Cathedral Park & the Bishop Jones Center
It's been a run of clear, very warm days during declining summer this year, but cool nights. Meaning that Lilly and Ann weren't dressed for it on Saturday evening when we went to Spring Valley Nature Center to look through an amateur astronomer's fine telescope. So there was a fair amount of complaining about being cold while we walked to the viewing area. But it was worth it in the end, at least for me, since we saw the Ring Nebula (M57), which I'd never seen before outside of photos.
The colorful ring in photos isn't what you see through a small telescope. Instead, the lens reveals a wispy smoke ring among the solid background stars.
During the afternoon of the last day of 1977, some four or five friends and I gathered at a house on Patterson Ave. in Alamo Heights, where one of our group lived, to begin celebrating the new year. It might have been the end of December, but the day was pleasant, and so we took a short walk down Patterson to where it meets Torcido Ave. Ellen, the girl who lived on Patterson, told us this was the way to Cathedral Park.
The property is fenced in, so the gate must have been open that day. We repaired to a large patch of land at the foot of a large hill, in view of some buildings up on the hill that were partly obscured by trees. We sat under a copse of trees at the base of the hill, next to a small, rocky stream, and talked about whatever we talked about. I remember that it was warm enough to dip our bare feet in the water (a cold front in the early hours of 1978 brought more seasonably cold weather).
When it's flowing, that stream must be one created by the Edwards Aquifer that feeds Olmos Creek, which, together with the Blue Hole on the campus of the University of the Incarnate Word, form the headwaters of the San Antonio River. I didn't know any of that 32-plus years ago. Or exactly what was up on the hill, though I did look up and wonder about it out loud. Ellen said the park belonged to the Episcopal Church, but I don't remember any mention of the Bishop Jones Center. Turns out, that's what was atop the hill.
On August 18, 2010, I spent time looking around the Bishop Jones Center and its 19-acre grounds, unexpectedly answering the question about the place that I asked years ago, but had long forgotten asking.
The web site of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas has a paragraph's worth of information about the Bishop Jones Center: "In 1962, the bishop of the diocese and his staff moved... to the spacious new Cathedral Park in Alamo Heights. Already on the property, when it was given by the Kamko Foundation, was the lovely and quaint 'pink house.' Cathedral Park rapidly became a location of worship, rest and refreshment for the people of the diocese and community neighbors. Today, the Bishop Jones Center -- which comprises Cathedral House, Chapel House, and Cathedral Park -- is home to the diocesan bishop and his staff and continues to be a gathering place for the diocese."
During my recent visit, I drove my mother to the center late in the morning and while she did what she had to do as a volunteer for the Episcopal Church, I took a look at the chapel and meeting center, done in a charming Spanish Colonial Revival style inside and out, and set in a lush landscape all around the hill that sports enormous old trees, plantings at short intervals and thick grass. Stone-surfaced trails wind through the grounds and also lead to a columbarium built into the hillside. The columbarium must be fairly new, since I counted only about 20 permanent residents, with space for many more.
Though I took a few pictures, the photo collection of this fellow, who obviously works (or worked) at the Bishop Jones Center, provides a much more complete look at this gorgeous property.
Some stairs lead down the hill in one direction, to Patterson Ave. In another direction, the hill slopes down without the benefit of stairs, or many trees or much grass either. I went down the hill at that point, reaching a small group of trees surrounding a dry, rocky stream bed. I couldn't remember whether this was the spot we visited all those years ago, but I figured it could have been. Then I turned around and looked up the hill -- and that jogged my memory. Whoosh. For an instant three decades and then some vanished. This was the same place, absolutely.