"The Tower in Miraflores: Dr. Urrutia’s Lost Garden" San Antonio Texas.

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    Miraflores: 

    Dr. Urrutia’s Lost Garden

     
    The Urrutia arch was the original entryway into Miraflores from Broadway Miraflores was originally a 15 acre property forming a rectangle extending east to west from Broadway to the San Antonio River and north to south from Hildebrand 2 blocks south to Allensworth The property was cut in half with the building of the USAA building around 1960 and then later further reduced to its current size of 45 acres when it was cleared for parking lots Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection

    COURTESY / URRUTIA PHOTO COLLECTIONThe Urrutia arch was the original entryway into Miraflores from Broadway.
    UPDATED OCTOBER 21, 2016
    On a small piece of land near the headwaters of the San Antonio River sits a sizeable stone marker, upon which are inscribed the words: “1716 Aqui se celebró la primera misa” – the first mass was celebrated here. This proclamation sits quietly in Miraflores, a former property of Dr. Aureliano Urrutia, an accomplished physician who came to San Antonio from Mexico in 1914. 

    The stone marker or stele at Miraflores Photo courtesy of Kathryn ORourke 2011
    The stone marker, or stele, at Miraflores. Photo courtesy of Kathryn O’Rourke, 2011.
     
    What remains of Miraflores is now a 4.5-acre parcel of land near the headwaters of the San Antonio River, on Hildebrand Road across from the University of the Incarnate Word.A man of modest origins, Urrutia was born in 1872 in Xochimilco, once a unique agricultural area built upon a network of lake and canal systems, which is now a suburb of Mexico City and a World Heritage Site. He was an ambitious child, and his education under the broad initiatives of Mexico’s longtime president Porfirio Díaz propelled him to a significant medical career. The doctor built a renowned clinic in historic Coyoacán (also now a suburb of Mexico City) and developed a following as a revered teacher. 
    Dr. Aureliano Urrutia’s father, Pedro Urrutia, owned a bread bakery in Xochimilco, Mexico. Here in 1912, on the doctor’s 40th birthday, the son is seen kissing his father’s hand or ring, a common occurrence in the family. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    Dr. Aureliano Urrutia’s mother, MarÍa del Refugio Sandoval de Urrutia, circa 1870. She was likely of Nahua descent, and died a few years after his birth. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
     Urrutia’s Mexican medical career was derailed by a three-month appointment to Victoriano Huerta’s disastrous regime, from which he quickly resigned and narrowly escaped with his life. After his immigration with his family to the United States in 1914, he continued his practice here in San Antonio, and lived here until his death at the age of 103 in 1975. 
    Urrutia married Luz Fernandez in 1896 at the age of 24. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    Urrutia, circa 1935-1940. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
     Although he was a man of science, Urrutia also loved art, history, music, literature, nature, and community. Through his education, and his travels as a doctor, he matured into a well-rounded man aware of many cultures and influences. As an immigrant to the U.S. at the age of 42 – though thankful for the respite, culture, and openness of San Antonio – he needed to express his memory of his birthplace and his love for Mexico. 
    The garden in 1930 with its meandering network of multi-leveled pools which have since been demolished This area featured several types of pools and a stage Here Urrutia and his guests celebrate his 58th birthday and his 35th year in medical practice Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo CollectionThe garden in 1930, with its meandering network of multi-leveled pools, which have since been demolished. This area featured several types of pools and a stage. Here Urrutia and his guests celebrate his 58th birthday and his 35th year in medical practice. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
     Urrutia used Miraflores as his outlet for creative expression, and between 1921 and 1930 he fashioned the property into a fantastical garden of statuary, fountains, pools, and meandering waterways. Even the name, Miraflores, is enigmatic and multi-faceted. The garden was, because of his particular outlook, a detailed lesson in the uniqueness of Hispanic culture – a lesson that, if we can recover it, could be a beautiful gift to our citizens and visitors to our city. 

