I was sitting on my front porch swing one afternoon enjoying the mild weather and admiring the wellmaintained homes up and down my block. It dawned on me how much has changed since I moved to King William in 1979 and how many new neighbors have taken residence in just the past few years and who may not be aware of its history.

So, I am starting this occasional series, calling it “Old News, ” mainly using past issues of the KWA newsletter for inspiration. I hope it will be enjoyed by our newer neighbors and that it will bring back some memories to those of you who were early arrivals when you were asked, “Aren’t you afraid to live downtown?!”

My first bit of Old News started in the fall of 2002 and is about the King William/Lavaca Tree Project. Although not in the too distant past, I am writing about the tree project because I was part of the group of volunteers...

Read more: Old News

The Brackenridge House Bed & Breakfast is a prime example of historic restoration, preservation and neighborhood revitalization. This Greek revival mansion was originally built on Alamo Street circa 1903 for John T. Brackenridge. After a fire burned down a house located behind it in 1980, the two story home was “turned around and moved forward on rollers to occupy the Madison Street site,” according to the San Antonio Light on April 14, 1985. 

Carolyn Cole bought the relocated structure in 1985 and completely renovated it. On October 10, 1986, Carolyn had an open house for Norton Brackenridge Bed & Breakfast Inn. Along with her manager, Francis Bochat, Carolyn provided “scrumptious” breakfasts with lots of homemade goodies. These two entrepreneurs shared their knowledge of King William and downtown San Antonio with guests who enjoyed their stay in the lovely old home and

Read more: Brackenridge House B&B Celebrates 30 Years

The Wulff House, built by German immigrant Anton Fredrich Wulff in 1869-1870, stands at the entrance of King William Street.  The three-story Italianate style house features random course ashlar limestone walls, a distinctive square tower and raised basement.  An interesting feature of the house is a bas-relief in the front gable with a sculpted bust of the Wulff’s daughter, Carolina, done by Wulff’s son, Harry.  The property originally included a boathouse and a bathhouse.  Flooding in 1921 resulted in a 1926 flood-control measure that re-routed the San Antonio River away from the rear of the property.

Read more: The Wulff House

June 26, 2016 marked an important milestone for our friends at Blue Star Brewing Company, who celebrated their 20th Anniversary.  The day-long festivities began with a jazz brunch and continued with games, food, live music and, more importantly, 1996 beer prices!

Owned by San Antonio locals Joey and Maggie Villarreal, Blue Star was the first micro-brewery in San Antonio.  Joey’s love for beer and knowledge of biology got his passion for brewing up and running.

The brewery, along with Joe Blues, the Bike Shop and their newest addition, Provisions market, are now an indispensable part of our neighborhood. 
Congratulations to Joey and Maggie on this achievement.  Here’s to another 20 successful years!

- Josie Botello Garcia

Steve Yndo and Betty YndoBetty Yndo is one of the first residents I met in King William back in 1997.  She was showing my husband, Richard, and me around, as we thought we might like to live here.  We did not buy a house from her, but she certainly sold us on the neighborhood.  She pointed out fabulous historic homes and told us about gathering spots such as La Tuna Ice House.  While not originally from San Antonio, Betty became an unofficial ambassador for King William, known and beloved by many in our historic section of downtown San Antonio.

Betty Gibson grew up on a farm in Stanton, Texas, where folk were welcomed by “3,000 friendly people and a few old soreheads.”  After attending the Baylor School of Nursing, she married Dr. Don Gaddis, and they had two sons, Paul and David, and a daughter, Pam.  Don died in 1972.

Betty first worked in real estate while living in Austin, where she loved working out of doors.  She and her sons built cedar kit houses, ordered from Seattle, in Alpine and in Austin.  Betty went on to convert a warehouse in Alpine into a seven-shop mini mall, taking advantage of a Small Business Administration loan for female entrepreneurs.

Read more: Betty Yndo and King William Realty - Celebrating 30 Years

In the early 1970s, Mary Burkholder, with the help of photographer Graham Knight, produced and published two books: The King William Area, A History and Guide to the Houses and Down the Acequia Madre.  Miss Burkholder, a retired schoolteacher, was a passionate student of local history, particularly that of her own King William neighborhood.

In an age before computers and the Internet, Mary spent untold hours in a musty basement at the County Courthouse with no air conditioning, poring over old, dusty deed records to establish chains of ownership to each and every house.  She went house by house, street by street from one end of the original Historic District to the other and when she finished that, she started her second book doing the same with the houses in the newer part of the Historic District to the east of S. Alamo.  Next, she went to the County Library and searched through a hundred years of City Directories to find out who lived in those houses.

Read more: Mary Burkholder’s Books to be Updated

The Texas Historical Commission (THC) has recognized the King William Neighborhood, the Gustav Blersch House (213 Washington St.) and the Alfred Giles House (308 King William St.) as a significant part of Texas history by bestowing each with an Official Texas Historical Marker.  

The dedication ceremony was held November 21 at King William Park.  Attendees included Mayor Ivy Taylor, THC representative Chris Florance, Bexar County Historical Commission Chair Virginia Nicholas, COSA Deputy Historic Preservation Officer Kathy Rodriguez and many neighbors and visitors.  

“The Official Texas Historical Marker program helps bring attention to community treasures and the importance of their preservation,” said Chris Florance, THC Director of Public Information. “Awareness and education are among the best ways to guarantee the preservation of our state’s history.  This designation is a tool that will increase public awareness of important cultural resources.”  Texas has the largest marker program in the United States with approximately 15,000 markers.  

- Nora Peterson

Read more: New Texas Historical Markers Dedicated

A 1993 letter from Arthur Goldschmidt to the King William Association gives us a glimpse of life in our neighborhood in the 1920s.  Arthur was born in 1910 at 315 Adams Street, known today as the LaCroix/Goldschmidt House.  His parents, Herman and Gretchen Goldschmidt, purchased the house in 1904 for $5,150.  Born to German parents in Monterrey, Mexico in 1868, Herman owned and operated Goldschmidt & Co., a San Antonio merchandise broker.  His wife Gretchen was a teacher in the San Antonio public schools and an active member of the King William Area Conservation Society, forerunner of the King William Association.  The Adams street house was home to the Goldschmidt family for 60 years.  

