Joske’s “Greatest Store in the Greatest State”

By: Debbie George

March 28, 2016

Green Building

In February of 1888, work started on the Joske’s building located in the heart of downtown San Antonio. This store was the first completely air conditioned store west of the Mississippi and it marked the first escalators in a Texas Store. Completed in August of 1888, it was known as the “Biggest Store in the Biggest State” until 1959 when Alaska joined the United States. It was then changed to the “Greatest Store in the Greatest State.” In 1987 Joske’s was sold to Dillard’s, a then 115 store-chain, ending over 100 years of Texas based retailing. It was reported in June 2008 the historic Joske’s building was purchased by the Rivercenter property owners from Dillard’s, with plans to revitalize the landmark property as part of the property’s redevelopment. Dillard’s closed its doors in August 2008 ending Joske’s 120 year reign in retail.

Knowing we specialize in reclaimed wood, an architect working on the renovation of the Joske’s building contacted WoodCo in 2011 asking for our help. The architect wanted to know about the lumber found during the demolition stage and if that lumber can be reclaimed for future use. The lumber discovered was Long Leaf Pine joists from trees likely harvested near Lake Charles, Louisiana in the 1880s. WoodCo knew they could not pass up this valuable lumber and made it a goal to salvage and purchase the material. The process took two years before WoodCo finally acquired the Joske’s lumber and added it to its collection. WoodCo started selling this beautiful historic wood within just hours of collecting.

What truly makes Joske’s lumber so fascinating is not only the amount of history it held throughout the years, but seeing it directly on the wood itself. In the olden days, when lumber was being moved on horse carriages, there was nowhere to advertise, but directly on the wood itself. One of the lumber companies providing the Joske’s wood at the time was Beitel Lumber Company and their motto “There’s a Reason” can be seen on the Joske’s wood. Other company names, numbers and years established can also be seen on Joske’s lumber.

Obtaining Joske’s wood was a true gem to WoodCo and we couldn’t have been more enthused about sharing a piece of history with our customers. To  this day, only a few pieces remain at our mill location, but forever Joske’s will  live on in homes across the U.S. and even in San Antonio’s own Bexar County  Courthouse.

Update: On January 2016 Joske’s reopened after a 2 year renovation, which  gutted its century old interior and restored it with its Art Deco Façade. In its  new incarnation, the new building includes a Dave & Buster’s, H&M, Starbucks  and Johnny Rockets as well as a few other stores and restaurants.