Old Highway 90 now has a new distinction that only one other San Antonio community has – an honorary Cultural Heritage distinction.

The City’s Historic and Design Commission, through consent agenda, designated the westside route an official Cultural Heritage District on Wednesday after the City’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) staff recommended the honorary distinction, which is designed to highlight neighborhoods, corridors, buildings, sites, objects and elements of significant historic or cultural value to the community.

Officially known now as Enrique Barrera Parkway, Old Highway 90 is only the second recipient of a Cultural Heritage District designation by the City; the Jefferson Heights neighborhood was honored in 2005.

Old Highway 90’s development dates back to the evolution of original Spanish expedition routes. The road became part of the Old Spanish Trail, a historically vital commercial route, which overlapped with the Southern National Highway that stretched from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego.

Dozens of residents and business owners along Old Highway 90 have spent recent years pushing for formal recognition of the area’s cultural history, including a grassroots group called Save Old Highway 90 Alliance, which helped the City collect interviews of people who live, work or regularly travel the corridor.

OHP earlier this year released a study stating the roadway qualified as a legacy corridor for its small business, music, and military heritage.

The study, which included archival research, public input, and a survey, began in January with a storytelling event at Del Bravo, one of San Antonio’s longest-running record shops that opened in 1966.

The study and videos of storytellers can be found on the OHP website.

Michael Cooremans, one of the business owners leading the Old Highway 90 preservation efforts, thanked City Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) for backing the designation. Other residents and business owners were present at the meeting to show their support.

“Old Highway 90 is a very unique corridor,” Cooremans told the HDRC, noting many business owners and residents contribute to the corridor’s economy and neighborhood. “It has a lot of family businesses. We all support each other, and know each other’s families.”

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) hugs Diana Ivanez at an event on Enrique M. Barrera Parkway, formerly known as Old Highway 90.
Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) hugs Diana Ivanez at an event on Enrique M. Barrera Parkway, formerly known as Old Highway 90. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Added Brockhouse in a news release: “The Office of Historic Preservation has done an amazing job of preserving the stories and culturally significant history of Old Highway 90, and I am proud of the corridor’s submission for designation as a Cultural Heritage District.”

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.