Albert Steves built his new home at 504 King William Street in 1883 just in time for his marriage to Fanny Baetz. The Alfred Giles designed house, built at a cost of $9,625, was located directly across the street from his parents, Edward and Johanna Steves. Albert was associated with his father and brother in the lumber business. Over the years, Albert Steves held many important positions in the city of San Antonio – mayor and vice president of two different banks.
When additions were made to the house around 1900, the porches and façade were severely altered. What had originally been an Italianate style was transformed to an eclectic style. Queen Anne is evidenced by the tower and asymmetrical form. The carved stone decorative band and arched entry around the door suggests a Sullivanesque influence. The property originally extended all the way to Madison Street but in the 1920s, what had been a carriage house and stable was remodeled into a residence and given the address of 505 Madison Street.
Albert Steves died in 1936 but his widow, Fanny, lived on in the house until her death in 1949. Their daughter, Stella Steves Walker, who had been living with her mother for a number of years, continued to live in the family home until 1951 when it was sold to the Alfred Casillas family.
“The neighborhood was pretty run-down when my parents bought the house in 1951,” said the Casillas’ son, Ernest, in a 2003 interview. “I guess that’s why they got it for $28,000, but it was a great neighborhood to grow up in. My friends and I spent many happy hours playing along the river catching turtles and roping snakes. We tried selling the softshell turtles to the neighborhood restaurants.”
The Casillas family was only the second family to live in the house. Because it was always a one-family home, the fine oak and walnut paneling, coffered ceilings, parquet floors and intricate woodcarvings were still intact and as beautiful as when they were hand-carved over a hundred years earlier. Neighborhood realtor and preservationist, Julia Cauthorn, often referred to as “the duchess of King William,” said the house had the “virgin” factor as it had never been ruined by being chopped up for apartments or offices.
Ernest and Karen Casillas bought the house from Ernest’s parents in 1971. “We had just moved back to San Antonio from California after Ernest finished up his residency in psychiatry,” said Karen in a 2003 interview. “I was too naïve to know what we were getting into with a big old house.”
“We enjoyed taking part in neighborhood events over the years,” said Karen. “I believe it was the second spring we were here in 1973, when Carolene Zehner and I worked on having arts and crafts in the King William Fair. With hand-drawn fliers, we begged newspapers and TV stations for publicity. Patsy LeBlanc sold chalupas from Sonora Hartley’s front porch at 306 King William that year. You should have heard the flak we got from the old guard – selling food on the street at the fair for heaven’s sake! What’s this neighborhood coming to?”
Ernest Casillas sold the house to Roy and Sophia Pachecano in 2005 and it has recently been sold to yet a new owner. What happens next to the house, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Source: A History & Guide to the Houses by Mary Burkholder; Oral history from a 2003 interview with Ernest and Karen Casillas; Alfred Giles, an English Architect in Texas & Mexico by Mary Carolyn Hollers George.
- Bill Cogburn