Alamo Heights, off U.S. Highway 281 five miles northeast of the center of San Antonio in north central Bexar County, has always been economically and socially a part of San Antonio. The area below the headwaters of the San Antonio River in Brackenridge Park in Alamo Heights was an American Indian campground and haven for many explorers, travelers, and troops; visitors included Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Domingo Terán de los Ríos, and Fray Damián Massanet. Massanet celebrated Mass at the spot in 1691 and changed the name from Yanaguana to San Antonio de Padua. In 1718, with the founding of San Antonio de Béxar, the use of the headwaters was guaranteed to the missionaries and early settlers under the rules of the Recapitulation of the Indies. In 1731 the Canary Islanders were granted similar rights to the use of the river.
In 1836 the land known as Alamo Heights was included as public land in the original survey of the city of San Antonio, but in December 1837 a city ordinance provided for sale of public lands at auction to provide funds for city improvements. Despite controversy over the proposed sale, the site of Alamo Heights was purchased by James R. Sweet. After several sales the property was bought by Mrs. Isabel Brackenridge in 1869. In 1897 her son, George W. Brackenridge, sold the family estate, Fernridge, and 200 acres of land containing the springs of the San Antonio River to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Incarnate Word College is on the boundary line between San Antonio and Alamo Heights, and Fernridge is preserved by the sisters as a museum building.
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