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Another report from the road to Howard Days:
About an hour east from Kerrville on Interstate 10 lies San Antonio, which Robert E. Howard, in a circa September 1930 letter to H.P. Lovecraft, described as “a picturesque town, with the narrow river winding in and out all through it, with its broad plazas, old missions and cathedrals, and adobe houses shouldering modern buildings.” That states things pretty accurately, even today. San Antonio was one of Howard’s favorite places; he told August Derleth in a July 3, 1933 letter “Of all these northern cities, I like Fort Worth best, though for color and historical glamor none of them can compare to San Antonio and other towns of the south.” He visited there on many different occasions, touring the Alamo, the Spanish Governor’s Palace, and the Buckhorn Saloon! But it wasn’t always fun and games, he once spent something like a month in San Antonio doing research in the public library. He wrote to Tevis Clyde Smith:
What a library they got here alretty! A whole room with genealogy nearly. Like most men who have nothing to be proud of in themselves, I seek a vicarious pride in my ancestry.
In another letter to Smith written during that same stay, Howard says he’ll try to look up Smith’s ancestors:
I’ll see what I can do about tracing your ancestors, though it’s a bewildering game, because of the custom, extant among all Western races, of naming so many families and members of families almost exactly alike. My confounded ancestors must never have registered births, land deeds, marryings or any damned thing.
Clearly Howard spent a lot of time in the San Antonio Public Library; I wanted to, too. And how hard could it be to find the public library?
Well, that particular library has 24 branches and one “Central Library” pictured above. That building was clearly not around in the 1930s, and I didn’t have enough time to track down all of the branch locations. What’s a Howard fan to do?
As I said in my previous post, to find the good stuff, you’ve got to find “old town,” which is usually near a courthouse. Since we were headed that way anyway, on a whim I asked a parking lot attendant where the “old library” was located. He directed me downtown—old downtown—210 Market Street.
The building at 210 Market Street served as the main library from 1930 to 1968, when it was relocated to 203 South St. Mary Street, and then to its current location in 1995. The original building is now being renovated/restored and will open again as the Briscoe Western Art Museum. I couldn’t get inside due to the renovation, and the interior will no doubt be completely different anyway, but just being outside this magnificent structure satisfied my Howard craving for the moment.
More later, maybe.