A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 26, 2008
Venice of America (San Antonio nickname)

San Antonio is sometimes called the “Venice of America” (or “Venice of the Texas Plains” or “Venice of the Southwest") because of its beautiful River Walk on the San Antonio River (that winds throughout the city). The “Venice of America” nickname was formally used starting 1939, when the River Walk beautification began and the city was made more tourist friendly.

San Antonio has many nicknames and “Venice of America” was never a trademarked or officially used nickname.


Wikipedia: San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is the second-largest city in the state of Texas and the seventh largest city in the United States. Located in the northern part of South Texas, the city is a cultural gateway into the American Southwest. San Antonio is the seat of Bexar County with a population just under 1.3 million as of the 2006 U.S. Census estimate, as well as the 4th fastest growing large city in the nation from 2000-2006 in terms of percentage Its metropolitan area has a population of over 1.9 million and is the 29th-largest metropolitan area in the U.S.

San Antonio was named for the Italian Saint Anthony of Padua, whose feast day it was (June 13) when a Spanish expedition stopped in the area in 1691. The city has a strong military presence—it is home to Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base, Randolph Air Force Base, and Brooks City-Base, with Camp Bullis and Camp Stanley right outside the city. San Antonio is home to the South Texas Medical Center, the only medical research and care provider in the South Texas region.

Famous for its River Walk, the Alamo, Tejano culture, and home to the SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme parks, the city is visited by 20 million tourists per year. 

Wikipedia: San Antonio River Walk
The San Antonio River Walk (also known as Paseo del Río) is a network of walkways around the San Antonio River, linking several major attractions one story beneath downtown San Antonio, Texas. Lined by bars, shops and restaurants, the River Walk is an important part of the city’s urban fabric and a tourist attraction in its own right.

Today the River Walk is an enormously successful special-case pedestrian street, one level down from the automobile street. The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks lined with restaurants and shops, connecting the major tourist draws from Alamo Plaza to Rivercenter, to the Arneson River Theatre close to La Villita, to Hemisfair Park, to the Tower Life Building. During the annual springtime Fiesta San Antonio, the River Parade features flowery floats that literally float. 

History
The River Walk was the idea of architect Robert Hugman in the late 1920s. As an alternative to paving over the troublesome San Antonio River, Hugman drew out a plan he called “The Shops of Aragon and Romula” which allowed for both flood prevention and commercial development. Hugman maintained his office along the shallow river, despite warnings that he would be “drowned like a rat” and its early reputation as a dangerous hole (The River Walk was declared off-limits to military personnel at one point). Hugman persisted, and his office can still be found next door to another early presence on the River Walk, the landmark Casa Rio restaurant.

Crucial funding came in 1939 under the WPA and resulted in the initial construction of a network of some 17,000 linear feet of walkways, about 20 bridges, and extensive plantings including the live oaks whose branches are visible from street level.

AIArchitect - San Antonio’s River Walk
Crown jewel of Texas
Hugman’s plan was revised after the 1936 Fiesta and the term “Romula” dropped, but the River Walk was indeed promoted as the “Venice of America.” Hugman’s plan was to transform the old river park by adding a few blocks, replace walls lining the river with terraced, stone banks, incorporate shops and restaurants, have canal boats, and build stone bridges and staircases. Hugman’s most dramatic feature, with engineering input from Edwin Arneson, was the outdoor theater. Understated design was paramount. Said Hugman: “I’ll die if it looks like Hollywood.”

In all, the completed River Walk was 21 blocks or 8,500 feet of riverbank with 17,000 feet of sidewalks; 11,000 cubic yards of masonry; 31 stairways; 3 dams; 40,000 trees, shrubs, and plants; and a vast number of stone, cement, and cedar benches. The final cost was $442,900. Fifty thousand people lined the River Walk on April 21, 1941, for the dedication. 

28 January 1890, San Antonio (TX) Daily Light, pg. 4, col. 1:
WACO is beginning to pose as the Venice of Texas. The Venus of Texas is found enthroned in San Antonio.

5 August 1927, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 1, col. 7:
The Venice of Texas puts on its carnival dress Sunday.

26 February 1939, Albuquerque (NM) Journal, “A New Venice,” pg. 10, col. 1:
San Antonio, Texas, is to be transformed into the “Venice of America.” Shoppers will ride in gondolas on the San Antonio river to their destinations in the business district.

