What do you do with an abandoned limestone quarry and cement factory?
Park officials in San Antonio, Texas struggled with that scenario in the early 1900s as they pondered possibilities for converting a bare but rocky landscape into something beautiful and relaxing for the city and for visitors.
The result is a hidden gem we discovered years ago and have visited many times. Inspired by the popularity of Japanese art and fashion in the early 20th century, city officials transformed this spot devoid of anything attractive into a lush oriental-style garden.
One of our favorite features is the rows of stone paths and walkways that meander through abundant foliage and flowers. It’s the perfect place to wander leisurely, stopping at the stone arch bridge for photos, skipping along well-placed rocks, strolling past an island, or marveling at koi swimming in a lily-pad pond. The 60-foot waterfall is another place to stop and medidate. Because of its construction on multiple levels, parents find the garden an excellent place for children to explore and expend some energy.
Known as Japanese Tea Garden or Sunken Gardens, it is located on the northwestern edge of Brackenridge Park, near the San AntonioZoo. If you have time, you can easily visit both places the same day.
At the city’s invitation, Kimi Eizo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden with his family in 1919. A recognized tea expert, he lived in the park and maintained the garden until 1941, when feelings toward anything Japanese declined. Thus, during the World War II years, the garden was renamed Chinese Tea Garden to prevent vandalization and negative repercussions. In 1984, the original name of Japanese Tea Garden was restored by the city.
Today the site is on the National Register of Historic Places as it honors San Antonio’s history of limestone quarrying and its cultural diversity. I highly recommend visiting the Japanese Tea Garden, located at 3853 N. St. Mary’s Street in San Antonio, Texas.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier