Don Taubert (L) and Jan Prusinski (R) unveil the Texas Historical Commission marker detailing important facts about Belknap Place.
The Monte Vista Historical Association (MVHA) and the Cement Council of Texas recently co-hosted a centennial celebration for Belknap Place, the oldest concrete street in Texas. The event culminated with the unveiling of a Texas Historical Commission marker.
Belknap Place was paved in 1914 using a patented process called “Granitoid,” a two-lift system with coarse aggregate in the lower lift and hard granite aggregate in the surface course. Located in the Monte Vista historic district of San Antonio, the street has served motorists well for more than a century, with some natural cracking, but little faulting or deterioration.
About the event
The commemoration event began with a reception at the home of Richard and Leith Negley. The concrete home, built in 1929, was originally the historic estate of Charles Baumberger Jr., former president of the Alamo Cement Company, according to Leith Negley, who also serves on the MVHA.
The celebration continued the following morning on the grounds of the Laurel Heights United Methodist Church. It attracted approximately 125 guests, including industry officials, local residents, volunteer leaders from the MVHA, political leaders, and others.
From the cement and concrete industries, Don Taubert, Director of Promotion for Capitol Cement (ret.), joined with Cement Council of Texas staff, as well as representatives of the American Concrete Pavement Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, and Portland Cement Association to commemorate the century of service and the placement of the historic marker. In addition to the MVHA and Cement Council of Texas, sponsors included the PCA, Alamo/Buzzi Cement, CEMEX, Texas Lehigh Cement, Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, Texas Concrete Pavement Association, and Ann Van Pelt, a past-president of the MVHA.
More about Belknap Place
The surface aggregate and high quality of cement imparts excellent wearing characteristics, according to Jan Prusinski, P.E., Executive Director of the Cement Council of Texas. Key to this durability is a dark igneous trap rock, according to Bill Ciggelakis, P.E., Professional Service Industries, Inc. He said the stone is slowly cooled lava that is trapped beneath the surface of the earth. It was likely railed in from Knippa, Tex., located about 75 miles west of San Antonio. Several area residents remarked that the street is not only valued because of its historic significance, but also because of its low-maintenance longevity, progressing from horse and buggy traffic, to Model-Ts, to modern trucks and buses.
Prusinski and Ciggelakis presented information about the concrete pavement, the construction methods, and the rise of the cement industry in San Antonio and Texas. San Antonio itself is known as cement’s birthplace West of the Mississippi River, with the second oldest plant in the U.S. Prusinski said. Alamo’s original 1880 kiln and quarry still exist as the Japanese Tea Garden, part of San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park. The cement for the Belknap Place concrete came from Alamo’s second plant, built in 1908. Its smokestacks now serve as the centerpiece of the Quarry Market, an upscale mixed use retail, residential and golf community.
The street was paved in 210 placements of 40 ft by 20 ft. sections, which then were then brushed and hand-scored in 4 in. x 9 in. pattern to create a brick pattern that provided a foothold for the calks (toes or heels) of horseshoes.
Attendees also were treated to entertainment by a barbershop quartet and swing dancers. Antique vehicles that lined Belknap Place, as well as food trucks and a tour of the 100 year-old neighboring church, were also highlights of the event.