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The 7th largest city in the U.S. and 2nd largest in Texas, San Antonio is chock full of interesting buildings and skyscrapers. One of the most famous buildings in San Antonio is the Tower Life Building which was built in 1929 As the Smith Young Tower. When completed, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi and remained the tallest building in the city until the Marriott Rivercenter was built in 1988. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features a beautifully preserved ornate first floor lobby. The Tower Life Building, along with the 1926 Medical Arts Building (converted into the Emily Morgan Hotel in 1985) are exceptional examples of NeoGothic Revival architecture, complete with carved faces (grotesques), gargoyles, and other carved stone embellishments.
A visit to San Antonio isn't complete without stopping to see The Alamo. The chapel here is one of the most photographed sites in the country, so let out your inner photographer and join the masses. There's also a museum on the grounds where visitors can learn more about this historic battle.
In addition to the Alamo, visit the other four missions in San Antonio... San Jose, Concepcion, Espada and San Juan, all of which are jointly operated by the National Park Service and the Catholic Diocese in a unique cooperative arrangement. Together, this grouping of missions has been nominated by the United States to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. San Antonio has more missions in a single city than any other locale and they all predate the earliest missions in California by 38 years or more.
Another notable site is at the Casa Navarro State Historical Park where the first home of the Jose Antonio Navarro who was one of the two native Texans who signed the Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1836.
Be sure and take a walk in the King William Historic District to see the German architecture of the wealthy German immigrants. Pick up a brochure that describes many of the houses at 107 King William, the headquarters of the San Antonio Conservation Society. Along King William Street, three historic homes are open to the public for tours. Villa Finale, the former home of Walter Mathis, is the only property in Texas owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Steves Homestead, owned by the San Antonio Conservation Society, is near the southern end of King William street and at the end of the street is the Guenther House and Flour Mill where Pioneer Flour is still made. This complex also includes a restaurant open for breakfast and lunch.
The Majestic Theatre, opened in 1929 and named a State and National Historic Landmark, is an exceptional example of an 1920's "atmospheric" movie palace. Imagine yourself in a baroque mediterranean courtyard with twinkling stars above and passing clouds. Traveling Broadway shows play here along with touring musical and comedic performers.
The newly-constructed Tobin Center for the Performing Arts with its slick perforated metal skin, utilizes the 1926 Spanish Colonial revival façade of the former Municipal Auditorium as its main entrance. Here you will find a wide variety of performing acts in two different halls as well as a river-side amphitheater.
Visit the San Fernando Cathedral on Main Plaza to see the oldest continually operating cathedral in the U.S. The original portion of the Cathedral was built in the 1700s and is of Spanish Colonial architecture. Later it was expanded to include impressive Gothic architecture.
Visit the old Ursuline Academy at 300 Augusta Street to see French architecture, including a rare example of pisé de terre or "rammed earth" construction. Opened in 1851 as a girls school, the school operated until the the mid-1900s when the Ursulines relocated the school to the north side of the city. The old Academy buildings have been restored and now house the Southwest School of Art. The gardens open out onto the San Antonio River.
In HemisFair Park, adjacent to the Convention Center downtown, view many of the remaining German houses as well as adobe structures originally located on this site prior to the 1968 HemisFair as well as examples of mid-century modern "Fair" architecture in the Women's Pavilion, the U.S. Federal Courthouse (previously the U.S. Pavilion), the Institute of Texan Cultures (formerly the Texas Pavilion), and the Tower of the Americas ( the Fair's theme structure).
For those with more modern tastes, head toward the north end of Downtown to take in the dynamic "enchillada" red Central Library, designed by noted Mexican Architect Ricardo Legorreta.