Read more: A Former Neighbor Remembers King William in the 1920s

The San Pedro Acequia, also known as the Principal Acequia, was first constructed in 1719. Commonly known as a ditch, the acequia was likely the first of its kind constructed in San Antonio.  Acequias were primarily irrigation ditches and, as time progressed, were later used for drinking water and as storm drains. The San Pedro Acequia ran from the waters of present-day San Pedro Springs Park to the San Antonio River, just south of the Blue Star National Register Historic District.  

Read more: Archeology in King William

Our consulting firm, Abasolo Archaeological Consultants, conducted an archaeological survey of the Madla Natural Area property in Grey Forest in 2011 and recorded a small board and batten historic structure that dates to the 19th century. Researching this structure and property led us back to King William.

The first settlement of the area, part of which is today the Madla Natural Area property near Helotes, was by John Conrad Beckmann (1815-1907). A German immigrant, Beckmann was a blacksmith and wrought-iron craftsman at the time that he and his wife (Regina Mueller) moved to San Antonio, with their first child, Heinrich. Their youngest child, Albert, became a well known architect and built the house at 222 E. Guenther St. The Beckmann Ranch was formed in 1852, when it was purchased from early San Antonio developers Thomas Devine and F. Giraud.

Read more: Beckmann Ranch and the Merry Knights of King William

Recently while cleaning out my parents’ garage, I came across an old wooden toolbox.  It had belonged to my father’s uncle who was a painter and carpenter.  As expected, the tools that were probably 70 years or older were rusty and of no use.  However, as I got to the bottom of the box I found it was lined with a crispy, yellowed copy of the San Antonio Light newspaper dated Friday, January 19, 1945.  A picture of the front page is included.  According to the banner, the paper contained 24 pages and cost five cents.  

Read more: A Piece of History

As authorized by H.B. 2208 of the 79th Texas Legislature, the Texas Commission on the Arts can designate Cultural Districts in cities across the state. Cultural districts can be found in all sizes of communities from small, rural ones to large urban districts, such as Dallas and Houston that have several Cultural Arts Districts within their boundaries. Currently there are 26.

The impact of Cultural Arts Districts is measurable by attracting residents and visitors who support businesses as well as lodging and dining establishments. Having arts present enhances property values, the profitability of surrounding businesses, and the tax base of the region. The arts can be a key incentive for new and relocating businesses, and contribute to the creativity and innovation of a community.

Read more: What is a Cultural Arts District?

King William neighbors, particularly those living near the river, often see wild creatures roaming about – opossums, snakes, raccoons and skunks. A hundred years ago, wildlife was even more abundant. This c. 1903 photo shows August Zuercher and his family posed on the bank of the San Antonio River proudly displaying the results of a raccoon hunt. August is in the foreground with his gun, his wife Kate and daughter, Augusta in the boat and sons Emil and William are minding the dogs. This photo was likely taken about 1903 behind their house, which once stood at 923 E. Guenther Street.

Read more: Raccoon Hunting on the San Antonio River

My wife, Luz Elena Solis Day, and I bought our “ruin” on E. Guenther St. in August, 1977, partially restored it, and moved into the house in June, 1978.  We had unknowingly located across the street from Ilse Griffith, age 78, former president of the San Antonio Conservation Society and former president of the King William Association (1974-1976).  Within a short period of time we were introduced into activist circles that were resolving issues confronted by a historical neighborhood adjacent to the city center. 

Read more: Reformation of the KW Neighborhood - A Partial History

I recently visited the San Antonio Fire Museum for the first time since it opened last spring. Housed in the old Central Fire Headquarters building near the Alamo, it’s home to an impressive collection of equipment, photos and three renovated trucks spanning the life of the Fire Department. While browsing through the photo collection, there was one particular photograph that caught my eye: a group of firefighters stood long-faced on the dusty ground in front of their station, with a woman wearing a long white dress standing among them. The accompanying description simply called her an unknown lady. I like to think that she was a fireman’s wife there to bring lunch, or even cooking for the whole crew the day the photo was taken.

Read more: Spirit of Station #7 Lives On

The San Antonio River valley was the home of Native American populations long before the Spanish mission settlement, before the Spanish acequia and mission fields (labores de los Indios), and before the German and Hispanic settlement of King William neighborhood. These indigenous people first established campsites in the valley about 11,500 years ago; the richness of the region with its springs and diverse plant and animal communities attracted people through the ages. The natives never practiced agriculture until the Spanish arrived, never had horses until the Spanish introduced them, and only hunted bison at certain times in prehistory when great bison herds migrated up and down from the Great Plains.

Read more: What Lies Beneath King William: Part 2

October has been declared “Texas Archaeology Month” by the Texas Historical Commission to “celebrate the spirit of discovery.” Among the stated purposes of Texas Archaeology Month is to recognize the historic significance of the state’s archaeological sites. There will be many programs and events across the state that will highlight prehistory and early history of Texas. The Office of Historic Preservation and the South Texas Archaeological Association will be featuring an event that includes artifact identification and other activities at the Harris House at San José Mission on October 12.

But you do not have to go outside the neighborhood to experience archaeological history. A Spanish Colonial acequia system lies beneath King William. Acequias were aqueducts or ditches dug by the Spanish, usually with Indian labor, to move water through the early settlement and fields. There are several parts to this system that occur on both sides of the San Antonio River in the King William neighborhood. The greater acequia network was designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the Society of Civil Engineers in 1968.

The map showing the various components of the acequia system (page 3) is based on the late Waynne Cox’s master map on file at the Office of Historic Preservation. Sections of Acequia Madre, which started at Madre Dam, now in Brackenridge Park, flowed down the valley east of the San Antonio River behind the Alamo and down S. Alamo Street, eventually emptying into the San Antonio River across from Blue Star. A diversion ditch, or desague, fed off of this acequia along Wickes Street to the river at Eagleland.

