While in San Antonio last June, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden. It’s not a very big place, but it’s very unique. This site was initially a limestone quarry that opened in 1840. Many of the buildings in San Antonio during that time were built with the stone from this quarry.
In 1880 it was changed to a cement quarry. At this time a kiln was added to the site, which still stands today.
By 1917 the cement plant had shut down. The City Parks department of San Antonio launched a program to convert the old quarry into a Japanese Tea Garden. Prison labor was used to shape the quarry into a complex that included walkways, stone arch bridges, an island and a Japanese pagoda.
In 1919, at the city’s invitation, Kimi Elzo Jingu, a local Japanese-American artist, moved to the garden. Him and his wife maintained the garden, lived in the garden and raised 8 children. Kimi died in 1938 and in 1941 the family was evicted from the garden due to the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II.
For years the garden sat in neglect and disrepair, becoming a target of graffiti and vandalism. In 2005 the city started restoration on the pagoda-like pavilion.
In 2007 restoration began to restore the ponds and waterfall.
All work was completed by 2011. The Jingu family members still alive returned for the public re-opening. In recognition of the garden’s history, it has been designated as a Texas Civil Engineering Landmark, a registered Texas Historic Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I am so glad this precious gem of history has been saved and has been restored to its previous glory. It was a wonderful place to visit. So peaceful and beautiful.
Scarlett enjoyed touring the walkways as well. She was curious of the Koi fish and they looked like they were just as curious.
I’m so glad I decided to visit the gardens. I would have been sad if I had never taken the time to see such beauty that has been restored to its former glory.