Do you recognize this intersection? I didn’t until I saw the Tower Life Building in the background in one of the photos. The Yates Laundry and Dry Cleaning establishment sat on what would become the old Univision property at the corner of S. St. Mary’s and Chavez Blvd. where today, the 350-unit Élan Riverwalk is being built. The top photo was taken at the corner of S. St. Mary’s and Chavez looking north on S. St. Mary’s. The second is looking west on Chavez Blvd.
The stately Mayer house appearing in the second photo was located on the current site of Pedro Huizar Park and extended well into the current side yard of the Wulff House grounds, current headquarters of the San Antonio Conservation Society. When the Mayer house was built, it was described as being on the corner of Martinez and Garden Streets, but had an address of 101 King William Street. A hundred years ago, Martinez was a short street about three blocks long running from the river to S. Alamo. Martinez was eventually incorporated into Durango Blvd. in the 1960s during HemisFair construction. In 2011, Durango Blvd. was renamed Cesar Chavez Blvd. Much earlier, Garden Street had been renamed S. St. Mary’s Street.
Maximilian Barnhardt Mayer was born in Darmstadt Germany in 1861, and came to the U.S. in 1877 at age 16. From 1878 to 1896, Mayer worked in merchandising and manufacturing, eventually becoming co-owner of the firm Mayer & Adler. With the purchase of the Horner Saloon at 324 W. Commerce in 1896, Mayer entered into the wholesale liquor business in which he was engaged for the rest of his life.
In 1885, he married Maria Helene Wulff, the fifth child of Anton Frederick Wulff. On February 2, 1902, Helena Wulff Mayer purchased lot A-1, NCB 894 from her father’s estate, the lot being between her father’s house at 107 King William Street and the north corner of the block.
In 1904, construction began on the Mayer house. Architect Harvey Page designed a colonnaded façade with two walks – one extending to King William Street, the other to S. St. Mary’s Street. When Mayer died in 1921, his estate passed to his wife Helene, and the house remained her property until her death in 1932.
In 1964, after years of neglect and deterioration, the house was sold to Local #14 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America. In 1966, with the advent of HemisFair, several feet on the north side of the Mayer lot was sold to the city in order to construct Durango Blvd. Soon thereafter, the house was demolished and the entire lot was paved over for HemisFair tourist parking. Finally, in 1974, UBCJ sold the remainder of the property to the San Antonio Conservation Society and it is now incorporated into the Wulff House grounds.
- Bill Cogburn
Sources: Archaeological investigations at the Mayer House by James E. Ivey – UTSA Center for Archaeological Research; photos courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections; SAPL Texana Room archives.