When Cambridge Seven Associates was hired to convert the old Lone Star Brewery into an art museum, the architectural firm tried to preserve as many of the original features as possible while adding the amenities expected in a modern building. The result was an elegant fusion of old and new that became one of the biggest stories in the museum world when the San Antonio Museum of Art opened in 1981.
The next time you’re here, look around to see some of the vestiges of the Museum’s brewing past—many hidden in plain sight—and rediscover the modern elements that continue to surprise and delight visitors.
The cast iron columns supporting gallery ceilings in each tower are one of the brewery’s many original features. You’ll notice two different styles of capital—one more utilitarian, the other more decorative with a floral motif. You may also notice seams along the sides of the column where the two halves of the shaft were joined.
Meant to be artworks in themselves, the sleek glass and chrome elevators in the towers offer visitors a view of each floor as they glide past. Lights on the bottom and top of the cars add a magical touch.
We haven’t counted, but there’s definitely more than a lone star in the Museum complex. Metal stars adorn building exteriors, and the former stables feature round windows with a star design.
Though filled in years ago, a section of track outside the brewery’s former stables—now an administrative building— can be seen peeking out from a swath of cement. During the brewery’s heyday, tracks ran from the nearby rail yards, down Jones Avenue, and through the complex, delivering supplies and picking up bottles and barrels of beer for transport throughout Texas, into Mexico, and as far as California.
The crenellated parapets atop the Museum’s two towers give the Museum its castle-like appearance and have made SAMA’s silhouette an iconic part of the city skyline.
Lone Star Emblem
This massive hand-carved limestone relief sculpture of the Lone Star Brewing Company’s corporate seal is now on an exterior wall of the Cowden Gallery. It once adorned the facade of the west tower—formerly the brewery’s brewhouse.
The steel bridge that spans the San Antonio River just north of the Museum originally connected the brewery’s two towers. Workers rolled beer barrels across it. Cambridge Seven Architects replaced it with a secure, glass-enclosed skywalk where visitors can enjoy spectacular views and snap great selfies. In 2009, the steel bridge was installed on the new Museum Reach extension of the River Walk.