Another important ditch, Pajalache or the Concepción acequia, followed the path that is now S. St Mary’s Street, beginning at La Villita and extending down to Roosevelt Park where it turns toward Mission Concepción.

The San Pedro acequia, one of the most important to the infant settlement of San Antonio de Bexár, tapped San Pedro Springs and was constructed about 1734-1738 on the high ground between San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River. It was to provide a source of fresh water to the Spanish presidio and the Villa of San Fernando de Bexár settled by the immigrant Canary Islanders, and to irrigate the fields of the villa, which were located on each side of the ditch south of the presidio.

As the villa and commercial activity grew in and around San Fernando and the main plaza, pollution of the ditch became a major problem, not the least of which was a tannery north of the presidio and the butchered and discarded human remains of two Comanches killed in the Council House massacre. The polluted acequia water was the source of severe cholera epidemics in 1849 and again in 1866. Problems with pollution and maintenance led to the abandonment of the ditch, which was officially closed in 1912, although it had ceased to function as a source of water by the mid 1880s. A segment of this ditch is exposed at the SAHA offices on S. Flores Street. Also, the Commander’s House on S. Main Avenue has preserved a segment of this acequia by using the acequia as a planter that can still be seen today.

San Antonio has the longest continuous cultural history of any city in the state. One might be surprised as to what history and prehistory lies beneath our streets, yards and houses, but that is yet another story.

- Harry Shafer, PhD

For many years, there was a corner of the King William neighborhood that was made up mostly of families of Italian decent. Many were first generation immigrants from Italy. The four square blocks bounded by S. Main, W. Guenther, Sheridan and Flores was a quiet, peaceful neighborhood where families like the Granatos, Pantusos, Martinos and Scarnatos would gather on one front porch or another after a day’s labor to exchange news and gossip.

Read more: Eminent Domain – At What Cost?

A 1948 city map shows South Main Ave. dead-ending on the north edge of the old U. S. Arsenal property at current day Cesar Chavez Blvd. On the south side of the Arsenal, the street, which eventually became the southern extension of South Main was named Bois d’arc. Bois d’arc ran just two blocks from Arsenal Street to Johnson Street then it became Frasch Street until it dead-ended on South Alamo.

Read more: A Short History of South Main Ave.

The King William Public Art Committee (PAC) is proud to announce its first art installation! Since its inception, the PAC’s mission has been to further the beauty of the King William area, promote area artists and demonstrate the highest level of excellence in public art using a variety of media. As you may remember, in September, 2011, the King William neighborhood was named a Cultural Arts District by the Texas Commission on the Arts. The goals of the Commission marry well with the King William Charter: Strengthen cultural life, promote arts and crafts and produce events that attract people to the area for cultural pursuits.

Read more: New King William Art Bench

“I was only eight years old when HemisFair opened in April 1968," said Debbie Ray,” but I still remember the excitement. The crowds, the music, balloons, popcorn, snow cones, candy apples…it was noisy and colorful. My family attended the fair several times that summer. I still remember the straw hat my mother insisted that I wear because it was so terribly hot. That is literally burned into my memory!”

“The mini-monorail was a big feature of the fair. It was a high-tech contraption that soared high above all the activity below. It was tested over and over again and on opening day, everything went off pretty well except for a couple of minor glitches.” However, a few months into the fair they had a problem. “A rear-end collision due to brake failure brought everything to a halt,” said Jerry Williamson. “Luckily, no one was seriously injured but a lady was thrown to the ground and pinned under part of the wreckage. As they were trying to get to her, she said, ‘No, I'm not hurt, check on the others first.’”

Read more: September 2008: Remembering HemisFair '68

You probably know that in 1967 King William was the first neighborhood to receive the Historic Neighborhood District in Texas designation. The history of many of the houses is recorded in Mary Burkholder’s books, one volume of which is appropriately named Down the Acequia Madre In the King William Historic District. But did you know that beneath the King William neighborhood lies a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, designated by the Society of Civil Engineers in 1968?

Part of the Spanish acequia system lies beneath portions of our neighborhood. Acequia Madre (or mother ditch), mentioned by Burkholder, is so named because its part of the primary ditch network. My late colleague I. Waynne Cox’s book The Spanish Acequias of San Antonio provides a good source of history and archaeology for anyone interested in following up The Alamo acequia (or Acequia Madre) began at Madre Dam, now in Brackenridge Park, flowing down the valley, behind the Alamo, down Alamo Street and eventually empting into the San Antonio River across from Blue Star. Diversion systems fed off of this acequia to water the fields supporting the early San Antonio settlement and missions. Wickes street today follows a feeder ditch extending from the Alamo acequia at South Alamo to the river at Eagleland. Another important ditch, Pajalache or the Concepcion Acequia, followed the path that is now S. St Mary’s Street, beginning at La Villita, extending down St. Mary’s to Roosevelt Park where it turns toward Mission Concepcion. But these are only part of the extensive acequia system which lies beneath the city of San Antonio.

The term acequia is derived from the Arabic word al-saqiya. Irrigation technology dates back at least 3,000 B.C. in western Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, and this technology made its way to southern Europe through cultural exchange. The Spanish brought and spread this technology to the New World, although many American Indian cultures had invented their own centuries before the Spanish arrived. Governor Don Martin de Alarcon ordered the construction of the San Antonio acequias using conscript Indian labor. Construction of the acequias began in 1719 by diverting water from San Pedro springs. Eventually some 50 miles of ditches were dug, leading to a network of fields on both sides of the San Antonio River. The acequias served all of the mission settlements The ditches were used in the downtown area until a few years after 1870, when the first railroad reached San Antonio.

Read more: Historic Waterways Run Under the King William Neighborhood

That was the year my family moved to San Antonio, so HemisFair was our initial dip into a long residence in Texas. I remember an incredible nonstop hum of interesting activities (sort of like the wonderful LUMINARIA experience downtown in March) attracting everyone of every age to return again and again to the fairgrounds. I loved the intriguing lighting and vibrant colors and the music in the air … teenagers wandered happily around by themselves – the mood of each exhibit was inspiring.

