of repair?

— Melinda P. De La Fuente

My mother-in-law purchased bricks for the Houston Street project in the late 1980s. Is there a new map of the placement of the named bricks?

— Linda Dickey

I, too, purchased a brick in 1990 but could never find the brick. I saw your (2014) story about René Garza and was glad to hear that he found his. What I would like to know is how I can get information on my daughter’s brick. I lost my certificate and would like to get a copy or just someone who can tell me where it is.

— Rozanne Martinez

I live in Arizona now but plan to visit San Antonio. Can you help me locate three bricks that I purchased back in the 1990s?

— Ginger Roberts

My family purchased multiple bricks during the San Antonio Brick Walk Project many years ago, but we have been unable to locate them on visits to the Houston Street area. I was told they were near the Majestic Theatre. Is there a website that might be able to reveal their location for us?

— Ray Forsbach

I saw this story online when doing a search for the San Antonio Brick Walk, but I did not see any way to look up locations of previously purchased bricks. Who maintains the database listing the names and locations?

— J.P. Cook

I’m trying to find one for my son-in-law that I bought for him in 1992, so that I can take his children down to see it, plus mine and my deceased husband’s. Could you give me a name and telephone number or a webpage where I can look up his brick?

— Robbie Fuqua

Please let me know the location of (paver) No. 006902, Lazar R. Kirven Jr. This brick was across the street from the Majestic. I paid for that brick to be a forever memorial for my dad and to keep the Kirven name in the history of San Antonio. Since there are files somewhere of all who bought bricks, is there a project in place to replace all the missing bricks? If not, please make the proposal for someone to make things right.

— Malcolm Kirven

This is a sampling of queries that have come in from readers who purchased engraved commemorative brick pavers since this column published a question from René Garza on March 7, 2014, with the most recent (Nina Johnson’s) arriving last week. It seemed like a good time to revisit the topic, in hopes of reviving some municipal interest in the rather forlorn downtown street feature and maybe even finding some of the missing bricks.

Garza was looking for the brick he had purchased in 1990 in honor of his then-new baby daughter Cierra Rae Garza. “During this time,” he wrote, “the San Antonio Brick Walk was formed, and a committee was selling bricks to pave the sidewalks along East Houston Street around the Majestic Theatre area.” In 2014, father and daughter — by then a full grown-up living downtown — both went looking for it and couldn’t find it.

The Brick Walk was a fundraiser associated with the Tri-Party Improvements Project, a public/private cooperation intended to make downtown San Antonio streets more convenient and inviting. Made by Alamo Concrete Pavers, the bricks were each about 2-3 inches thick and could be engraved with a brief message or more often a name in honor or memory of a loved one. While many more blank units were placed to spruce up downtown sidewalks, the inscribed pavers were installed on a section of Houston Street that began at Alamo Plaza and continued west past the Majestic Theatre, through a high-traffic area of restaurants and cultural venues that recalled the days when Houston Street was the city’s busiest shopping and entertainment area.

The personalized sidewalks were intended to be “an attraction for someone who purchased a brick to come down and look for their brick and maybe stay downtown to have a meal or go to a show,” said Melissa Burnett, Centro Alliance’s director of marketing in 2014. “It generated some news as we used the placement of some celebrity and public official’s bricks as media opportunities (and) we also had special sections for veterans of Operation Desert Storm and for the defenders of the Alamo.”

Paver purchasers like Garza received a “Certificate of Ownership” signed by then-Mayor Lila Cockrell and Ben E. Brewer III, president of the Brick Walk Committee. The certificate attests that “Said brick has been prominently placed for all to see along the historic sidewalks of Houston Street and that the aforementioned owner is entitled to all the honors and distinctions accruing therefrom.” (Maybe not so many of those: At the bottom, there is a fine-print disclaimer, “This certificate is not a legal title to property ownership.”)

Owners/not-owners also were sent a map of the part of Brick Walk that showed the section where their pavers had been placed. Garza’s, for instance, was identified as N-16, with “N” standing for the north side of East Houston, the 200 block between St. Mary’s and Navarro streets. On the same page was a list of prominent San Antonians on the Brick Walk Committee, some of whom are since deceased (such as Cockrell, former San Antonio Express-News publisher Charles O. Kilpatrick and real estate magnate D.B. Harrell) and others who are retired.

At the time of Garza’s question, the former president of the Brick Walk Committee, Brewer, was still active in downtown affairs as executive vice president for business operations of Centro Alliance (formerly Downtown Owners Association), a coalition of downtown stakeholders. “When a city contractor did repairs in front of the Majestic, they scrambled many and lost some of the bricks despite our warnings to keep track of the ‘name-pavers,’” Brewer said in 2014. “A few years ago, we went out and did an inventory of the (new) brick locations.”

The Brick Walk raised more than $600,000 for Tri-Party beautification efforts, including additional trash receptacles, said project director Scott Ericksen, then public involvement coordinator at the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization or MPO, now Alamo Area MPO. The Garzas’ quest also had a happy ending when a Centro staffer searched and found Cierra’s paver outside 301 E. Houston St., now La Panaderia bakery and cafe.

Since then, the readers whose questions appear above, plus a few more, have sought to be reunited with their civic contribution from three decades ago. It’s hard to tell people, many of whom are getting up in years, to slow-walk up and down both sides of Houston Street, reading the sidewalk brick by brick or maybe snapping cellphone photographs of all of them to enlarge and peruse at home.

To help them, this column reached out to some city departments to ask if anyone had a map or list or any other information about the engraved pavers. So far, no good. Quoting spokespeople, the Office of Historic Preservation “doesn’t have any information on this”; at Public Works, “Nobody here seems to know”; and at Centro, “At at one point we had an inventory,” said Matt Sirgo, the group’s director of storytelling, “but over the years the bricks have been removed and have even changed places in some spots.”

Unfortunately, nobody’s job gets done by … nobody. If someone — maybe an Eagle Scout candidate or an ambitious intern — tackles an updated inventory of this part of our city’s history, it would be great to reunite the pavers and their people.

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