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Take a look into San Antonio’s past with vintage photos of the Japanese Tea Garden

Now-lush garden was once part of the Alamo Cement quarry

View of the lily pond and pavilion in the sunken garden. Photo circa 1927-1931. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)

SAN ANTONIO – The Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio is one of the most beautiful places in the city and admission is free.

The now-lush garden was originally a part of the Alamo Cement quarry before the quarry ceased operations in 1908.

San Antonio Parks Foundation CEO Mary Jane Verette previously told KSAT that a City Parks Commissioner in the early 1900s, Ray Lambert, designed plans to build an Asian-style garden in the quarry.

He was able to raise enough money to create the garden in 1918 and utilized prison labor to achieve his dream, originally dubbed the lily pond. For a more in-depth history of the Japanese Tea Garden, click here.

Historical photos, sourced from the University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections show what the garden looked like throughout its history.

Photograph shows tea house, with thatched roofing. Children standing on left are Helen and James Jingu, children of resident caretaker Kimi Jingu. Photo from 1927. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)
The photograph shows the center of the pavilion with tables and chairs for eating light lunches or green tea ice- cream made by Kimi Jingu. Stand in the background is where tea and fruit juices were sold. Photo circa 1927-1929. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)
Photograph shows gate on pathway from the sunken garden up to Alpine Drive. Photo circa 1927-1931. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)
View of the lily pond and island from the pavilion (tea house). Photo circa 1927-1931. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)
View of area, under thatched roof, with tables and chairs where the Jingu family served tea and light lunches. Photo circa 1927-1931. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)
Photograph shows banana trees around a stone footbridge in the sunken garden. Photo circa 1927-1931. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)
Photograph shows view from the Tea House towards the Sunken Garden. Circa 1940s. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)
Photograph shows stone houses formerly used by Alamo Cement Company near the Sunken Gardens (Japanese Tea Garden). On hill (upper left) is the house that was occupied by the Jingu family. Circa 1940s. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)
Photograph shows looking down from bluff towards Japanese Tea Garden. Photo circa 1928-1937. (Photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections)

If you’re interested in visiting the garden, type 3853 N St Mary’s Street into your GPS and take a walk around the lily ponds. There’s even a waterfall and place to grab a bite.

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