Picture yourself standing at the intersection of S. Main Avenue and Rische Streets looking east. What you see now is the west side of a C. H. Guenther & Sons warehouse building, but 30 years ago, the house now at 321 Stieren stood on this site. It was just one of a dozen houses that were removed from the east side of S. Main Avenue between Guenther St. and S. Alamo when the mill folks decided to expand their campus in the early 1980s. One other house was saved and moved across the street, sited on a vacant lot at S. Main and Sweet Street. It currently houses Green Acres Child Care Center. The other ten houses were demolished.
The house that formerly stood on S. Main Avenue, now on Stieren, was built in 1902 by contractor W. E. Tietze and had the address of 230 Frasch. (That stretch of S. Main Avenue from Johnson St. to S. Alamo Street was named Frasch Street until 1949.) In 1902, the building contractor sold the house to William Klappenbach and his wife Laura for $2,350.
Mr. Klappenbach was a piano tuner, and by 1926 was manager of piano repair for the San Antonio Music Company. The Klappenbachs had four children: sons William, Jr. and Edmund, and daughters Hattie and Lillie. Mrs. Klappenbach died in 1920, and the 1921 City Directory lists Lillie and her father as the only remaining occupants of the house.
Lillie was first a piano teacher, but by 1922 she was secretary-treasurer of Appler, Schmidt, Klappenbach Publishing and Circulating Co., located at 209 Soledad. She was still with this company in 1934 when it moved to 150 North St. as Appler & Co. Publishers. Mr. Klappenbach died in 1940, leaving his estate to his four children. Three of them deeded their shares in the house to their sister Lillie, who was still living in the family home. By 1954, Appler & Klappenbach Publisher’s address is given as 1022 S. Main Avenue, so apparently Lillie moved the business part of the company into her home.
Lillie died in 1966 and left her estate to her remaining siblings, Hattie and Edmund. The total estate was valued at $84,777. This included the house and lot valued at $10,000, and ten framed pictures painted by her father along with various pieces of antique furniture. Lillie left this advice in her will to her brother and sister: “I wish to caution that the above devises not be hastily sold. It is my opinion that because of its location and other factors, this property is of substantial and increasing value.”
Apparently disregarding their sister’s caution, Edmund and Hattie sold the property less than two years later to William O. Gifford, who rented it as two apartments until he sold it to D. B. Harrell Co. in 1983. Just weeks later, D. B. Harrell Co. turned around and sold the property to C. H. Guenther & Sons.
Lewis Fisher, architect and past KWA president, remembers that there were about a dozen houses on the east side of S. Main Avenue between Guenther and S. Alamo Streets. All of the houses backed onto the river, which flowed almost to S. Alamo before hooking back toward the mill before flowing under the S. Alamo Bridge. Shortly thereafter, the river enhancement project eliminated the deep bend behind the mill by diverting the river from Johnson Street directly to the S. Alamo Street Bridge, thereby putting the river in front of the mill instead of behind it.
When Lewis Fisher bought his cottage at 319 Stieren in 1976, it came with a vacant lot next door. He was looking for a house that would fit his corner lot when he heard that those houses on the east side of S. Main Avenue were scheduled for demolition in the summer of 1983. Lewis found that one of those houses with its wrap-around porch would fit perfectly on the corner of Stieren and Mission, with the porch facing both streets.
Lewis offered the mill $500 for the house which they accepted, but it had to be moved very quickly. The house was cut in half from the front door to the back, and the top of the roof peak was temporarily removed. Three small dormers were also removed and laid sideways for the move. Lewis completed the renovation in the spring of 1985, and sold the house to Jim Nelson in 1990.
While Jim has moved on to restore yet another one of King William’s fine houses, his Stieren Street house is currently occupied by Ed and Bobbie Masoro. The Masoros, many of you will remember, lived at 221 E. Guenther from the early 1970s until the late 1990s, when they sold their home and moved to Charleston, SC. After living for about 20 years in their charming “South of Broad” house on Legare Street, they have now come back to King William.
People move...houses move. Sometimes, even the river moves.
- Bill Cogburn
Sources: San Antonio Public Library archives; Mary V. Burkholder archives; Lewis Fisher