Surprises always popped up, things we hadn’t seen before or anticipated. The mix of human beings seemed delicious and the activities never too canned or prescribed like theme parks often feel. HemisFair felt authentic and bubbling and harmonious and engaging … plays and puppets and voices and films and exhibitions and demonstrations of all varieties. I could never figure out why we didn’t get to keep the monorail, why, in fact, it couldn’t have been extended all over town! It was a delight!

Cheers, and nice to remember …

Naomi Nye

The accompanying photo shows my mother, Mildred “Peggy” Archer (right), and her first cousin, Gerry McIntyre. They are standing in front of the house, which I believe was at 118 Madison (now a parking lot), where they lived for several years. The photo is labeled 1937, when the girls were 15. My mother and grandmother, Aline Cumby, rented the house, and then rented out one of the bedrooms (a “room for rent” sign can be seen on the porch railing). My grandmother ran a beauty shop in the living room and slept in the second bedroom. My mother slept on the screen porch. Peggy Archer graduated from Brackenridge High School in 1939. Eventually she worked at Joske’s, where she met my father. My father, John Salling, had another near- King William connection. His father, uncles, and grandfather owned a small “chain” of grocery stores, numbering 5 or 6 at one point. Sallings Grocery #3 was located at 1111 S. Presa. The building is still there, and is now AAA Freight Salvage. The “chain” went out of business in 1942; the Butt family moved into one of the locations, on Broadway, as they expanded their grocery business into San Antonio.

Nancy Salling Diehl

I applied for a job at Hemisfair when I was a senior at Incarnate Word High School. I was sure that I would get some fancy guide job and wear a really cool uniform but the Personnel Department had other plans for my skills. I was hired to sell soft ice cream cones for 25 cents plus 1 cent tax. Lots of people sure griped about that 1 cent tax. My uniform was a red and white striped shirt – so much for cool.

Every evening after the shop closed, we had to clean out the soft ice cream vats with bleach and water. It was a nasty job. First thing the next morning, we would rinse the machines out, pour in the ice cream mixture, then dispense about a cup of soft ice cream to get rid of any bleachy residue.

One weekend morning, we were stormed by folks wanting soft ice cream cones. I forgot to throw away that initial cup of ice cream. Instead, our first customers got bleachy soft ice cream cones. They never came back to the stand, and I’ll bet they never ate another soft ice cream cone in Texas. To this day I gag when I see a soft ice cream cone!

Despite the heat and crazy tourists, I met some really cool people and had a lot of fun. The money I made helped pay my tuition at Louisiana State University where I went to follow my first real love. That begins another wild and crazy chapter in my life. I am still living in Louisiana but plan to retire to my childhood home on E. Guenther. My life has certainly made one enormous circle. I look forward to being a Texan again.

Jane L. Bowles

…where Tito’s Mexican Café is currently located on S. Alamo was once the A&E Grocery. It operated in that location for many years, well into the 1990’s. It had wooden floors and a meat counter in the back. The owner offered credit to his customers. Late on Fridays, payday I guess, customers would line up to pay on their accounts. The owner kept their accounts on small pads neatly arranged in a wooden box behind the front counter.

Alan Cash


…there were all sorts of little shops and stores in the neighborhood back in the 1940’s. The Red & White Grocery was on the corner of Beauregard and S. Alamo. The Garden Fruit Store was where Rosario’s is now. Of course, St. Mary’s was once called Garden Street. Farther south on St. Mary’s, there was a bakery, Piggly Wiggly grocery store and Winn’s, which was a five & dime.

....At the corner of S. Alamo and St. Mary’s, there was Sommer’s Rexall Drug Store complete with soda fountain. Jordan Ford Co. was also located at that intersection where Goodyear is now. Johnny’s Barbershop, where my son Michael got his first haircut, was across from Jordan Ford.

Evelyn Barker


…when we would look down the street on the morning of the King William Fair or Home Tour to see if ANYONE might be coming to the event. The streets would be empty except for residents.

Carolene Zehner

…about 202 Madison’s infamous past. When I moved in next door in 1979, Cecil Reynolds, the owner, told me that it had once been a brothel. He invited me down to the half-basement which had a long hallway down the middle with rooms 1 through 6 on one side and 7 through 12 on the other. The numbers over the doorways were in black lettering on green tiles.

Alan Cash


…when we were growing up at our house on W. Johnson Street. Our property backed right up to the river back then. Our Dad had a boat dock at the base of a huge tree on the bank of the river. He had a wooden boat with a Johnson 3 hp outboard motor. We’d cruise up and down the river in that boat. We could go south only as far as the S. Alamo dam, but we could go up river almost to town since the Nueva St. dam didn’t exist back then. Dad told us that he could remember a time when he would see guards with guns posted around the perimeter of the U.S. Arsenal (now H-E-B headquarters). The guards would sometimes stop him and make him turn around and go back down river.

When they realigned the river in the late 1960’s and took out the bend that went behind the Guenther Mill, we no longer had the river at our backyard. Our mother was sad for a long time. Not only did they take away our part of the river but they cut down that magnificent tree.

Marco Botello


…when Pioneer Flour Mill would have enormous trailer trucks lined up overnight with their motors running waiting to deliver grain to the mill. They would line up on King William, Main and Guenther. That was before they purchased and developed the area behind the mill.

Carolene Zehner

…when we’d walk from our house on Mission Street to St. Mary’s to catch the street car. That was the Hot Wells line which crossed over to Presa Street then ran south out to the Hot Wells Hotel. That was a very popular place years ago, up to the 20’s and 30’s – maybe even later. Many famous people went there to take the hot sulfur baths. Back then, St. Mary’s was called Garden Street. We’d also ride the streetcar on Mill Street which is now South Alamo.

