Ghosts of San Antonio

Jake Reinig, travel photography

Location: San Antonio Subjects: Alamo, Missions, abandoned sanitorium, cathedrals, etc.

This post has something like 50 pictures, so give it a minute to load. 

I was heading to San Antonio for a conference, so as I often do I headed out early to explore the area and make some photographs. I really enjoyed the downtown area, and thought the Riverwalk was great. Locals probably hate it because of how crowded it gets, but with cool scenery and great food, it was a nice way to spend a few days.

My hotel was about 2 minutes from the Alamo (pictured above), which I didn’t find particularly impressive. It’s not the fault of the Alamo per se; it is what it is. However, the Alamo as an idea has been this larger than life thing for my entire life that to see this tiny building and very uninspired educational displays was sort of a let down. The story of the battle for the Alamo is, on the other hand, pretty interesting, so take a gander if you’ve got a little while.

As an aside, there actually are basements of sorts at the Alamo, although there’s no place to store a bike.

My New Orleans pics will be coming soon, so check back in a few days!


I have a thing for water displays, be they fountains, waterfalls, rivers, ponds, etc. The downtown area has loads of them, so that was enjoyable for me. On a “Jake’s waterway happiness scale” of 4.5 to 7.3, with 6.1 being the highest, I give San Antonio a 5.9.


This was a store display at one of the local hotels. My picture isn’t very good, but the display itself was really cool. I think the sculpture was maybe 10 feet high.

One of my favorite photography targets is abandoned structures and places. I had a little bit of spare time so decided to drive around some of the more rundown parts of town looking for structures that might let me walk in. By chance I came across this house that was recently destroyed by fire.

I wish I knew whether this was posted before or after the fire. If after, it’s sort of a jerk thing for someone to put up.

This is an overview of the Chinese Tea Gardens, which don’t actually have much in the way of gardens. This huge pond had loads of slow moving koi; I think the place could make buckets of money if they tied glow sticks on the backs of the fish and let people watch them at night.

Outside the Alamo at night.

Southton Sanitorium

My friend, whom we’ll call Shmake Shmeinig, went to an abandoned facility south of San Antonio.  Most records list it as the “Southton Sanitorium,” but it’s also referenced as a former TB clinic (probably the sanitorium bit of its history) a “home for the aged,” and a boys home.  Research has not made it super clear what the proper name is.

Abandoned but not forgotten, the facility has some seriously scary barbed wire fencing around its parameter. Next to the Krier Correctional Facility, the place is apparently well watched by the authorities.  As with a lot of these types of facilities, it’s been heavily damaged by vandals and is being slowly reclaimed by nature. Trash is found throughout, and people have set portions of the buildings on fire. With many dark rooms and passageways and lots of creaky, blowing in the wind doors and windows, the place is not for the faint of heart.

One of my favorite things about older buildings is the variety of colors used throughout. You’ll see this in a number of the photos.

Click thumbnails for a larger view:


That hole in the elevator shaft is on the outside of the third or fourth story. How it came to be there is anyone’s guess.

Click to embiggen:


This building was in bad shape. Portions of it were collapsing, possibly from a fire which had damaged large portions of it. And, since the worst damaged areas were in a basement of sorts, the building may end up collapsing someday.  Of course, since he’s stupid, my friend still explored the area.


This room was absolutely wrecked, both from fire and from the elements getting in. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the vertical beams are completely charred and in terrible shape. 

The “redrum” bit is a nice touch.

Another room with great color.

I spent a good deal of time exploring the San Antonio mission system, of which the Alamo is part. There are 5 in total, in varying size and condition. This is Mission Espada, which is the smallest. For some reason, the front of the chapel reminds me of a snooty buttler. I feel like it’s about to scold me for something.


A sign above a doorway celebrating Epiphany.  The “20” and “12” parts correspond to the year, with “C M B” meaning Christus Mansionem Benedicat (loosely, God bless this house) or alternately, representing the names of the three wise men who came to see Jesus: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. (Fun fact: the Bible doesn’t actually state that there are three wise men. However, since it only lists three gifts, Western church tradition has always held that three gifts equals only three givers. Eastern tradition says there were 12.)


I found this on the side of a building near Mission Espada (I think). I’ve no idea what it means.

According to the NPS, modern commentators didn’t know that this figure had two eyes until after recent cleaning work. I love that for possibly hundreds of years, people thought this was a one-eyed persona. Reality is a fickle mistress.

Mission San Jose (if memory serves correct) is undergoing restoration. As an homage to the history of the site, the work is being done on site using local stone materials. This is a photo of one of the artisan workbenches.


I had planned on shooting the Riverwalk more, but rain was in the cards for the day I wanted to do it. Alas, this is about the only photo I got. Since it has three water features in it plus rain, it’s probably my most favorite photo ever. :)

One of the nights I went to the top of the very tall Tower of the Americas to catch sunset. The viewing deck had lights that slowly changed color, so I dragged the shutter for a moment and got this.

Unfortunately, the open portion of the deck made for some howling winds, which in turn made it tough to get shots in the waning light. I’m sorry my photo doesn’t do it justice, but if you’re ever in town I strongly encourage you to catch this view at sunset.

Thanks for scrolling through this huge post. Look for NOLA soon!

6 Responses to Ghosts of San Antonio

  1. Bobby February 5, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    Best part was the bike in the basement reference. ;) good work buddy!

  2. Christina February 6, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Wow, the sunset view of San Antonio is gorgeous. It’s amazing how flat it is compared to California.

  3. NYC's prettiest blonde February 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Gorgeous! I love the pic with the little girl.

  4. Kelsey Boyer February 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    Hey Jake! Love this set and cannot wait to see the photos of New Orleans. I want to pass along a website that I think you will benefit from. Urban Exploration is a big thing where I’m from since Philly and its surrounding cities are overflowing with incredible abandoned buildings. The site is I have not been on there since moving here but you can search cities around the world for cool spots with tips for how to explore each building since most of them are falling apart like you said. Hope you can use it :)


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