St. Mary’s Strip is a busy hub of retail, culinary, and nightlife entertainment. It is located north of downtown San Antonio, and it has a variety of dance clubs, live music bars, gift shops, cocktail bars, and food trucks, and 5-star restaurants. The Strip is easily accessible, especially if you are coming from downtown and Highway 281. St. Mary’s Strip saw reached its peak popularity during the ’80s because this was when weekend crowds matched Austin’s 6th Street. In this article, we are going to know more about the history of St. Mary’s Strip and its contribution to the art and music culture in San Antonio.
The Strip has been hailed as San Antonio’s first entertainment corridor. Some people even compared it to Austin’s Sixth Street during its peak of success. The neighborhood in which it resides and the location around Tobin Hill was first developed as agricultural land in 1731.
After about a century, a significant and non-agricultural development took place. It was during the 19th century when a series of court cases inadvertently made way for residential suburbs. It was started by the Tobin family members who built seven houses during the 1880s and 1890s. They also lend their name to that of the current neighborhood. By 1919, the streetcar started to reach the eastern side of Tobin Hill. This opened the doors to commercial development in St. Mary’s Street as well as other north-south corridors that are part of the city’s public transportation system.
Despite the decline of the streetcar and its eventual demobilization in San Antonio during the 1930s, the North St. Mary’s continued to thrive as a major commercial corridor that extends from the city’s central business district. However, the construction of the controversial U.S Highway 281 to its east greatly affected the St. Mary’s Strip during the 1970s. Because of the city’s new major north-south expressway, the Strip lost much of its traffic during the 1970s.
However, that didn’t stop the Strip from being a famous place of hangout and fun. Because during the 1980s and early 1990s, The Strip experienced its remarkable first golden age, where an estimated 15,000 people attended an MTV block party that was hosted by Daisy Fuentes. Aside from that, another 12,000 people came out for a Halloween bash that happened in 1990. Musician Art Sandoli released “The St. Mary’s Strip” in the fall of 1985. This celebrated the growing entertainment strip’s new appearance and identity. However, as the happenings and fun grew in this area, the crime rate also increased. This discouraged patrons and tourists from visiting the area, and the nightlife in St. Mary’s Strip slowly began to decline during the late 1990s and early 2000s. When Alamo Heights resident George “Tres” Waters III was murdered here on the Strip in July 1990, further tarnished St. Mary’s reputation for over a generation. David Martin Davies used to be a bartender for several establishments in the Strip during that time, and now a Texas Public Radio DJ, says that crime in the area was blown out of proportion and sensationalized by the local media. Aside from that, a former San Antonio police officer said that the most crime in the area was quality of life issues, like parking and loud music.
After over two decades of turnovers and stagnancy, the St. Mary’s Strip was revived, and the nightclub and restaurant scene along the North of St. Mary’s has been off the charts for over the past three years. The Street has recently been invigorated with an influx of millennial activity, and new bars and restaurants have popped up to complement other older establishments.
The youthful vibrancy is back at the St. Mary’s Strip. And we can say that The Strip is better than ever. It’s enjoying a real renaissance as it goes with the development of The Pearl, the influence of millennials and foodie and DJ culture, as well as the revitalization of the Tobin Hill.