Selma Nuessle


…the ruckus that was caused in the neighborhood when the Father Hidalgo mural suddenly appeared in the early 1980’s without benefit of proper approval. It depicted Father Hidalgo leading the Diez y Seis de Septiembre revolt and was prominently displayed on the south wall of the old A&E Food market (now Tito’s) at the corner of South Alamo and Beauregard.

Originally painted as a backdrop for a Budweiser advertising poster, it showed, in vivid color, the Father literally ripping apart the chains of oppression. Some say that Walter Mathis, arbiter of neighborhood decorum, turned the color of plum jelly when he saw it.

It remained a controversial subject among several of the neighborhood folks for a long time but eventually the opposition either got used to it or lost the will to fight. It was still on the wall until about five or six years ago when new tenants decided to whitewash over it. By then, it had become such a neighborhood icon that many of us were bitterly disappointed to see it gone.

Bill Cogburn


…when Bonham Elementary had only one large pecan tree and three bushes out front –the rest of the campus was asphalt and gravel.

Carolene Zehner

October 6, 2008, marks the 40th anniversary of the closing of HemisFair ‘68. I plan for this essay to be the first of a series about HemisFair. In ‘68, I had just graduated from Texas Tech, and started training for my position as Bi-Lingual Official Guide that January. I have great memories and I remember so many excellent, and eye-opening, events.

The fair was characterized as a “Jewel Box.” Our attendance was strong, and everyone was charmed by the fabulous foreign, domestic, and artistic pavilions. We had an international food court, water-skiing in the lake, daily parades and a myriad of unique events. Remarkable shows were the Bolshoi Ballet, Fiddler on the Roof, Verdi’s opera, Don Carlo, Ray Charles, and many more.

Read more: October 2008: Remembering HemisFair '68

...Mission Street, when it was just a dusty dirt road with horses hitched to wagons passing up and down. That’s the way I remember it when I was growing up.

When our father bought our house at 422 Mission Street in 1908, it only had four rooms, two on either side of the hall. My sister and I were both born in this house; Mildred in 1911 then me in 1916. Our father eventually enlarged the house by adding a kitchen, bath and another bedroom but we still had the outhouse out back for many years. The only heat in the winter was from a big iron stove in the kitchen. I remember always having electricity but we kept the kerosene lamps out on the tables for years because electric service wasn’t very dependable.

Eddie and Elfreida Basse lived across the street. Eddie and his brother had a hardware store on Military Plaza across from City Hall.

Selma Nuessle


…how O’Neil Ford loved his old vintage cars. One Sunday afternoon on our way home from church, we passed by O’Neil’s office on King William Street and there he was, polishing his 1923 Bentley. I’m nuts about vintage cars so I stopped to admire it. O’Neil held up the keys to the car and said, “Here, take it for a spin.” I was so taken aback that I declined and I’ve kicked myself ever since for not taking that Bentley around the block.

Richard Garza


…in the 1980’s when the old Reilly House that was at 230 Madison Street burned to the ground, taking with it six elderly tenants. In the late 80’s, the house directly behind on South Alamo was turned around and moved to the vacant site on Madison to become the Brackenridge House B&B. When the house faced South Alamo, it could best be described as a flop house with residents sleeping on the porch and the front yard strewn with beer and whisky bottles.

Alan Cash


…when Walter Mathis would drive around the neighborhood checking out the condition of the lawns. If your grass was getting a bit overgrown, he’d stop and tell you to take care of it.

Bill Cogburn


…when Don Lee checked your tires, washed your windshield and filled your car with gas at the Gulf Station at the corner of King William and South St. Mary’s Street.

Carolene Zehner

…the year that the fair was almost rained out -- sometime in the late 1990’s. It had been raining off and on all the night before and was still raining when the parade started. To ease the tension and put the best face on what was beginning to look like an absolute disaster, the fair cochairs, Lola Austin and Lynn Dickey, went home and put on their swim suits and rode in the fair parade on top of open convertibles, hamming it up like bathing beauties. About eleven o’clock when the parade was almost over, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Although attendance was down that year, many of the fairgoers who persevered said it was the best fair in years because it wasn’t so crowded.

Bill Cogburn


…when Christine Carvajal was the Grand Marshall of the 2001 King William Fair Parade. She was absolutely thrilled with the honor and went right out a bought a new dress and a pair of red shoes for the occasion.

Bill Cogburn


…when Rayford Dobie talked me into chairing the first King William Fair back in 1967. The first fair was from 1 to 5 on a Saturday afternoon and was really just a home-made event. Neighborhood volunteers nailed together craft stands and set them up in yards along King William Street.

Back then, the fair was just arts and crafts – no food or beverages. The neighborhood association received 10% of sales and we netted $35.55 that first year. The next year, the proceeds were up to $47.15. I think Julian Trevino’s father had a tamale booth that year and we made about $10 off that.

Mary Schug


…when I moved here in 1979, neighborhood volunteers were still making all the food booths for the fair. For weeks preceding the fair, the booths were banged together with 2 x 4’s and plywood on the lot which is now the garden for the King William Lofts on Madison Street. Very early on the day of the fair, they were trucked, one by one, out to the street. After the fair was over, it took us a month to disassemble the booths and we always stored them in the Masaro’s barn. I think we were constructing about fifteen booths at the height of this madness before we finally had the good sense to have the job contracted out. The Masaro’s old rustic barn, by the way, has since been beautifully restored into a guest cottage on the river behind 221 E. Guenther.

Alan Cash


…I think it was 1973, the second spring that Ernest and I were back in the neighborhood when Carolene Zehner and I were doing publicity for the King William Fair. We had hand-drawn fliers and we begged newspapers and TV stations for publicity. That was the year that Patsy LeBlanc sold chalupas from Sonora Hartley’s front porch. You should have heard the flak we got from the neighborhood old guard – selling food at the fair for heaven’s sake! What’s this neighborhood coming to!

Karen Casillas


…at one of the early King William Fair planning sessions, everyone agreed that we really must have rest room facilities for the fairgoers. The association didn’t have the money to rent port-a-potties so Hazel and I volunteered our house as a rest stop. ‘How bad could it be?’ we said to each other. Well….on fair day, we quickly found out just how bad it could be! It was absolutely awful! We spent days cleaning up that mess.

