About the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church on San Pedro Creek and Discovery of the Historic Site
After the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas in 1865, a congregation of approximately one hundred formerly enslaved people and free African-Americans came together in San Antonio in 1867 under the spiritual discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.C). They gathered at each other’s homes with no central place to worship until 1871, when they secured the former Menger Soap Factory on San Pedro Creek, establishing the first physical meeting place for African Americans and the A.M.E.C. in San Antonio, and just the second in Texas. St. James, the first A.M.E. church in San Antonio where African-Americans worshiped autonomously and without restrictions imposed by others, became a beacon on the west side of San Antonio. Its ministry stressed political participation, education, civil rights, public service and economic empowerment, with members having served as firefighters, freemasons, postal workers, and college founders. This exemplifies the spirit of the Free African Society, from which the A.M.E.C. evolved.
This multi-layered urban cultural site, which was uncovered by archaeologists during restoration of the creek in 2020, is a testament to the confluence of ethnic groups who have directly shaped the unique culture of San Antonio. The sediment encapsulated under these foundations still holds remnants of the lard used by German immigrants Charles and Emilie Klemcke, who established the first commercial soap factory in the region, a keystone to modern health and hygiene. The cornerstone, laid in 1875 after four years of fellowship and careful planning by the St. James AME Church, remains a tangible landmark of the thriving Reconstruction-era African American community. Though no longer visible, this site was later home to the Alamo Ice and Brewing Company, where the making of artificial ice was first paired with commercial lager brewing. Careful assessment and community input have allowed this site to be rehabilitated as a gathering place to connect with this dynamic history.
About the St. James AMEC Culture Crossing Design Enhancements Project
Gordon Huether (Napa, CA) was selected as the lead artist for the St James AMEC Culture Crossing Design Enhancements Project through a national request for qualifications facilitated by the San Antonio River Foundation in 2023 to design, fabricate, and install a signature work of art to honor and preserve one of the most historically significant sections of San Pedro Creek Culture Park. Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, former City of San Antonio Poet Laureate and Community Engagement Liaison and Poet for this San Pedro Creek project, worked with the public to create community-inspired poetry and quilt patterns to be integrated into the artwork.
The St James AMEC Culture Crossing Design Enhancements Project is slated to be completed February 2025.
About the Artists
Gordon Huether was born in Rochester, NY in 1959, to German immigrant parents. Having dual citizenship in Germany and the U.S., Huether has spent much time traveling between both countries. Huether learned art composition and appreciation at an early age from his father. In the course of his initial artistic explorations, Huether was resolved to create a lasting impact on the world around him through the creation of large-scale works of art. Projects have included art installations for private corporations, airports, transportation centers, parking garages, hotels, universities, hospitals, recreation centers, civic buildings, libraries, and museums. Huether began to concentrate on the intellectual and emotional message one can deliver through an artistic creation. His work became about communicating a story, not just creating objects of beauty. Until this day, much of his work is inspired by the effects nature has on man-made materials such as the rusty patterns present in deteriorating metal. These materials, translated into works of art, serve as a reminder of the temporal character of man’s achievements and the awe-inspiring forces of nature. Huether’s work has been exhibited at museums and galleries, and collected across the United States, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. He has received more than 70 public art commissions and more than 175 private commissions. For more information, please visit gordonhuether.com.
Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson is a San Antonio native and Poet Laureate Emeritus of San Antonio. Her dynamic style’s a fusion of: poetry, hip hop and R&B. She is a teaching artist that enjoys facilitating workshops all over the nation. She has had the distinct honor of writing commissioned poetry and opening up for: Angela Davis, Dr. Cornel West, and Phylicia Rashad. Her awards include: The Arts and Letters Award, 2020. Best Local Poet 2023 and 2021, by the San Antonio Current. In 2021, she received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship for her legacy work on The Echo Project, which was featured on KLRN. Vocab’s debut book, She Lives In Music, was published on Flower Song Press and all of her albums are available for streaming on all music platforms. In 2022 & 2023, she received Creation Fund grants from National Performance Network for her forthcoming theater production with Lubana Al-Quntar entitled, The Seasoned Woman, a production that’s co-commissioned by The Carver and Art2Action. Vocab has collaborated with Centro San Antonio with the public art pieces featuring her poetry: Elevated Melanin, a tribute to that piece is located in Peacock Alley and more recently Permission to Play, a multidisciplinary mural featuring the art of Barbara Felix located on Commerce Street, in downtown San Antonio. For more information, please visit andreavocabsanderson.com.