    This towered building no longer exists but once had a small one-story building attached to it In the tower was a library which served as a place for solitude and contemplation The garden was densely populated with trees and shrubbery creating a place of mystery and discovery Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection
    This towered building no longer exists, but once had a small one-story building attached to it. In the tower was a library, which served as a place for solitude and contemplation. The garden was densely populated with trees and shrubbery, creating a place of mystery and discovery. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
     Unfortunately, Miraflores has suffered remarkable decay under ownership by various corporations since Urrutia sold it around 1960 after his retirement at the age of 88. Now flattened, defoliated, and in a struggling state of advanced disrepair, the remnant parcel belongs to the City of San Antonio, which gained the property in a lawsuit settlement with UIW in 2005.   
    A romantic view of the Hildebrand gate tower during the winter in the early life of the garden, circa 1921. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    The view through the Hildebrand gate, circa 1940, shows this entrance once had a forested drive. At the end of the drive was a bust of Porfirio Díaz and the tower building. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    The same view, just inside the Hildebrand gate, 1980. The road is no longer maintained, and the pillars are decaying. The tower building behind the Díaz bust has been demolished. Photo by Elise Urrutia.
    A view of the Hildebrand entrance today shows the relative sparseness of vegetation and flatness of the terrain. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 2016.
     If we are able to salvage it, what significance might this garden have for us today? A look at the enigmatic granite stone boasting a date of 1716 provides some insight. The stone, contrary to its proclamation, is likely not a 300-year-old artifact, but probably was commissioned by the doctor to commemorate an event that was significant to him. What was the “first mass” that was celebrated? Certainly it was not San Antonio’s first mass, which occurred as early as 1691, and it cannot refer to the 1718 establishment of San Antonio as a civilian settlement. 
    This large fountain, with its surrounding network of rivulets, was designed by faux bois sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez in the mid-1920s, but is no longer in existence. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    Remnants of the fountain’s rivulets remained on the property as of 2012. Photo by Elise Urrutia.
     In a collection of writings assembled by his daughter, Refugio, Doctor Urrutia associates 1716 with the first Franciscan mass in Spanish Texas, which may refer to the founding of San Antonio’s Mission San Franciso de la Espada. The mission provided water to surrounding communities via its extensive aqueduct system. Urrutia’s upbringing among the unique water networks of Xochimilco, and the Franciscan church there where he was baptized, would have drawn him to the mission’s similar role. 1716 was an important year for Texas’ first mission, which after 20 years of rejection by indigenous groups, flooding, drought, and disease, finally became established. 
    The waiting room of the Clinica Urrutia medical complex which was located at the corner of Santa Rosa and Houston streets It housed the offices of Urrutia and five sons who were also doctors Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo CollectionThe waiting room of the Clinica Urrutia medical complex, which was located at the corner of Santa Rosa and Houston streets. It housed the offices of Urrutia, four sons, who were also doctors, and a pharmacist daughter. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
     Urrutia often saw himself in the context of historical events linked over the centuries. Perhaps Spain’s 1716 return to Texas would be in the doctor’s mind like his own migration to Texas from civil-war torn Mexico. Here in San Antonio, two centuries later, in 1916, reflecting upon Spain’s 1716 successful efforts in Texas, the doctor rededicated himself to his own personal mission – his medical practice. 
    Farmacia Urrutia was a part of the Clinica Urrutia office complex. Urrutia’s daughter, Refugio Urrutia Fernandez, was the pharmacist. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    Refugio Urrutia Fernandez, circa 1935-1940. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
     In pursuit of this, and perhaps in celebration, the doctor built an impressive, large clinic in downtown San Antonio, on Houston and Santa Rosa streets, near the proposed modern-day San Pedro Creek project. There he ministered to many thousands of San Antonians from all walks of life, across the street from the Santa Rosa Hospital, for over 40 years until his retirement in 1960. Family lore attests that he endeavored to keep his prices affordable, and never turned anyone away for inability to pay. 
    Doctor Urrutia center with medical students from Mexico City and Pueblo Students often visited the clinic to view and learn about the particular surgeries the doctor was doing in the Santa Rosa Hospital circa 1946 Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo CollectionDoctor Urrutia (center) with medical students from Mexico City and Pueblo. Students often visited the clinic to view and learn about the particular surgeries Urrutia was doing at the Santa Rosa Hospital, circa 1946. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
     Throughout his career, Urrutia was recognized in the medical world for his advances in surgery, including modernizing the operating room environment and the design of innovative surgical instruments. He was also known as a great teacher, and traveled to Europe, Latin America, and within the U.S. to address physicians and medical students. 
