Cementville

Imagine for a moment San Antonio is the home to one of the early mini-metropolises in the area. An area consumed and operated under the lights of a twenty-four-hour hill country community. Complete with amenities such as convenient nearby shops, community pool, local clinic, community sports team, nearby schools, and an auditorium where one could hear engaging speeches by renowned speakers. Here some of the most engaging topics of the time would be discussed. These were some of the luxuries available to a select group of early San Antonio residents. Let it be noted that this was not a case of chance, but rather as a result of necessity.

Imagine not even the great depression could collapse this booming community. All right here in our own backyard. Why then are we not the economic purse of this state? How is it that this title has found its place in our sister city by the bayou? Simply put, because this particular community was a community of immigrants, created for the specific purpose of cheap labor.

Welcome to, Cementville, Texas. Founded in 1908 (1924), Cementville found its foundation strategically situated outside of what was then the city limits of San Antonio. Tasked with the responsibility of supplying a vast majority of San Antonio’s cement, it was essential to save on cost wherever an opportunity allowed. It was for this reason that the uninhabited land outside of the growing San Antonio city became the ideal place to cement such a massive workforce.

Consequently, this also isolated the immigrant workers who supplied the labor for this growing workforce, with the nearest transportation hub two miles away. Due to the isolation and the drive for economic profit, the company then known as San Antonio Portland Cement, now Alamo Cement, supplied for its workers everything they would ever need so never to have to leave or shut down.

This was the ideal solution for the progression of the city as well as the profit of the company. Although for the workers it seems to have been somewhat of a situation relative to legal slavery. While Portland Cement provided its workers living accommodations and provisions, both housing and stores were owned and operated by the Portland Cement Company, so that workers were merely recycling wages paid out for labor. Additionally, because a worker typically lived within the community with his family, if he was to get injured while on the job, he and his family were then homeless. Complete with many other amenities needed for day to day life, this tiny community flourished under this minimizing mentality well into the 1980’s before relocating further away from the city, minus their population.

So, what happened to this once thriving company community? Well as time passed and San Antonio’s expanding roads grew, the need to isolate workers became less critical. So, what became of the land that provided so much for Portland cement, San Antonio’s immigrant population, and of San Antonio itself? Today it is simply known as the Quarry Market.

7 Replies to “Cementville”

  1. Thanks for sharing John!

    Just the other day I was at the Quarry Golf Club gift shop talking to someone about the history of the Quarry and we found a black and white aerial photo with no context. We wondered what the Quarry looked like and what it must have been like. Your blog helped fill in some of those pieces. I looked up a little more and found this other Express News article that I thought you would like.
    https://www.expressnews.com/news/local/history-culture/article/Monte-Vista-home-to-oldest-concrete-street-in-7543442.php

    This article talks about how the Monte Vista neighborhood was the first neighborhood in the city to have concrete roads and the oldest concrete street in Texas on Belnap Place. I found it really interesting that the article explains that the concrete texture helped horses from slipping.

    I’m also interested to know more about how San Antonio developed from the various quarries that were an important part of the San Antonio economy and how those spaces changed over time.

  2. Wow! I did not know about this part of San Antonio History until you shared this! Thank you so much. I think it is crazy that this history is almost forgotten amongst some people. It makes me think about how a certain space can lose an identity and take on another. Although I did know the Quarry was once a quarry (ya know it’s in the name) but I did not know that it was basically an independent town.

  3. John this was such a cool story! Very well told and I really liked how you waited until the end to reveal that it was the quarry all along. Nowadays the quarry is filled with shops, a movie theater, a gym, restaurants, all paved over this forgotten history. I would assume there would be some type of plaque or signage signifying the historical context but I don’t know for sure. Wouldn’t this be a great place for a small museum so that quarry visitors could learn about Cementville? Thank you, I enjoyed learning about this interesting facet of Texas history.

  4. Recently, right before you told a little snippet of this story, my uncle mentioned Cementville to me and talked about the possible impacts that Cementville may have had on our city. I realized that while reading your comments that I wasn’t the only one to think of the idea of a museum to reveal some of The Quarry’s founding days. We should look into the history a bit more and see what the city has done in relation to digging up history on the old Cementville. Thanks for the read John. I think this piece could definitely be expanded on.

  5. @Germy @Sara, I think a little Museum would be neat. I was just there today and was thinking about the idea when it came to me. Is it possible, Just maybe, that the Quarry already has the foundations for an outdoor museum? As I was there I found myself driving around (I was lost) and noticed all the pieces of the Quarry’s Past that are placed around the grounds. I wonder if all that stuff is authentic. I motion for @Germy to photograph his way into Mayor Nirenbergs office and demand answers!!

  6. This is a great post!

    The information you presented in this post was pretty shocking and literally made me shake my head. I believe it’d be an amazing project to find out more about the mini-metropolises’ you referred to, and how their communities became integrated (or not) into San Antonio. The story made me shake my head because in all my times going to the Quarry Market, I’ve never once seen any historical markers or any reference to this period. Perhaps i’m looking in the wrong place – but my gut is telling me perhaps this is not the narrative those who gentrified the area wanted to present to the public. It’s quite sad, as the story is truly fascinating!

  7. This story really brings back memories of a wonderful childhood. My Grandfather was in charge of the company store at the time in the late 50.s early 60 ‘s. The store was a long building. Half of it was the grocery store, and the other half was a bar/pool hall. My cousins and I used to go hunting for birds in the woods there. My Dad worked there until he joined the army and fought in WW2. My aunt on my fathers side had a home there. We had some wonderful times there. I think a museum would be a great idea. If you go to the Quarry, there is a resturant there where the office used to be. You can still see a Gazebo and benches made of concrete still there.

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