Al Conner


…one of my fondest memories of “Batt” Batterson was chauffeuring him in the Red Beetle when he was Parade Grand Marshall in the 1983 King William Fair.

Ralph Wells

 …on a warm summer evening when we would be sitting on our front porch, we’d sometimes hear singing coming from a church camp meeting down on the river where Constance Street meets Crofton. This must have been back in the 30’s. These folks would drive their cars off the road by the Brooks house down a path to the river’s edge and set up their tents. Some would be in cars but some would be in wagons pulled by horses. They might be there for two or three days. When they had baptisms, there would be a lot of shouting and wailing.

Mildred Nuessle


…when the San Antonio River was just a narrow stream where it ran through the Arsenal area. It was overgrown with trees and bushes and was a permanent home to lots of “campers.”

Caroline Zehner


…when the river was my playground as I was growing up. The neighborhood kids would spend hours and hours playing and exploring along the banks of our river. Back then, it was a winding, natural wooded area, not the straightened cemented channel you see today. All the flood control work started in the late 1960’s. The original river circled behind the Guenther Mill where a dam formed a deep pool for the old water wheel. We’d go back there for the best fishing.

Richard Garza


…when Bobbie Masoro fished the half-drowned dog out of the river behind her house at 221 E. Guenther. Unfortunately, that dog had serious behavioral problems, probably from being abused. Even after many sessions with a trainer, she was never socialized, but Ed and Bobbie were crazy about her and showered her with love and affection until the day she died. Her name was “Beauty” – a definite misnomer.

Bill Cogburn


…before the 1960’s when you could drive across theriver at Johnson Street on a vehicular bridge. After the river realignment was completed, there was no bridge at all, just a dead-end street. It was another sixteen years, in the mid 1980’s before the pedestrian bridge that you see today was installed. It’s often referred to as the O. Henry Bridge as the spires of the bridge once stood on the old Commerce Street Bridge which inspired O. Henry’s short story, "A Fog in Santone."

Henry Botello


…when my husband, Humberto and I moved into our house on Washington Street in 1963, our dead-end of the street was just a dusty road – muddy when it rained. No curbing, and from the road, it sloped down to a primitive, meandering river. The area between the house and the river was an overgrown tangle of trees and vines. I was determined to clear that jungle and after a lot of work and several attacks of poison ivy, I finally had a beautiful picnic area and with the addition of tables and benches, it became a favorite spot for family cook-outs. Church and school groups and neighbors often had their parties on the grass under those huge pecan trees.

Elvira Ramirez

..…the little shop which sits diagonally on the corner of S. Alamo and Beauregard for years was Tiende Guadalupe but before that, it was a popular neighborhood bar called “The Friendly Spot.” They had live music and attracted large crowds, especially on weekends. For a while, the crowds were so large that they would ice the beer down in the back of a pickup truck. Many neighbors remember the place with fondness but to others it was merely an irritant because of the loud music.

Alan Cash


. . . . O’Neil Ford had lunch in our restaurant every day for years. One morning, he came in early to speak to my husband, Julian. “I’m going to be bringing some important people for lunch today”, he said. “They’re from Europe and they’re considering me for a big commission so I want everything to be really special.”

The food was good and the service attentive. When presented with the check, Ford pulled out his check book and wrote out a check for the meal adding a generous gratuity, all done with a flourish. My husband took the check, then leaned close to Ford’s ear and whispered loud enough for everyone at the table to hear, “Mr. Ford, do you want me to hold this check for two weeks like last time?” My husband was always joking. It didn’t matter who they were.

Mary Trevino


..…when the monthly King William meetings were held in the house behind the Girl Scout Headquarters on King William Street (now Charles Butt’s house). We met there even during Girl Scout cookie season – cookies stacked five and six feet high. The aroma was delightful torture!

Carolene Zehner


..…back in the 1950’s when I attended grade school at St. Joseph’s downtown. The school was on Commerce Street just past Dillard’s – back then, it was Joske’s. Every morning, the nuns would line us up and march us to mass next door to the church. If you’ve seen the movie The Bells of St. Mary’s you get the picture

Ernest Casillas

…the house at 322 Washington Street began its life in 1901 on the near north side at the SW corner of E. Elmira and Lexington Streets as a two story, gabled yellow brick Victorian. In the 1940’s, Worthy Wolff operated his restaurant and night club in the house. In 1951, to make way for the Pan Am Expressway, the brick was removed and the structure was cut into four sections and moved to Washington Street. At the new location, it was reassembled, stuccoed over and given a Mediterranean look. If you’ve walked by the house lately, you will see that it has gone through yet another transformation – back to its Victorian look of a hundred years ago.

Bill Cogburn

…the big flood of 1921. When the water finally began to subside, our whole family, with my baby brother Joe in the baby carriage, walked along the river all the way downtown to see the damage. There was all kinds of debris floating down the river; furniture, lumber, even a piano bouncing along in the water. Bridges were crumpled. Houston Street was several feet under water. On the way back, we stopped at our grandparent’s house on North Street, which is now a part of Hemisfair Park. They lived next door to Riebe’s Mortuary where flood victims were lined up on the porch.

Selma Nuessle

…in the mid 1930’s when there was an ice cream parlor on the corner of S. Presa and Callahan Streets where Sandy’s Beauty Salon is now. They had many flavors to choose from and we felt it was such a treat for our dad to take us there and treat us to an ice cream cone of any flavor of our choice.

Julie Medina

…when parking problems in the neighborhood were caused, not by First Friday but by the Food Stamp Office housed on S. Alamo. Back then, everyone eligible for the program had to get in line once or twice a month, missing work for the day, to receive their allotment. This one office served the whole city.

…if you remember when Walter just had one house.

Carolene Zehner

In response to April’s “Old Timer” feature:

Bill Cogburn’s story about the burning of the Maurer-Fry Houses on Madison brought back the vivid memory of being awakened to screaming sirens and a flaming sky. The awareness of what was burning was immediate – we had all feared that those houses would be lost.

