Mission and History
To inspire people to connect with the plant world and understand the importance of plants in our lives.
Brief History of the Garden
Prior to 1877, the eastern end of Mahncke Park was a limestone quarry and details of the quarry’s operations are unknown. In 1877, J. B. LaCoste and Associates contracted with the City of San Antonio to construct a water works system. LaCoste and Associates sold the water company to G. W. Brackenridge in 1883 who later became convinced that there was danger of complete failure of the San Antonio River as a water supply in the event of a long period of drought. By 1890, city residents became alarmed at the possibility that the river and the open reservoir would become contaminated. As a result, wells supplying pure artesian water began to be used to the exclusion of the surface water supply system and the reservoir (now known as the Amphitheater at the Botanical Garden) was abandoned. In 1899, Brackenridge deeded the water works land and properties to the City.
Mrs. R. R. Witt and Mrs. Joseph Murphy conceived the idea of a Botanical Garden in San Antonio in the 1940’s. Together with their friends and associates, they organized the San Antonio Garden Center. Their first major effort was the development and presentation of a master plan for a public botanical garden in the late 1960’s. The recommended future Botanical Garden site became the former Brackenridge waterworks land, property held by the City that was adjacent to the Garden Center.
Funding for groundwork began in 1970, when voters approved $265,000 in bonds for the Garden. This money, along with a grant awarded five years later by the Ewing Halsell Foundation, other contributions from organizations and individuals, and a significant grant from the Economic Development Administration helped pay for the project. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on July 21, 1976. The official opening of the San Antonio Botanical Garden was May 3,1980.
Charted in 1980, the San Antonio Botanical Garden Society, Inc. is the 501 (c)(3) non-profit support organization specifically established in support of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The mission of this organization is to support the San Antonio Botanical Garden in its role of inspiring people to connect with the world of plants, and understand the importance of plants in our lives.
In this public/private partnership, the Botanical Garden Society has brought major capital improvements to the Botanical Garden: the Lucile Halsell Conservatory, the Sullivan Carriage House, the Auld House, acquisition of Funston properties, Texas Native Trail revitalization, upgraded children’s facilities, extensive landscape lighting and master planning. Community events and exhibits (Shakespeare in the Park, Gardens by Moonlight, Viva Botanica!, BOOtanica and plant sales) heighten public awareness of the Botanical Garden. Marketing and public relations efforts are directed toward making the Botanical Garden a compelling attraction for the City of San Antonio.