The river wanders through the downtown business section of the historic city. City officials, recognizing the river’s scenic value, have never permitted it to be covered or diverted.

To realize the long-dreamed plan of using the river for gondolas a bond issue of $75,000 is approved which will be augmented by a WPA grant.

Architectural and engineering work is started. The river must be deepened, its banks terraced and sodded, flowers and shrubs planted. it is already lined with trees in which electric lights will be installed to illuminate the route.

Merchants will transform their back doors into beautiful front entrances for the gondola shoppers. There will be flower venders and musicians.

The project will be completed in September.

2 June 1947, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 11, col. 1:
San Antonio, it was touted, was to become the “Venice of America.” having since been to Venice we can only say we are glad it didn’t happen here. In the eight years since the project was completed, San Antonio has more or less become accustomed to its beautified river.

10 July 1955, Dallas (TX) Morning News, part 5, pg. 11:
The River-City, the Venice of the Plains, had the great good fortune of possessing the perfect site to stage such an impressive play. 

13 May 1962, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section 8, pg. 6 ad:
Ever ridden in a gondola...under arched bridges, past flower-bordered walks...’neath tall buildings? You can in San Antonio..."Venice of the Americas,” where a picturesque river runs through downtown...missions of the 1700’s can be visited right within the city...and scores of other historic and scenic attractions abound.

1 December 1963, Chicago (IL) Tribune, pg. H1:
San Antonio Is Venice of the Texas Plains

16 September 1965, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 5, col. 2 photo caption:
Linda Bourland on Fiesta San Antonio’s “Venice of Texas” float.

1 April 1966, El Paso (TX) Herald-Post, pg. A6, col. 4:
THE FIRST LADY’S first stop today included ceremonies in connection with the aesthetic lighting a dusk of the Spanish-style San Antonio river area, sometimes called the “Venice of America.”

31 July 1968, San Antonio (TX) Light, letters, pg. 72, col. 4:
One is drawn back in memory to San Antonio. To me it will always be the Venice of the Southwest.
TEDDY BROWNING.

27 August 1968, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 26, cols. 1-2:
Long known as the Venice of the Southwest because of the winding San Antonio River, San Antonio’s claim to the title became slightly stronger recently with the announcement that the little-known Acequia (small canal) system here will be designated as a landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

24 May 1973, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 3F, col. 2:
Today it’s the Paseo del Rio, or the River Walk, that makes San Antonio the ‘Venice of the Southwest’, and one of America’s four unique cities.

5 October 1975, Valley Morning Star, “San Antonio Plans Year-Long Fiesta,” pg. C3, col. 2:
SAN ANTONIO, Tex. (UPI)—The Venice of the Texas Plains is boasting a head start on many of the nation’s cities in planning a giant year-long fiesta to celebrate the Bicentennial of the American Revolution.

31 October 1982, New York (NY) Times, “A Critic Casts a Kindly Eye on Texas” by Jacques Barzun, pg. XX14:
I see no reason, though, to call the city “The Venice of the South”—why this passion for calling a thing which is perfect in itself by the name of some other perfect thing?

Google Books
Texas
by James A. Michener
Fawcett Crest
1987
Pg.  145:
San Antonio! Loveliest city in Texas, Venice of the Drylands, its river runs right through the heart of town, providing a colorful…

Google Books
Insiders’ Guide to San Antonio
by Paris Permenter and John Bigley
Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot
2006
Preface:
San Antonio is proud to be known as the “Venice of the Southwest.”

Melrose Mirror
Traveling America from Boston to San Antonio
by Jim Tierney
November 3, 2006
(...)
San Antonio is called the Venice of America, the city built around part of the winding, twisting, meandering San Antonio river(131 miles long), with shops, hotels, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, etc. on both sides of the river, called the Riverwalk (Paseo Del Rio), situated two streets below street level. San Antonio (St. Anthony) is the 3rd largest city in the state and 8th in the nation with street names in English, German, and Spanish. We arrived here the week of the annual Fiesta (Mardi Gras) and enjoyed the unexpected events, including a parade of boats and bustle of activity on the Riverwalk. We walked the Riverwalk and also cruised it, as well as having lunch there. 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Saturday, April 26, 2008 • Permalink