I made it to my porch just as Eddie Polk came rushing thru the front gate. I’m recalling that he had a mop in his hand but maybe I made that up. Our house’s first major improvement, a new cedar shingle roof, had just been completed. Eddie, at the time, was the only insurance man in town willing to insure our “wreck”. He was sweating his decision to insure us and willing to climb up and douse sparks to protect his business and, in the process, our house. What a unique neighborhood it was.

Jessie Simpson

…in the mid-80’s when La Focaccia Italian Grill was a muffler shop. I remember driving in there, not to get a pizza but to have a new muffler installed on my car

Alan Cash


…back in 1972 when Hazel and I were in the process of moving into our new place on King William Street. We had just arrived in town from Virginia – been driving all day; me pulling a trailer and Hazel driving our car. I was dog tired after a long day on the road so I walked out to the street to stretch my legs when this guy walked up and said, “Do you like good Mexican food?” “I sure do,” I replied. “The best Mexican food in San Antonio is just down the street at a place called El Mirador,” he said. When Hazel and I got around to going there to eat, I recognized this same fellow. Then he introduced himself as Julian Trevino.

Al Conner


…when the two old mansions in the 300 Block of Madison burned to the ground in the late 1980’s. Shortly before they burned, they were used as a setting for a chase scene in the 1987 movie, Nadine starring Jeff Bridges and Kim Bassinger. At first, the neighbors thought it was exciting to have the film crew working in the neighborhood but after a few days of equipment noise, bright lights and trash, many were wishing they would go back to Hollywood.

Bill Cogburn

If you live on E. Guenther, did you know that in 1880’s, your street was named Ewell? I didn’t until I was searching through the 1882 City Directory trying to locate August Biesenbach, the builder of our house.

I found him alright, but he was living at the corner of King William and Ewell Streets. By 1889, the Guenther Mill family had evidently prevailed to have the street name changed to Guenther. Also, the 1889 map shows that S. Alamo was called Mill Street and Sheridan was named Lee Street. Even earlier, in the 1870’s, Sheridan was called Chabot, named for the Chabot family who lived on the corner at Madison Street.

The 1889 map shows Vine Street running along the north side of Bonham Elementary, which is now a parking lane for the school. S. St. Mary’s was Garden Street and Durango was Victoria Street. On a 1909 map, the lower three blocks of Cedar from where it jogs near Claudia was called Henrietta and Eagleland was of course called Temple Street.

Most historians seem to agree that Ernst Altgelt gave King William Street its name in honor of the Prussian ruler, Wilhelm I. The street name was changed to Pershing during WWI, in the interest of political correctness, no doubt. In spite of what you may overhear the tour guides say, the street was never named Kaiser Wilhelm Street.

Bill Cogburn

….the house that is now the King William Manor [formerly the Columns B&B] on S. Alamo, until sometime in the late 1990’s was a used book store. The house next door, now nicely restored, had a concrete block addition on the front which housed an auto parts store. A fledgling theatre group eventually took over the space in the late 90’s calling themselves Jump Start Theatre. Now, of course, they are a well established and respected performance company located at Blue Star.

Alan Cash


.…Joan and I have lived in King William since 1976 and we’ve never felt threatened or bothered in the least by problems that seem to face many inner city neighborhoods. But then, we were not here in the bad old days when this was essentially a red light district and crime was more of a problem.

John Larcade and I did take a walk through the Madison Apts. in the late 1970’s and actually saw residents shooting up in the hallway and in one of the rooms where the door had been left open. We reported this to the police and learned shortly thereafter that the chief of police actually owned the apartments at that time.

Thanks to the vigilance and hard work of fellow residents and Walter Mathis’ leadership, the police agreed to patrol regularly. Soon thereafter, the ownership of the Madison Apts. changed hands and things began to get better.

Our biggest problem today is the spin-off from first Friday and the trash left over from the Fair. No big deal compared to what this neighborhood was like thirty-five years ago.

Gates Whiteley


….when China Latina on S. Alamo was Rosario’s or even earlier when it was a car repair shop. I took Maggie Egan to lunch there one day soon after Rosario’s opened and she laughed when she saw that our table was sitting right where the old car lift used to be. When it was a garage, she said it was a constant irritant to the neighbors because, with no off-street parking, they parked cars two deep out front making it impossible to walk on the sidewalk.

Bill Cogburn


.…when looking up at the second floor of an adjoining house was an adventure. Madeline Guyer saw a woman pour out the evening’s cooking grease and Margaret Larcade saw a man answer the call of nature.

Carolene Zehner

…..life in King William in the 1930’.s . My teenage years on Guenther Street were a happy time. The intersection of Guenther and Crofton was our playground. Traffic wasn’t a problem back then, so on a summer evening all the neighborhood kids, and there were lots of them, would congregate at the “Y” to play pop-the-whip on roller skates. The boys would play touch football. We were a rowdy, noisy bunch. No one had air conditioning in those days and with all the open windows, we must have been a real nuisance but I don’t remember anyone complaining.

Helen Geyer


…..in the early 1970’s when the property bounded by Main, Guenther, Sheridan and Flores was a vibrant neighborhood, many of them families of Italian decent. There was a Baptist Church at the corner of Nathan and Johnson Streets. The government decided that it would be a good location for the city’s main post office so the property was condemned and all the houses leveled. A few years later, the post office plan was abandoned and the property was offered to the school district as a location for their cafeteria warehouse and commissary. The surrounding neighborhood, bitterly opposed to such a use of the property, mobilized and, with the support of the King William Association, managed to reach a compromise for the Housing Authority facility and the nice park that we see today.

…..when this extremely tall, very skinny man used to sunbathe frequently in the front yard of a house in my block. He paid homage to the sun wearing a loin cloth and stood to catch the rays for long periods of time several days every week. Tour buses didn’t know whether to speed up or slow down!

