I want to remind readers of the history of The Engelke/Reifel House, so here’s a portion of Mary Burkholder’s book Down the Acequia Madre. She takes the history through the 1960s, and I’ll pick it up from there.
Mrs. Sophie F. Engelke built this home in 1892. After living there for six years, she sold the house to Adolph W. Hartung, Sr. This was his family home until he sold it in 1907 to C. Michaud. Dolores Wilhelmi bought the property in 1912; in 1922 it was sold to Thomas and Mary Spellessy, who lived there for three years. Thomas and Minnie Vann bought the house from them in 1926.
Mr. Vann had a coffee roaster in the rear building and sold to industrial users. In 1933, the Vanns divorced and Mrs. Vann was given the main house while Mr. Vann kept the house in the back, where he lived with his second wife. Soon after the divorce, Minnie Vann married Edward Reifel. When they moved to the country for a time, the house was rented. After Mr. Reifel died in 1969, the house was made into apartments and Mrs. Reifel continued to live downstairs.
City Directories for the next several years show the house had four apartments with Minnie Reifel in apartment one. Minnie lived in the house until her death in December 1981, at age eighty-four.
Joseph and Carolyn Labatt purchased the house in the early 1980s. I recently ran across an old flyer from Julia Cauthorn’s Vintage Real Estate Company, which advertised the house for sale priced at $115,000. While the flyer is undated, it states that the house was being sold by an executor to settle an estate, so it’s safe to assume that the Labatts bought the house from Minnie Reifel’s estate. Joe Labatt is listed as the owner on a November 1983 Historic Sites Inventory. He is also listed as owner in the 1984 City Directory. Joe Labatt is from a prominent San Antonio family. Many of the Labatts are involved in a successful family-owned food service business, which has been in operation since 1910. Joe, however, is in the publishing business. He owns and operates Corona Publishing Co. His wife, Carolyn, is president/owner of Computer Solutions. The Labatts lived at 107 Crofton until the early 1990s.
Daniel Owczar and Kathleen Mansmann were the next owners. Kathleen was a tireless neighborhood activist. She served on the King William Association Board of Directors, served as board treasurer, and chaired the finance committee. She was also King William Fair Chair in 1995. Dan and Kathleen put their house on the fall home tour in the late 1990s. They had just finished some fairly extensive restoration work on the house, so to protect the newly refinished floors, Kathleen wanted plastic runners to be placed in the traffic areas. To keep people from tripping, Ed Day and I used double sided tape to stick the runners to the floor. After the home tour, we began pulling up the runners and, to our horror, realized that the tape was peeling off the fresh varnish. Kathleen was not happy to have the floor restorers return to do repair work.
Dan Owczar was a vice-president of Citibank. Among Kathleen’s various jobs, she was a fundraiser for Texas Public Radio. Dan died unexpectedly in 2005 and, after a few months, Kathleen moved to Washington D.C. to accept a new job, and she put her house on the market.
Martin Yates and Candace Jacobs were the next owners. Candace came to San Antonio in late 2005, newly hired by H-E-B as vice-president in charge of quality assurance and environmental affairs. Martin, a Welshman, was retired. They both loved the house and did extensive restoration inside and out, but about a year and a half ago Candace accepted a job with Campbell’s Soup in Philadelphia, as vice-president of quality control. She commuted for about a year before she and Martin decided to put the house up for sale. Candace, like several other King William neighbors, was active in the Mission Trail Rotary Club. One of the club’s big fundraisers is operating the King William Fair’s Kids Kingdom in Upper Mill Park. Martin and Candace are lovely people and the neighborhood misses them.