    Doctor Urrutias house on Broadway designed by Urrutias friend architect Porfirio Trevio The house was sold to the owners of Intercontinental Motors around 1960 and demolished shortly thereafter Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo CollectionDoctor Urrutia’s house on Broadway, designed by Urrutia’s friend, architect Porfirio Treviño. The house was sold to the owners of Intercontinental Motors around 1960 and demolished shortly thereafter. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
     During his long life in San Antonio, the large Urrutia family travelled often along the length of Broadway, from the downtown medical complex to the family home located at the midpoint of Brackenridge Park to the gardens at Miraflores, then at the city’s northern edge. The family, which included 16 children from several marriages, produced four physician sons and a pharmacist daughter who became active in the family practice. The family also participated in San Antonio’s civic and cultural life, often hosting concerts and events at the Urrutia home and at Miraflores. 
    Doctor Urrutia, in 1934, with friends in the courtyard of his Broadway home, including (right to left) Mexican historian, Sr. Luis Castillo-Ledon; San Antonio Mayor CK Quin; Mexican diplomat, Sra. Amalia Castillo-Ledon, Colonel JE King, Mrs. Quin, Dr. Urrutia, and a daughter-in-law. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    Urrutia (right), in 1929, with Majestic Theatre founder Karl Hoblitzelle and María Asúnsolo, aka the famed Latin movie star Dolores del Río. Urrutia attended the Majestic's opening and was honored as a multi-cultural ambassador of San Antonio. The banquet after the opening was held at Miraflores. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    A group photo at Urrutia’s 1930 Miraflores birthday party includes Police Commissioner Phil Wright, Parks Commissioner Jacob Rubiola, City Commissioner Paul Steiffler, Municipal President CM Chambers, and Mexican Consul General Enrique Santibañez, who founded the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Photo by HL Summerville. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    PHOTO BY HL SUMMERVILLE / COURTESY OF URRUTIA PHOTO COLLECTIONIn 1930, Urrutia held his 58th birthday party at Miraflores, which also marked the 400th anniversary of the first school in the Americas founded in Texcoco by Fray Pedro de Gante. Here guests gather around the circular pool dedicated to de Gante.
    In 1931, the American Insitute of Architects held its convention in San Antonio, and Urrutia hosted a fiesta for them at Miraflores. In thanks, the AIA passed this beautiful resolution. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    Urrutia (seated at left) with AIA president Robert D. Kohn, during their visit to San Antonio in 1931. Standing at right are architects Atlee B. Ayres and George Willis. The author would be pleased to receive any assistance in identifying the other architects in the photograph. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    Doctor Urrutia, in 1934, with friends in the courtyard of his Broadway home, including (right to left) Mexican historian, Sr. Luis Castillo-Ledon; San Antonio Mayor CK Quin; Mexican diplomat, Sra. Amalia Castillo-Ledon, Colonel JE King, Mrs. Quin, Dr. Urrutia, and a daughter-in-law. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
    Urrutia (right), in 1929, with Majestic Theatre founder Karl Hoblitzelle and María Asúnsolo, aka the famed Latin movie star Dolores del Río. Urrutia attended the Majestic's opening and was honored as a multi-cultural ambassador of San Antonio. The banquet after the opening was held at Miraflores. Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.
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     Today, 100 years after Urrutia’s rededication to a new life in Texas, upon the eve of San Antonio’s own Tricentennial, a small collection of artifacts remains at what is left of Miraflores.  Although Miraflores encompasses a compelling story of Mexican origins, new beginnings, and a civic life stretching from the headwaters to downtown San Antonio, the garden is all but forgotten by most. 
    A copy of the bust of Coyolxauhqui the Aztec moon goddess signed by sculptor Sanchez Lopez circa 1930 The original is located in the Museo Nacional de Antropologa Mxico City Photo by Elise UrrutiaA copy of the bust of Coyolxauhqui, the Aztec moon goddess, signed by sculptor Sanchez Lopez, circa 1930. The original is located in the Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 2013.
     Between 2003 and 2006, Miraflores gained some protection through interest in the sculptures of Dionicio Rodriguez. Urrutia was a major supporter of Rodriguez, and is sometimes credited with bringing the well-known faux bois sculptor from Mexico. Rodriguez brought to life many important aspects of Urrutia’s vision for the garden.  Unfortunately, subsequent corporate owners of Miraflores destroyed significant works, including a large Rodriguez fountain, but several smaller works remain, which helped secure a National Register of Historic Places designation. 
    Faux bois staircase by sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez, circa 1923. Photo by Elise Urrutia.
    Faux bois palapa bench by sculptor Dionicio Rodriguez, circa 1923. The bench has since been relocated to a new site on the property. Photo by Elise Urrutia.
     In 2007/2008, the City of San Antonio commissioned an archaeological study and created a master plan for the property. At that time, of a $600,000 request for minimal intervention, the City approved only $300,000 in funding for some basic repairs to the property. A 2011 Conservation Society article quotes an estimated cost of $8 million for a realistic implementation. 
