A wide variety of architectural styles are represented in the Main and Military Plaza Historic District, covering a time span of over 200 years. This variety illustrates, through the built environment, San Antonio's evolution from Spanish Presidio in the 18th century to l9th-century cow town, to solid commercial city center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, giving the area an organic, eclectic flavor not found in many downtown areas of this size. The District has been the traditional hub of downtown San Antonio since the 18th century.
Military Plaza was first established in 1722 as a parade ground and market square for the Spanish soldiers garrisoned there. While this plaza is associated with early Spanish colonialism, due, in large part to the preservation of the 1749 Spanish Governor's Palace, it evolved over the years from a community gathering place and market place into the seat of government for the city when the Italian Renaissance Revival style City Hall was built in 1888-91.
Main Plaza was the site of the first authorized Texas city when it was established as the market square for the Canary Island fundadores of San Antonio March 9, 1731. These early settlers built small, primitive jacal, palisado, or caliche block residences around the square, with their village church (now San Fernando Cathedral) and the Casas Reales (now 114 E. Main Plaza), their seat of government, as their focal points. A local government structure still shares the architectural focus of Main Plaza with the Cathedral, in the form of the 1882 Romanesque Revival style County Courthouse.
Through the 18th and 19th centuries, the two plazas have been the scene of everyday business and social events, as well as many skirmishes and battles, with the architecture changing to late 19th and early 20th century commercial and governmental structures as these functions became more important to the area. Many of these structures and facade rows remain today, with commerce, banking, government and the historic ambiance of the area combining to make the plazas popular with natives and tourists alike.