San Antonio Public Library – Main Branch

By the early 1960’s the San Antonio Public Library Board of Trustees began to research options to address the issues with the SAPL’s main branch requirements having grown beyond the capacity of the existing building built in 1930 which was also beginning to show its age as well.

When the idea for HemisFair 68′ came about interest in a new main library facility began to grow as well. The first big step came in January 1964 when the city proposed a $30,000,000 Urban Renewal Municipal Bond. Along with the $10,000,000 for the new convention center complex (built on the HemisFair site) and $2,900,000 to acquire the acreage for the center, the bond also included approx. $1,600,000 for a new main library. With the bond having been passed by a strong majority of San Antonio residents the next step was to select a location for the library. Initially one proposal was to include the new library with in the overall 143 acre urban renewal site being redeveloped for the World’s Fair. However, in the end many on the board of trustees believed the Fair site would move the new library further way from the core of downtown and new location was eventually chosen a few blocks west (closer to the downtown core).

The final location selected was on a parcel of land at the corner of Market St. at St. Mary’s St. then referred to as Dolorosa Plaza. At the time, the location which had been the former location of a San Antonio police station and jail was to be included in riverwalk revitalization. The bond election of 1964 also included approx. $300,000 to clear the site and redevelop it into a formal riverwalk enterance with a new tour barge marina on river level.

By 1965 local architects Ben Wyatt &  Philip Carrington had been selected and began design work on the new library, their final design was approved by the SAPL board of Trustees in February of 1966. Shortly thereafter construction began and was completed in the fall of 1967, minor delays in finishing out the building resulted in the building not opening to the public until early spring 1968. The new building took the library’s size from 43,000 (at its previous location) to 103,000 sq-ft. Early on in the project those involved with the financing intentionally set the budget higher to accommodate changes, overages, etc… In the end, construction came in well below the projections thus allowing the SAPL board of trustees to use the excess funds to lay the ground work to add three new branch locations to the system.

Unfortunately, same as with the library’s previous location by the late 1980’s the building had reached it’s capacity and was beginning to show its age as well. In May of 1995 construction was completed on a new main library, thus retiring the location built along side of HemisFair 68′. At the time I was junior in high school here in SA and lightly remember the news stories about the parade which took place from the 68′ building over to the current location, as part of the parade one book was selected and hand carried to officially begin the move.


Below are press images of the new main library from rendering to completion.

Post Library redevelopment

In the late 1990’s the property was transfered to the City of San Antonio and underwent a major renovation, which included adding large windows and redesigning the south and east sides of the building. Afterwards it was renamed the “International Center” housing several offices. The building now also includes a 2,500 sq-ft La Orilla Del Rio ballroom.


Below are images I took of the building as of March 2018.