    Drainage mitigation required a re-working of the earth underneath northern edge of the property A significant area of land was removed at the northeastern corner of the property to make way for two huge drainage culverts related to water drainage in the BroadwayHildebrand area Photo by Elise Urrutia 2013Drainage mitigation required a re-working of the earth underneath northern edge of the property. A significant area of land was removed at the northwestern corner of the property to make way for two huge drainage culverts related to water drainage in the Broadway/Hildebrand area. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 2013.
     Efforts to save what is left of the property have been hampered by lack of funding, and relief to the property has been much slower than hoped. In 2013, the City modified the property as a part of the area drainage improvement initiative by installing huge drainage culverts through the northwest corner of the property, near the Quinta Maria, a small summerhouse. In return, the City cosmetically repaired the landscape near the house and the wall along the front of the park in the construction area.   
    Subsequent to drainage mitigation some new landscaping was placed in the vicinity of the summerhouse Quinta Mara including fencing trees and a brick walkway and a complete reconstruction of the stone wall bordering the property from the Hildebrand Gate to the northeastern corner The cactus sculpture in the foreground served as a whimsical utility pole It has since been restored but no longer indicates its original purpose Photo by Elise UrrutiaSubsequent to drainage mitigation, some new landscaping was placed in the vicinity of the summerhouse Quinta María, including fencing, trees, a brick walkway, and a complete reconstruction of the stone wall bordering the property from the Hildebrand Gate to the northwestern corner. The Rodriguez cactus sculpture in the foreground served as a whimsical utility pole. It has since been restored, but no longer indicates its original purpose. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 2016.
     Recently, the towered Hildebrand gates to the property were cleaned and repaired, and tiles from the gate towers were removed and replaced. A few small Rodriguez sculptures have also been repaired. However, although Miraflores is officially a part of Brackenridge Park, it is barely mentioned in the Brackenridge Park Master Plan, and is not included in any recommendations for sequenced improvements. 
    The original façade of the summerhouse Quinta María, which was built circa 1921. At center is a ceramic fresco of mother and child framed by a multi-leveled arch design. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 1980.
    A 1981 “restoration” of the summerhouse, accomplished because of the efforts of the San Antonio Conservation Society in opposing the demolition of the building. This newly clad version of the building bears little resemblance to the original exterior, and appears to be a cement-board facing placed over the structure, with a thin layer of surfacing and a grey painted grid. It is not known whether the original surface still exists underneath, including the framing of the ceramic fresco. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 2012.
     This summer, the Conservation Society published an article in its newsletter stating that the property will soon be open to foot traffic “on a limited basis” through the “restoration of a walkway leading from Brackenridge Park into Miraflores.”   
    A view from east to west in the central part of the garden, this area used to be densely wooded and planted, with multi-leveled fountains, meandering walkways, sculptures, large urns, benches and areas for quiet contemplation. The sculpture of the last Aztec ruler, Cuauhtémoc, was flanked by a columned balustrade railing. The figure has lost his right hand and the base of the statue has been defaced with carving into the concrete. Significant shifting in the garden’s terrain, the loss of trees, and disrepair of surrounding areas are apparent. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 2012.
    A view from west to east. The statue of Urrutia, at center, once was surrounded by a round pool, which was filled in by Incarnate Word University before the property was acquired by the City of San Antonio in 2005. Other aspects of the garden had already fallen into great disrepair. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 2012.
     How to highlight this property on the City of San Antonio’s growing list of ambitious development plans is a mystery and a challenge. The idea of people visiting the garden in its current fragile state is both exciting and frightening.  The possibility of current and future decay is an urgent problem. “Restoration” efforts are painstakingly slow after decades of neglect and destruction.  The garden as it was is certainly lost to time. What remains to be seen is whether we will forge a way to remember it or not. 
    The Urrutia arch was moved in approximately 1997 to the San Antonio Museum of Art courtesy of the efforts of a group of caring citizens Today it too looks to be in need of restoration Photo by Elise Urrutia 2011The Urrutia arch was moved, in approximately 1997, to the San Antonio Museum of Art courtesy of the efforts of a group of caring citizens. Today, it too looks to be in need of restoration. Photo by Elise Urrutia, 2011.
     httpsrivardreportwildapricotorg Top image: The Urrutia arch was the original entryway into Miraflores from Broadway. Miraflores was originally a 15-acre property forming a rectangle extending east to west from Broadway to the San Antonio River; and north to south from Hildebrand, two blocks south to Allensworth Parkway. The property was cut in half with the building of the USAA building around 1960, and then later further reduced to its current size of 4.5 acres when it was cleared for parking lots.  Photo courtesy of Urrutia Photo Collection.

