Mission San Antonio – Architectural Drawings
These Mission San Antonio architectural drawings have their beginnings in a great financial crisis.During the Great Depression, which began in 1929, the federal government began many programs to put the unemployed to work. Among those programs was the Historic American Buildings Survey which employed out of work architects, draftsmen and photographers.
Photographs and measured architectural drawings were made of significant buildings around the country. Many of those buildings were later demolished, but the drawings and photos survive. Fortunately, the missions have been restored, and these drawings add to our understanding of the genius of the builders.
These Mission San Antonio architectural drawings aren’t hard to read. They’re essentially maps of the buildings and ruins that the investigators found in 1934.
When you click on any of the drawings or photos, they will open in a larger size. If you wish to search through the archives where these came from, you can click here (opens in new window). The Library of Congress site is easy to search through.
These images are also available there in TIFF files which are larger than what I show here. If you are interested in the fine detail of these drawings, I recommend you look these up. Most operating systems have a reader for this file type.
If you are looking for general information about Mission San Antonio – where to find it and how to get there – please check out my main page about this mission here.
One further page about this mission can be found here – that is a timeline of the missions building, decline and restoration viewed through drawings, paintings and photos. Click here for that page.
Overview of the mission site
Details of the church
The arcade survived because it was built with burned brick rather than adobe
While the missions were built with the most simple materials (e.g. adobe) it is clear from looking closely at these drawings that the concepts behind the building weren’t simplistic.
Site planning was essential since there were no utilities to tie into as we do today. Water was, of course, essential for drinking, but also for agriculture as well as a power source as found in the grain mill. Some of the waterworks found at the missions are nothing short of genius.
Several of the 21 missions had to relocate after their original siting because the water source had dried up.
The friars who designed these structures also made use of pattern books, especially the architectural books of Vitruvius, an early Roman architect.
Some of the missions also show highly advanced siting with illuminations – the sun shining through doors or windows of the church on certain days illuminating statues. Check my page here for more details.
Simple materials, advanced ideas.
Details, Artifacts and Outbuildings
Compare this iron cauldron to the one found at the Dana Adobe in Nipomo.
The surveyors ended their presentation of what they had found at the mission with an attempt to visualize what it may look like when restored.
We know that their drawings were quite accurate as seen from the photo at the bottom of this page.