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SPC Students Restore…

Nearly two years of archival restoration work completed by SPC Auto Collision Refinishing Technology students on June 27 has given some San Antonio history a new purpose in life.
Hemisfair Park Restoration Project

SPC Students Restore Two Swiss-made Gondolas

Nearly two years of archival restoration work completed by St. Philip's College auto collision refinishing technology students on June 27 has given some San Antonio history a new purpose in life.

The students gave back by restoring two Swiss-made gondolas from the signature aerial tramways that once flew the skies around San Antonio for use as seating areas in the first of three new parks being developed at Hemisfair. The college partnered with the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC) to refurbish both 200-pound, four-seat gondolas. Students positioned the gondolas for pick-up when corporation representatives arrived in their vehicle at the loading door of the college’s collision technology lab June 27.

The gondolas will enhance the quality of life of visitors to Goliad Plaza in Yanaguana Garden, the first of three new parks being developed at Hemisfair, according to Gary Boyd, the corporation’s senior project manager. The descendants of William and Augusta Herrmann funded Goliad Plaza through a gift to the Hemisfair Conservancy, according to Boyd. Their gift also paid for the St. Philip’s College student restoration of historic gondolas for use in the plaza, Boyd said.

“These are the gondolas from the Brackenridge Park-to-San Antonio Zoo-to-Sunken Gardens route, and they predate the gondolas the fair installed in 1964,” said Boyd.

The restoration project provided students at the college with three challenging semesters of once-in-a-career professional experience, said Daniel Salas, director of the college's collision refinishing technology program.

"I am proud of my students and their professional refinishing work in partnership with the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation team. I originally went onsite to the gondola storage area to meet our partners at the recommendation of several at Alamo Colleges District, and to see if our students could service the old units at their developing skill levels," Salas said. "They were beat up pretty bad, but I decided our students could handle the work," said Salas. "The gondolas my students refinished may eventually be illuminated for night reading, where children who visit with their families from around the world can rest and read about history---from their phones," Salas said with a smile.

Joe De La Cruz is one of the students at the Alamo College collision repair program who helped paint the gondolas. "Completing the gondolas took a long time," said De La Cruz. "The first gondolas we completed were done by two classes of about 12. In my second semester, I worked on the metal frame, painted some of them and put track bed runners inside at the floor bed, under the chairs where the children and parents will sit."

"I rode on them when I was young in '68, when I was 12, and again when I was in my twenties,” De La Cruz added. "Just looking at them brings back a lot of family memories of riding the sky lifts at HemisFair and Brackenridge Park.”

While surrounded by vintage cars and paint cans, De La Cruz gestured at the gondolas and mused, "People should hold onto history like this … These pieces of history did not look like they do now, you could see the dents in the thin metal surfaces when they arrived," De La Cruz said. “[I used] a pick hammer with a point to apply light pressure with the hammer, working on the high spots, the low spots ... Someone worked on a single gondola door for a whole semester, just to get it smooth again. It was invaluable training, and we were giving back at the same time,” De La Cruz concluded.

The gondolas will be installed at Goliad Plaza in the northeast section of Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair, 434 South Alamo St. More information about the Hemisfair redevelopment can be found by visiting For details on the college's collision technology program and related auto archival restoration outreach programs, contact program director Daniel Salas at 210-486-7047,

Hemisfair Park Restoration Project 02 Hemisfar Park Restoration Project 02 CAPTION: Before and after: Two of San Antonio’s Swiss-made aerial tramway gondolas were refurbished and repurposed in an archival restoration project completed June 27 by St. Philip's College auto collision refinishing technology program students for use as seating areas at Goliad Plaza in Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair. In one image, the now-restored gondolas appear in storage. In another image, St. Philip's College auto collision refinishing technology student Joe De La Cruz gives back by refurbishing and repurposing two of the gondolas during the final week of the three-semester, two-year project at the college’s Southwest Campus. Both restored gondolas were picked up from the college by members of the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation operations team on June 27. (Image of student Joe De La Cruz | SPC image by Patrick Evans – Gondola image | Courtesy Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation)
Hemisfar Park Restoration Project 03 Hemisfar Park Restoration Project 04
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