If you like it when James Lileks takes screenshots of locations in old movies and looks up what they look like now, this book is for you. Especially if you browse picture books during sports on television, as I do.
It puts historical images from San Antonio’s past and puts the same location and/or building on the right page with a bit of history about them. Some of the sites you’ll recognize, and by some, I mean “The Alamo.” Some focus on Mexican sites (that is, locations from when San Antonio and Texas were part of Mexico), some on American sites from more recent times. They’ve got a picture of a building being moved back when the city widened one of its thoroughfares. The building, unlike its neighboring buildings, are intact.
So very cool. The images of San Antonio’s River Walk make me want to see it in person; unlike, say, Milwaukee’s River Walk, where they’ve thrown some concrete walkways beside the water and back doors on the restaurants, San Antonio’s River Walk looks to incorporate mature trees and other vegetation overhanging the water along with multi-level walkways and stairs. It looks cool.
So the book did what it is supposed to do: It made me want to visit San Antonio.
One thing about it, though: as a civic boosterism book, it features a number of then-and-nows of historic buildings turned into underpopulated (I assume) arts venues through the magic of tax credits and the like. Personally, I think this is a bad use of space, as it drains the public coffers for the good of a few people who like to go to the theatre once in a while and to be seen in the society pages of the newspaper at a fundraiser for the arts organization. But the book is not political, and it does show a number of commercial structures as well, so I’m only reading into it my own pecadilloes.
Books mentioned in this review: