KWA Newsletter Articles

Ben Garcia, Sr., and his wife, Eloise, moved to their home at 315 Mission Street in 1968. Their son, Ben, Jr., who still lives in the neighborhood on Forke Street, and his two sisters were also part of the family.

"We had long outgrown our little house on Forest Ave. off South Flores Street," says Ben, Jr. "Looking back years later, it was hard to believe that five of us could have possibly lived in that tiny house."

"Both my sisters went to Brackenridge High School but I went to Fox Tech on North Main. I sometimes walked to school but what I really wanted was a car so I could drive. My mom said, 'If you want a car, you‘ll have to get a job to help pay for it.‘ So I got a part-time job after school working in the basement at Joske‘s on Alamo Plaza as a stock boy making $1.60 an hour – minimum wage."

St. Benedict’s Lofts on South Alamo Street has brought 66 new homes and five new businesses, including the Liberty Bar and Restaurant, to the King William neighborhood. Six single-family garden homes facing Madison Street will complete the project. This redevelopment has ended 17 years of decline of the buildings that once housed St. Benedict’s Hospital and Nursing Home, as well as the St. Scholastica Convent. (Historical note: Saints Benedict and Scholastica were twins born in 480 AD in Italy. Benedict created his order of religious men, and then his sister formed an order for women based on Benedict’s rules.)

Madison Street neighbor Linda Winchester recently posed an interesting question about a bit of King William history. She was told by an old friend of her father’s that he remembered living in the 100 block of Madison Street as a child. He also remembered that his mother walked him across the street to a French private girls’ school, which he was allowed to attend until he was six years old.

The man’s childhood home no longer exists, but Maria Pfeiffer identified the school as Bonn-Avon School at 117 Madison. She says that the school was named after the birthplaces of Beethoven and Shakespeare.

In 1967, the King William Association was founded and chartered as a non-profit organization to preserve the first historic district in Texas and to promote the unique cultural heritage of San Antonio. To further that mission, the neighborhood hosted its first Spring Fair and Tour of Homes the very next year, in 1968. The joint Fair and Tour of Homes continued as a part of Fiesta until about 1988, when due to the complexities of the combined events, the Home Tour was moved to early December and billed as the Holiday Home Tour.

The neighborhood’s very first home tour however, was 59 years ago, sponsored by the King William Area Conservation Association.

A tale of the supernatural in the neighborhood

In August of 2008, not long after moving in to the two-story Victorian wood frame house at 123 Cedar Street, the new Proprietress, her two young sons, and their Governess, who was older and more sensitive than the rest of them, returned from a long weekend in the country and noticed something amiss. The Governess climbed the staircase to the first landing and protested loudly and repeatedly.

“What’s got her so stirred up?” the elder boy asked.

Jack Kent (1920-1985) was a cartoonist, children’s book author and illustrator, and longtime King William resident. Born John Zurawski to first-generation Polish and Austrian parents in Iowa, he became Jack Kent when his dad, a traveling linoleum salesman, relocated to Texas in 1926 and changed his name to something his customers could more easily remember. From that day forward my father was a Texan and, except for a honeymoon in Mexico and some tedious business in the Pacific during WWII, never lived anywhere else.

By his mid-teens he was “Texas Jack” and already sure of his calling. He wrote fan letters to all the great cartoonists of the day—his most treasured correspondent was George Herriman, creator of the strange and wonderful Krazy Kat. But he was more than a fan. It was the Depression, and Daddy’s career started early. His formal schooling ended at 15 as he worked as a printer’s apprentice and sold caricatures to the San Antonio Light.

He was self-taught in art and everything else. For a high-school dropout in a rural state, he was extraordinarily well-read and aware of the wider world. He loved opera. His work for The Light was inspired by Miguel Covarrubias, the Mexican artist, anthropologist and New Yorker cartoonist. His artistic taste went far beyond the comics page to Picasso and Miró, Ben Shahn and Paul Klee. He spent his spare time (and his spare change) at the two temples of the literary life in 1930s- 40s San Antonio: Rosengren’s Books and Norman Brock’s used bookstore.

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.

Consider removing non-native plants from your property

A variety of habitat restoration projects are underway in San Antonio, including the Eagleland Reach of the San Antonio River Improvement Project. At Eagleland and elsewhere, efforts have been made to install a variety of native plants as part of habitat restoration. Native plantings are a way we can reverse the negative impacts we have on our environment, including habitat destruction and fragmentation, which has occurred over large parts of our landscape. In other words, it is one of the positive impacts humans can have on the environment. By restoring native plant communities we can reintroduce various native species that have been absent from an area for decades if not centuries, we can conserve biodiversity of native species, and we can benefit in numerous direct and indirect ways from the plentiful ecosystem services that native plant communities provide. Humans require healthy, functioning ecosystems to live, and it is this fundamental reason that compels many of us to participate in projects that aim to restore the native plant communities, which are an important part of any ecosystem.

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.

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

When the l886 frame church at the address of Produce Row and San Saba Streets was torn down, the materials were immediately put to use in the construction of a new parsonage next door. The church was originally known as the Mexican Methodist Episcopal Church and the streets originally called Presidio and West Streets. This parsonage, built in l921 entirely of salvaged materials from this Victorian era frame church, sat beside the newly built brick structure and was renamed La Trinidad Templo Methodista Mexicano. Wood timbers, framing, the wood flooring, wainscoting and other materials from the old church were main features of the new parsonage. The parsonage remained at this location until l950 when it was moved to 334 King William Street when the church expanded their facilities again. La Trinidad pastors and their families occupied this parsonage at this location until l975, having purchased the property from O. Wolf who had acquired it from the Groos family a few years earlier.

Here is an account by Sheila Nicholls Winget of the moving of the house to King William in l950. “As a child, I lived at 338 Madison (now the lovely home of Gates and Joan Whiteley). When I was quite young, I overheard the 'grownups' talking about a house that would be moved to the corner of Sheridan and King William streets, exactly one block away. Wow! How could this be? How could a house move? In this pre-television, pre-internet era of Dale Evans and Roy Rogers westerns, I was thrilled!

"The next day, upon awaking early, I started my vigil, sitting on the edge of Sheridan Street, which was unpaved and un-curbed at that time. Waiting and waiting, I fantasized with serious contemplation the wonder of a moving house. It finally happened! Yes….here it came….the white house rolled down Sheridan. It was an all day procedure. Not wanting to miss a single moving inch, I would not be budged by my Mother’s call to lunch. Instead, I ate my sandwich on the side of the street, convinced I was witness to a remarkable event. What fun!!

"What I didn’t not know is that many years later, I would return to the neighborhood and live within view of this wonderful and beautiful home, now owned by Erin and Olin Strauss. This memory… still exciting and vivid… creates one of those internal and eternal smiles we all associate with happy and interesting childhood recollections.”

The pastor of La Trinidad, Rev. Espino, and his wife lived here until l960. The house was modernized and the wainscoting was covered with sheetrock and the floors with linoleum tile. A concrete porch was added and a stone wall built around the perimeter of the property with stones from the Chabot House, where Mrs. Adams had some piled in the yard.

The house continued to serve as a parsonage until l975. Walter Mathis purchased the property and erected the iron fence over the stone wall. Then he took an ornate fireplace mantle from the Chabot house and built a fireplace for the house. He added the gazebo-like porch, the detail over the window of the porch and the shutters, board and batten siding, and a metal roof with an ornate detail ornament over the peak of the porch. The floor of the porch was covered with D’Hanis brick and the l880 embellishments were added.

He sold the house to Nile B. and Mary Jo Norton in l976. Their contributions were mostly to the interior. Some of the l886 wainscoting was exposed. They also added rooms to the rear of the house.

In November of 2003, Erin and Olin Strauss bought the house. Senior District Judge Olin and Erin Strauss moved here from Jourdanton, Texas, where Olin was the Judge for the 81st District Court serving Atascosa, Wilson, Karnes, Frio and LaSalle Counties.

Earlier that month, while driving through the KW District on the way to take Olin back to the Bexar County Courthouse after lunch, they noticed a "for sale" sign in the front yard of 334 King William that hadn't been there that morning. Excitedly, they called the realtor, saw the house that evening after work, and bought it the next day. They learned that the sign had only been up twenty minutes when they first saw it. It was meant to be! After a little renovation, they moved in on April 16, 2004.

The Strausses exposed the original pine floors, painted the wainscoting, landscaped the yards and put in gardens and built cabinets in the kitchen. In 2007, Jim Smith, the color specialist, interviewed the Strausses and created a sort of portrait of the new owners with “their” colors, painting the house in the refreshing limes, lemons, and creams as we see it today. The house has been “Smithed.”

The yards around the house were landscaped with a serpentine D’Hanis brick walk. Erin and Olin Strauss entertain their large family on the porch and in the gardens surrounding the house. Many refer to the house as the house without curtains. I think of it as the house where once again folks live on the front porch. It was a good move.

Henry Rayburn

A modern Brackenridge High School sits on the edge of the King William neighborhood at the corner of S. St. Mary’s and Eagleland Streets. However, many present residents may not have seen the imposing structure built in 1916 as the George W. Brackenridge High School, which was designed by the wellknown American architect Alfred Giles. Its first class graduated in 1918. The accompanying drawing shows a 1917 rendering of the new campus looking from S. St. Mary’s Street. The accompanying photo is a 1960 view of the school’s main entrance. At some point, the decision was made to demolish the building and construct a new air conditioned school.

The Albert Carl Moye House 524 King William Street Albert Carl Moye was born in Kassel, Germany, on September 19, 1820. He married twenty-year-old Mathilde Wilhamina von Bartheld on October 31, 1841. Four years later, with their twoyear- old son, Otto, and infant daughter Wilhamina, the Moyes, along with 214 other German immigrants, set sail for Galveston, Texas, aboard the three-mast barque Neptune. They, along with many other Germans, had been lured to Texas by promises made in the terms of the Fisher-Miller Grant. Prospective settlers were to receive 320 acres (for a married man) plus transportation across the ocean and to their acreage; a house, furnishings, utensils and farming equipment; access to churches, hospitals, roads and general provisions for their welfare.

Unfortunately, the Moyes landed in Galveston in November 1845, just as the war between the United States and Mexico was heating up. This meant that all means of transportation were needed by the Army, leaving the Moye’s group and thousands of other German immigrants stranded on the Texas Gulf Coast. Many perished due to exposure to the elements and disease; some made the long overland trip on foot or by wagon to San Antonio, New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. The Moyes were detained for six months in Indianola, the port nearest the Fisher-Miller Grant lands. By the time they finally reached San Antonio, The Republic of Texas to which they were immigrating had joined the Union and the many promises that had attracted them to the Republic had vanished.

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

One of the most fascinating stories on King William Street surrounds the Alfred Giles house at 308 King William. Alfred Giles designed and built the house. His granddaughter, Amy Dreiss Scott, appeared in the driveway in 2001 and told Margaret Leeds, the current owner, that she was born in the house eighty years to the date and that her niece had driven her down from Comfort to drive by and see the old place. She said that her grandfather was Alfred Giles and that she grew up in the house.

She was born in the front bedroom just after the 1921 flood. Alfred Giles told her stories about the flood when she was older. He told her that the wooden front steps had floated down the street along with numerous pianos and front porches from other houses. King William Street became an actual river. When he went searching for the steps, he encountered two ladies who thought the steps belonged to them. He entered the evidence that he had supervised the building of the steps and that he could show them the saw cuts in the board, which he did. The ladies were convinced and let him have the steps.

…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

There has been a military presence in San Antonio from the very beginning. In 1718, when Spanish padres came to start a mission, they were accompanied by soldiers who built barracks and established a military post. San Antonio’s geographic location has made it a strategic spot for military installations ever since.

In 1858, the U. S. Army chose San Antonio as the location for a permanent arsenal. It would be a facility large enough for the army to store arms and munitions to supply all the frontier forts and outposts in Western Texas. Up until that time, the army’s ordinance department had used rented buildings, principally the Alamo complex to conduct its arsenal operations.