On the morning of Saturday, October 3, the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) and over 30 volunteers from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Architecture and San Antonio College descended on the King William Historic District armed with paint brushes, power tools, smiles and a mission: to help make five homes shine a little brighter and to bring joy (and a few tears of happiness) to home owners. This project kicked off the OHP’s semi-annual Students Together Achieving Revitalization (S.T.A.R.) program.
Since 2010, the S.T.A.R. program has taken place once every semester and across one or two weekends, impacting anywhere from five to 10 houses per weekend. Through the continued partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Architecture and San Antonio College, S.T.A.R. focuses on providing needed repairs to older homes through hands-on training and service learning opportunities for college-level students and others who are interested. This unique and innovative approach to historic preservation and neighborhood revitalization has impacted San Antonio communities in numerous ways. Over 90 houses in five historic districts and two historic neighborhoods have received assistance; over 950 students have participated in the program, many of them returning as house leaders; and multiple accolades have been awarded to the program for its success.
The focus of this weekend was on five houses located at different corners of the King William neighborhood, all distinctive in their own way: 635 Mission St., 1027 S. St. Mary’s St., 204 Wickes St., 126 Crofton and 430 E. Guenther. Many of these homes have been passed down through generations and hold great sentimental value to the current owners.
Each house was assigned a student leader and between five and seven student volunteers, depending on the previously determined scope of work. Once assignments were handed out, it was off to the races. Much of the prep work was completed on Saturday and final touches were done on Sunday.
Norma Gomez, the proud owner of 635 Mission, said in a brief video interview, “It’s part of the house I’ve never seen even though I have lived here for so many years. It’s wonderful... to see it, treat it like a structure rather than just a house I come to every day. It’s always been home. I’m beginning to love my house, in a different way.” A “before” picture illustrates vines encroaching on the front façade of the house, peeling paint and damaged siding. In a matter of 48 hours the house is transformed: the vines were removed, a new coat of paint was applied and siding replaced.
The houses at 126 Crofton and 430 E. Guenther received a special treat when Master Craftsman Victor Salas, owner of ARTchitectural Interiors, came to the rescue on Sunday with his knowledge of wood window repair methods. Working with the students, they successfully repaired three windows at the Crofton house and one window at the E. Guenther house.
Tina Garza and her husband have lived at 1027 S. St. Mary’s for several years and were thrilled to be part of S.T.A.R. The students worked diligently to repair and paint several screens and replace rotted wood on the front porch of this charmingly pink Folk Victorian house.
The house at 204 Wickes, smaller than some of the other houses, received a new coat of paint on the window and door trim and new paint on the screen doors.
While the scope of work varied at each house, one thing is for certain: with the help of our dedicated volunteers and the generosity of the King William Association, a huge impact was made, not only for the homeowners but also for the neighborhood.
- Katie Totman, Historic Planner/HDRC
COSA Office of Historic Preservation