Taking Things for Granted

Published in the La Vernia News on May 12, 2016

Taking Things For Granted

The Tower Of the Americas seems simply to have always “beenThere.” But it really hasn’t. Linda Perez recalls the impact of the Tower of the Americas on the San Antonio’s landscape.

New Years Eve

      I  can remember, just like it was yesterday, while driving to work downtown, I pulled over on South Presa Street and watched the most fantastic site I had ever seen. The tophouse, which had been constructed on the ground around the concrete shaft, was being hoisted into place atop its 605-foot high pedestal. When it was completed, the Tower of the Americas became the anchor for the six-month long HemisFair ’68 which took place in San Antonio. But it was not an easy road for the Tower.

     It was the brainchild of a small group of San Antonio businessmen who, in 1958, had a vision to bring together shared cultural heritages of San Antonio and its Latin American neighbors to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio in 1968. Jerome Harris, Vice President of Frank Brothers; Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez; William R. Sinkin, Co-founder of Goodwill in San Antonio; and H. B. Zachry were on the ground floor (so-to-speak) of this endeavor.

Everyday Journeys

   Harry and Linda Kaye Perez

       HemisFair ‘68 was funded by 450 San Antonio business firms and individuals, voter-approved city bonds, funds from the Texas State Legislature and U. S. Congress appropriations. Construction on the Tower of the Americas began on August 9,1966 and was completed just in time for the opening day of HemisFair on April 11, 1968. The event had a broad impact on San Antonio, from urban renewal in the downtown area to development and expansion along the San Antonio RiverWalk. Over 6.4 million guests visited HemisFair during its 6-month run - Harry & Linda were two of those visitors.

       One of the most memorable sites through the years is New Year’s Eve when fireworks are shot off from the top of the Tower of the Americas, which can be seen from miles away.

Tower-view 1

     The Chart House Restaurant, operated by Landry’s Restaurants, is a favorite spot for that special date, birthday or anniversary dinner. Guests can watch the city slowly turning below them with unobstructed views. One level up from the Chart House is Bar 601 and above that is the Observation Deck.

    Bar 601 occupies the level between the rotating restaurant and the Observation Deck.  It has been described as swanky yet casual, but not overly sophisticated. Truffle fries, hummus trio, chicken pitas and prime rib sliders are a few items on the Happy Hour menu. Hint: Instead of spending $10.95 per person to ride the elevator to the Observation Deck, go to the Bar 601 Happy Hour, 4:30-7:30 weekdays; no charge for the elevator ride and enjoy Happy Hour specials at the bar and the view.

    Flags Over Texas: Observation Deck:  Beside the obvious of the incredible views one can enjoy from both the interior and exterior decks, it is also a place to learn about the history of the six flags that once flew over Texas. Captivating murals line the walls with facts about Mexico's attack at the Alamo, French explorer Louis St. Denis' mapping of the Camino Real Trail, Spain's domination of Texas for more than 300 years and much more.

Tickets, etc.

Tower of the Americas (210) 223-3101

 Adults: $10.95

Seniors & Military: $9.95

Children 4 - 12 years: $8.95

Children 3 years & under: Free 

     Hemisphere Park grew up around the Tower and is beautifully landscaped with shade trees, flowers, and cascading waterfalls.  Children can safely play in the water fountains. Party on the Tower Plaza offers free concerts every Friday evening from June through October to hear the best local sounds of San Antonio. This is a place for great free family fun.

      Skies over Texas 4D Theater Ride, included in the price of a Tower Ticket, is a sophisticated ride that takes visitors on a high-flying trip across the Lone Star State. The 4D theater ride zooms in on such scenes as a Friday-night high school football game, and working up-close-and-personal with a space shuttle at NASA.  

      Today, the Tower still stands guard over this beautiful city. The next time you drive through San Antonio and see the Tower of the Americas, you will know how it came to be.  

Fun Facts

·  Tallest building in San Antonio and 27th tallest in Texas

·  Number of steps to the top is 952 (We know, we climbed it - twice)

·  The concrete shaft is 45 feet in diameter.

·  The external observation deck can accommodate a maximum of 340 people. The internal deck can accommodate 500 people.

·  At 800 feet-per-minute, it takes only 43 seconds for the elevators to climb to the top.

·  The three Tower elevators can carry 1,950 passengers per hour.

   © Harry Perez 2012