Carolene Zehner


. . . .back in the 1940’s when the Handy Andy that used to be on St. Mary’s was brand new. They would set up tents in the parking lot and conduct cooking classes. My mother was really into that sort of thing. She came home one day proudly carrying her winning prize – a beautiful coconut cake

Evelyn Barker


....when they were building the walkways along the river in the late 1960’s after all the flood control work was finished. Our dad would tell us kids that one day we’d have a river walk all the way to Roosevelt Park. Of course, we couldn’t imagine that ever being possible, but he evidently knew what he was talking about. It looks like it’s finally going to happen.

Marco Botello

The King William Park, bounded by Washington, Turner and King William Streets, appears to have been purposely laid out as a park, but it wasn’t. The city actually bought this triangular piece of land in 1901 from Mrs. Phoebe Groesbeck for payment of delinquent taxes. Although the city designated it as a park shortly thereafter, it was years before landscaping and trees were planted.

The park’s gazebo began its life in the 1890’s near the Commander’s House on the grounds of the United States Arsenal (now H-E-B Headquarters) across the river from Upper Mill Park. In 1954, threatened by demolition, the gazebo was moved to its present location through the efforts of the King William Area Conservation Association, the predecessor of the King William Association. Most everyone was delighted with the new addition to the park; everyone that is, except the neighborhood boys who had been using the park for their baseball field.

Dedication of the gazebo was conducted by the Merry Knights of King William, a club started by neighborhood teenage boys in 1909, but over the years having evolved into a men’s club. One of the founding members, Willard Berman, donated, in the name of the Merry Knights, an impressive solid brass eagle weather vane to mount on top of the gazebo. Werner Beckmann, another Merry Knight, delivered a touching dedicatory oration.

Unfortunately, the brass weather vane disappeared after a short time. Mr. Berman graciously replaced it with a duplicate only to have the second one stolen. The gazebo went without a top decoration for years until some inventive neighbors came up with the clever idea of using a round copper toilet float attached to a rod.

Once installed and looked at from the ground, it appeared for all the world as if it had been especially designed for just such a purpose. It remained the gazebo’s crown until a major restoration in the late 1980’s when the weather vane you see today was installed.

The park is an oasis for many neighbors who like to stop, sit, contemplate, meet with other neighbors or just stroll around the perimeter, but it is also popular for weddings, concerts and parties. The park is also, literally, the center stage for our King William Fair when it takes a real beating from the crowds.

It has been suggested that some of the Fair proceeds be set aside to refurbish the park. Not only does the grass need attention but many of the trees are beginning to die from old age and disease. We may be somewhat behind the curve for timely replacement of the park’s trees, but we’re trying to catch up.

As Maria Pfeiffer described in her July 2007 newsletter article, the Parks Department will be planting two red oaks and one Monterey oak tree this fall. You may also have read Maria’s article with photo in the August 2007 newsletter showing Bartlett Tree Experts planting a nice size Monterey Oak at the west corner of the park at Washington and Turner to commemorate Bartlett’s one hundredth anniversary. Maria will continue to work with the Parks Department on a long range plan to replace additional trees.

There is a great deal of interest in the neighborhood to further enhance the park with major landscaping – shrubs, flowers, benches, water fountain(s), improved trash containers, etc. It has also been suggested that a monument with plaque giving a brief history of our neighborhood be installed at the northeast corner of the park at King William and Washington; that location being essentially the gateway to our neighborhood, particularly for walking tourists. All that is needed are a few dedicated souls to plan and implement the park renewal program. If this idea sparks your interest, call the King William office and volunteer to be a part of the team. This park could be King William’s crown jewel. Bill Cogburn

Thirty years ago when our neighborhood was a bit rough around the edges. Soon after Joan and I bought our house in 1976, we attended our first KWA meeting at the old pool house behind the Steves Homestead. At this meeting, Egon Tausch, who lived on Madison just down the street from us, reported his encounter with a second story burglar. Egon was asleep in his upstairs front bedroom when he was awakened by someone coming through the window. He slept with a revolver at his bedside so he raised his pistol and warned the intruder that if he didn’t leave the way he came in, he’d be shot. The man continued to advance so Egon shot him and the force of the charge propelled the intruder out the window by which he had entered. Egon ran to the window and saw a prone figure lying on the ground so he called the police and they carted the fellow away. The burglar later died from his wounds. No charges were filed.

Immediately upon recounting his story, Egon was accosted by an anti-gun crowd; many of whom were in attendance that evening. There were loud, vocal demands that guns be banned from King William. Finally, Walter Mathis, who was chairing the meeting, was able to restore order. Then he proceeded to tell his own amazing story.

Walter said he was upstairs at his home on King William Street one evening when he heard someone at a downstairs window. As he came out of his upstairs sitting room onto the stair landing, he saw the intruder attempting to make his way through the window. Walter quickly got his revolver and shouted his intent to fire. The man continued to advance, so Walter shot him. He then rushed to the upstairs front porch and, seeing the man attempting to flee, shot him again. After a lengthy interview with the police, the investigating officer allowed that Walter “probably should not have shot the fellow a second time since he was running away”. But again, no charges were filed.

As you can imagine, the room became very quiet. Walter then asked if there was further discussion and there was none. The meeting continued without further interruption.

Gates Whiteley


Before the King William Association bought the cottage on S. Alamo in 1991, we rented a small apartment in the Schug’s house at 222 King William Street for our office. The apartment’s living room was the main part of the office and the bedroom was the board room. In between the two rooms was the bathroom which you had to pass through to get from one room to the other. When there were several people in the office, it was always a bit comical with folks on both sides trying to figure out when the bathroom was in use. There was also a small kitchen which doubled as storage space. This crowded space also served as our fair headquarters.

Alan Cash


Jean Alexander-Williams was the part-time office manager for the King William Association through the 1980’s until Maggie Konkle took over the job about 1990. Jean handled the entire operation by herself during those years without benefit of a computer. She was a frugal soul. To save money on postage, she sometimes delivered the newsletter to the neighbors on her bicycle.

Bill Cogburn