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  • Biography

    Jose Arpa (1858-1952)

    Born in Carmona, Spain, José Arpa y Perea was known as "The Colorist Painter" of figures and landscapes, especially in Texas where he brought a fresh approach to San Antonio painting in his bright, sunlit local scenes.  He was also an etcher, illustrator, and muralist as well as an art teacher, and he started and ended his career in Spain.  His subjects include the Grand Canyon of Arizona.

    He began his art study as the pupil of Eduardo Cano de la Pena at the Academy of Fine Arts in Seville and then spent six years in Rome followed by extensive travel through Africa and Europe.  His reputation was solid enough that the Spanish government sent four of his paintings as part of the exhibition to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

    In 1894, as an illustrator, he accompanied a Spanish army expedition to Morocco where the Spanish had been defeated by Rifi tribesmen.  In the mid-1890s, he was brought to Mexico City, reportedly by a special Mexican naval vessel, to head the Academy of Fine Arts, but declined the position once he understood the responsibilities.  Instead he joined one of his Spanish schoolmates and went to his home in Puebla, Mexico, where his use of bright colors earned him the name of "Sunshine Man."  He became close to the children of this man, and in 1903, accompanied them as a guardian to school in San Antonio. 

    After twenty years of traveling in Spain, Mexico, the Southwest, and South America, Arpa settled in 1923 in San Antonio, Texas, where he became Director of the San Antonio Art School and painted bright, sun-filled landscapes.  He taught landscape and portrait painting and was exceedingly prolific, and several San Antonio collectors accumulated large numbers of his works.  Among his close artist friends were Robert and Julian Onderdonk, Tom and Joe Brown, and Charles Simmang.  They were members of a San Antonio group who painted together and called themselves the "Brass Mug Club." 

    In 1932, he returned to Seville where he stayed for the next twenty years until his death, reportedly at age ninety-four.

    Source: 
    Harold and Peggy Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
    John and Deborah Powers, Texas Painters, Sculptors, and Graphic Artists

    Invited to direct the Academy of Fine Arts at Mexico City in 1893, Jose Arpa opened a studio at San Antonio, Texas, around 1901 and became an important part of the San Antonio school.  

    Arpa studied at the School of Fine Arts in Seville, Spain, and received acclaim at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  He returned to Spain in 1932.   

    Arpa’s work is found in the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Witte Museum; and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon.