Jim Mery - Interim Director
The area including Travis Park was once part of the upper
farmlands of Mission San Antonio de Valero (today called the
Alamo). After the mission was closed, the land was sold to
Francisco Garcia in 1819, and in 1851 to Samuel Augustus
Maverick, who lived at the northwest corner of Alamo Plaza and
used this property for his orchard.
After Maverick died in 1870, the land was deeded to the City, and an 1873 map calls the square Travis Plaza, named for Col. William Barrett Travis, commander of the Texan troops at the Alamo.
By 1876, the City had planted grass, installed wooden painted benches, and soon enclosed the park with a white-washed fence. Concerts were held in a fancy, Victorian-style bandstand. The fence was removed in 1891 to improve access, and the bandstand, too expensive to repair, was torn down in 1937.
The park's dense landscaping consisted of chinaberry and huisache trees, ligustrum bushes and 50 hackberries installed (on purpose!) for $1 a tree in 1883. The last of the hackberries was not removed until 1956 when the newspaper reported that "spectators looked on with approval."
In recent years, the park has benefited from improvement projects through the generosity of the San Antonio Parks Foundation, which was formed in 1981 to build support for the restoration of the deteriorated park. Work on the park began in 1982 with a contribution of $125,000 from the St. Anthony Hotel. Other founding sponsors included San Antonio Bank and Trust, Trammel Crow Co., Miller High Life, Southwestern Bell, Church's Fried Chicken and First Federal Savings and Loan. Combined with a grant from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife Local Park fund, contributions for Travis Park improvements totaled more than $400,000. That year the Foundation sponsored the first outdoor jazz festival in the park called Jazz'SAlive.
The festival became one of the largest outdoor festivals in the country. It draws local, regional and national acts to the park. Admission is free. Entertainers such as Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn, Maynard Ferguson, the Dukes of Dixieland, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Stanley Jordan, Gato Barbieri, Nancy Wilson, and many more have graced the big stage on Navarro Street.
With a Halsell Foundation Grant in 1999 the Parks Foundation was able to provide 27 park benches at a cost of $30,000 as well as an expansion and update of the irrigation system at a cost of $5,000 with the help of Home Depot volunteer labor. The Parks Foundation also contributed $25,000 for new sod for the park in 2002.