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The History


During the earlier years of the state, San Antonio was Texas’ largest city. Jack Harris, an important businessman and political leader in San Antonio, established the Vaudeville Theater and Saloon at the corner of Soledad and West Commerce (now the site of 1Watson). The venue quickly became the most popular gathering place in the city, offering liquor, live theater, and gambling in what would later become the “Sporting District.” 

Jack Harris’ Vaudeville Theatre claims to be the first theatre in the United States to use the term “Vaudeville” in its title and would soon be home to the “Vaudeville Theatre Ambush”


Ben Thompson, a noted gunslinger, gambler, Austin Saloonkeeper, and former army buddy whom Jack fought beside in the Civil War, spent the evening gambling at the Vaudeville Theatre and Saloon alongside Joe Foster, close friend, and employee of Harris, as the dealer. Thompson lost heavily and drank in proportion leaving in a bad mood, voicing loud threats of revenge for being cheated. Foster notified Harris of the incident, and Harris publicly sent word that Thompson was no longer welcome at the saloon, angering Thompson further


The Vaudeville Theatre and Saloon was the city’s first business to subscribe to the new San Antonio Electric Company. 

JULY 11 - Thompson, now city marshal of Austin, returned to San Antonio, proclaiming that he was going to close down Harris’ theatre. Harris had been warned, and he was waiting inside the slatted doors of the saloon. Now dusk, Thompson paused on the sidewalk to let two ladies pass, he spied Harris in the lighted interior. Heated remarks were exchanged, and before Harris could raise his shotgun Thompson pulled his six-shooter and fired through the swinging door. The bullet cut along the wall and hit Harris near his heart. 

Thompson turned himself in the following morning and was jailed in the City Hall structure in the Military Plaza known as “Bat Cave” for six months. He was indicted for the murder and resigned as marshal. 

A written battle of words began between the San Antonio Light and the Austin Statesman, one for justice against Thompson, the other defending him. Newspapers from across the state followed suit, some pro-Thompson, others con. Many citizens in San Antonio felt the town was better off without Harris, while others denounced Thompson as a murderer.


JANUARY 30 - Thompson was acquitted of murder charges. Although Harris never fired, he was openly armed and the area where he was standing was well lit. Even though Thompson was standing just outside the doorway, which was dark from nightfall, there was nothing to suggest it was a planned point from which to fire. Harris’ stance of producing and brandishing the shotgun placed Harris at a distinct disadvantage, as it was an easy case for self-defense on the part of Thompson. 

Joe Foster and Billy Simms, close friends and employees of Jack Harris, take over the Vaudeville Theatre and Saloon


The “Sporting District” was formally established by the San Antonio city council. The area became home to brothels, dance halls, saloons, and gambling parlors. City officials did not officially condone the activities but rather unofficially regulated them.


EVENING, MARCH 11 - Ben Thompson and John King Fisher, deputy sheriff of Uvalde County, who were old friends met up in San Antonio while Fisher was on business. Word of their arrival in San Antonio preceded them. They started the evening by attending the play Lady Audley’s Secret, starring Ada Gray, at the Turner Hall Opera House. Later, they went to the Vaudeville Theatre and within minutes of stepping into the venue, the two were shot and killed from behind. Many believed that Harris’s friends and partners, Joe Foster and William Simms, arranged the assassination. No action or charges were ever made. The San Antonio Police and the prosecutor showed little interest in the case, and eventually, it simply went away.

Present Day

With a storied past, 1Watson looks to write a new chapter for this historic location. In the 1800s founder, Jack Harris realized the significance of this iconic location that became the epicenter for excitement and revelry. 

Now, 1Watson will return this space to greatness with the energy that it once held over 100 years ago. From shootouts and ambushes in the 1800s to cocktail parties and social gatherings today, 1Watson is now bringing this iconic venue back to life. Once called the “Sporting District”, 1Watson is now the “Entertainment District”.