San Antonio Academy Monte Vista’s “Southern Anchor”
First of a series of the history of schools within the historic Monte Vista neighborhood
On the morning of September 6, 1886, Princeton scholar, Dr. W.B. Seeley, stood on the front porch of his new schoolhouse and saw 33 young men walking across Travis Park for the first day of school at what was to become San Antonio Academy. Legend has it that Dr. Seeley noticed some of the boys were carrying rifles. Legend continues that during the noon lunch recess, when students adjourned to nearby Travis Park, they enjoyed a competition to see who could shoot the greatest number of squirrels out of the trees. It is said that the Travis Park squirrel population declined precipitously and that Dr. Seeley was not pleased.
Over the course of the next eight decades, under the guidance of the Bondurant Family, The Academy continued to grow, and in 1968, found a new place to call home: 117 E French Place, a peaceful, tree-lined block in Monte Vista. The seven-acre property housed several notable buildings including the Franklin House (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the Stribling House, Charlotte Hall, and Taylor Hall, where vintage photos of students who attended SAA long ago still line the first-floor hallway.
The earliest students of SAA were anchored by a code that emphasized God and country, character, leadership, high standards and a strong bond of brotherhood. Today that code is still strong at SAA: ”Be honest. Be kind. Be the best you can be.”
Notable former students include: WWII Flying Tigers legend, Brigadier General David Lee “Tex” Hill ’28, whose persona was portrayed by John Wayne in the movie Flying Tigers; Apollo Astronaut David Scott ’46; Congressman Lamar Smith “61; Senior Chairman of Frost Bank, Tom Frost ’41; Founder of La Quinta Inns, Sam Barshop ’43; and renowned cardiologist, James T. Willerson ’53.
In 1995 and 2000, the Academy’s campus was improved with the construction of state-of-the-art buildings, including Ellison Hall, and the Bondurant Library. Today, SAA is leading the charge once again in a new capital campaign to further update the property. In 2014, SAA unveiled “Frost Field” a large sports area. Additionally, a new entry way and parking lot improved traffic flow and doubled the available parking spaces bringing cars off French Place. These changes have made positive impacts to the Monte Vista neighborhood.
As San Antonio Academy continues to improve its campus, we strive to add value and be good stewards to the residents of Monte Vista. The 350 boys of SAA are very proud to call this community “home”. We value our position on the southern boundary of Monte Vista.
Note: Monte Vista resident John Webster is Head of School at San Antonio Academy.