Texas Historical Commission
In the fall of 2016, Raba Kistner Environmental Inc. (RKEI) contracted with K Friese & Associates (CLIENT) to monitor the installation of a San Antonio Water System (SAWS) waterline along Cunningham Avenue (Ave.), between Broadway Street (St.) and N. Pine St., along the northern fence line of Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston (JBSA-FSH) and the old Playland Park property. SAWS plans to install waterlines along four distinct locations surrounding JBSA-FSH. Of the four proposed waterlines, only one waterline has the potential of impacting a recorded archaeological site. The proposed waterline warranting archaeological investigation is located along Cunningham Ave. and is projected to intersect the known route of the Acequia de Valero (Acequia de Valero) also known as archaeological site 41BX8.
As the utility installation is located on land owned by the City of San Antonio, a political subdivision of the State, and funding will be partially derived from public sources; the project is subject to review under the Antiquities Code of Texas (Texas Natural Resource Code, Title 9, Chapter 191) which protects historic resources found on state lands or lands owned by a political subdivision of the state. Additionally, the project is subjected to review by the City of San Antonio under the City of San Antonio’s Preservation Ordinance (Article VI, Historic Preservation and Urban Design, City of San Antonio, Unified Development Code). All work was performed in accordance with the Council of Texas Archeologists (CTA) and Texas Historical Commission (THC) Survey Standards, under Texas Antiquities Committee Permit No. 7833. Kristi Miller Nichols served as Principal Investigator and Mark Luzmoor served as Project Archaeologist. Assistant City Archaeologist, Matt Elverson was present during the exposure and documentation of the acequia.
The Acequia de Valero was the first irrigation canal excavated by the Spanish colonists in the upper San Antonio River drainage. The construction of the canal began in January of 1719 for the purpose of transporting water to the agricultural fields of Mission San Antonio de Valero.
Previous research conducted by RKEI within the former Playland Park property, south of the current project area, revealed a portion of the Acequia de Valero. Due to the potential of the acequia extending into the project area, the City of San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation (COSA-OHP) requested that RKEI monitored the mechanical excavation of a 1,000-foot portion of the waterline along Cunningham Ave., specifically focusing on an approximately 66-feet (20 meter [m]) area where the project route of the Acequia de Valero intersects Cunningham Ave.
Prior to the installation of the SAWS waterline, the COSA-OHP requested that a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey be conducted to determine if the acequia alignment is still present within the project area. Additionally, the COSA-OHP requested that an exploratory trench be excavated in the area where the acequia crosses the APE, in an attempt to identify and document the acequia. On November 28, 2016, Kristi Miller Nichols and Cynthia Dickey conducted the GPR survey; however, no distinguishable anomalies were detected within in the GPR data. Therefore, on March 7, 2017, monitoring of the exploratory trenching began of an approximately 20 m long trench. The purpose of excavation of the trench was to determine if remnants of the acequia existed within the project area, prior to installation of the waterline.
Due to the many layers of fill within the acequia at this location, it was difficult to identify the channel during excavation of the trench. After sections of the trench were excavated, an archaeologist entered the trench and cleared the trench walls to carefully inspect each profile for any signs of the acequia.
Approximately 140 m to the east of the intersection of Broadway/Cunningham Ave., there appeared to be an outline of a ditch. Based on the location of the alignment of the acequia on historic maps and further investigations of the profiles, it was determined to be the Acequia de Valero. The north wall profile of the trench revealed the acequia to be approximately 4.15 m wide at the top of the channel and 70 centimeters (cm) wide at its base. The base of the acequia was 1.24 m below the top of the asphalt and neither the base nor its walls were lined. The south wall profile of the trench revealed that the acequia had been partially impacted on this southern edge as it was only 2.9 m wide. The southern wall profile revealed that the eastern end of the acequia was offset from the northern wall, approximately 60 cm to the east, indicating that the trench crosscut the acequia at an angle. Some similarities were noticed between this portion of the acequia and that uncovered within Playland Park, although, the Playland Park portion appears to have been truncated. Similarities between the two sections included the soil types encountered (i.e. the dark soil with cultural material). Once the documentation of the trench walls was complete the trench was filled in. After consultation with the THC and COSA-OHP, SAWS was permitted to install the waterline in the already excavated trench. No further investigations are recommended for this project as long as excavations did not further impact the acequia.
All field records and photographs produced during investigations were curated at the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
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