1. Identify the factors that will shape your decision. Deciding whether to restore or rehabilitate your house, and to what extent, involves understanding its history; its architecture; and the present condition of its materials, finishes, and systems. You should also consider your household’s lifestyle and what personal needs the finished house must accommodate. More broadly, local historic district designations, local building codes, property insurance, and other regulatory or financial considerations will impact the path you take.

2. Review the house’s history. Who lived in the house and when? Did important events occur there? Did either (or both) scenarios have historical significance? If so, you could consider restoring the house to that period to help interpret its history.

3. Know what “restore” means. To restore a house means to return its interior and exterior appearance to a particular date or time period. Strict restorations—ones that eliminate everything not present during the period chosen—are rare for homes, with most owners opting...

Read more: 10 Tips: Restoring vs. Rehabilitating Your Historic House

King William has only one church building that has continually functioned as a church. At the corner of Eagleland and St. Mary’s, the familiar white stucco, tile-roofed structure was built as Westminster Presbyterian, but became San Antonio Mennonite in the 1980s. The very first Mennonites were Christian followers of Menno Simons in sixteenth century Europe who broke away from the state-sponsored Protestant church over their belief in adult baptism. Today, the Mennonite Church has two million members all over the world, and is known for a focus on nonviolence, community and service to others.

The past year has seen a few changes at SAMC. Our pastor of 11 years, Rachel Epp Miller, stepped down, and for a full year the church managed all its functions through unpaid lay leadership. John Garland was named the new pastor in May. John has many connections to the Southtown community: he lives in Lavaca, his children attend Bonham Elementary School, and he sells his backyard-grown, organic micro-greens to local residents. An avid runner, you might see him training around the neighborhood. His family also rides bikes and canoes on the King William portion of the Mission Reach River Walk.

In the spring, San Antonio Mennonite Church went through...

Read more: San Antonio Mennonite Church News Building Rehabilitation Planned

Historic homes, because of their age and condition, offer considerable potential for energy retrofits that can reduce their energy use and utility costs as well as improve living conditions for their owners.  However, few reliable studies are available to inform the owners of historic homes in hot and humid regions as to appropriate retrofits for their homes, and none offer any prioritization of these potential retrofits.  Such guidance is needed both to ensure that the retrofits are appropriate for older homes and, more importantly, that they meet the requirements typically placed on these historic homes and do not impact their cultural value. 

Read more: Energy Retrofits for Historic Homes

Want to work on your house but do not know how to get started?  

COSA’s Office of Historic Preservation has a brochure titled “I want to work on my historic building or my property within a local historic district.  What do I do?”  You can obtain a copy from the King William Association office or online at www.sanantonio.gov/portals/0/Files/HistoricPreservation/App_process-9-2010.pdf 

Basically, if you are doing a project on your house you must get a permit.  Since we live in a historic district, before you get a permit you must have a “Certificate of Appropriateness” from the Office of Historic Preservation.  The brochure explains the difference between an “Administrative Certificate” and the “Historic and Design Review” process. 

Read more: OHP Building Projects Guidelines Available

On the morning of Saturday, October 3, the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) and over 30 volunteers from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Architecture and San Antonio College descended on the King William Historic District armed with paint brushes, power tools, smiles and a mission: to help make five homes shine a little brighter and to bring joy (and a few tears of happiness) to home owners.  This project kicked off the OHP’s semi-annual Students Together Achieving Revitalization (S.T.A.R.) program. 

Read more: Homes Revived With STAR

The Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) offers owners of historic properties a Local Tax Exemption for Substantial Rehabilitation. The tax exemption is available for designated landmarks and properties located within a historic district that undergo a substantial rehabilitation. Improvements that extend the life of the building, such as roof replacement, foundation repair, structural work, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and various exterior repairs qualify for the program. Other improvements such as interior work will be considered upon commitment to complete structural work.

Read more: Historic Preservation 101: Local Tax Exemption for Substantial Rehabilitation

General Principles for Exterior Maintenance and Alterations

Principle 1: Routine Maintenance is Essential for Preservation
With proper maintenance, most historic buildings can last for centuries. Poorly functioning gutters, downspouts, and flashing, standing water at foundations; water splashing onto walls from the surrounding hard surfaces; and water-entrapping vegetation such as vines and shrubs on or near walls and foundations can all contribute to the deterioration of historic structures. Each of these issues can be prevented or corrected through proper maintenance.

Read more: City of San Antonio Historic Design Guidelines

Your Chance to Get “Up-Close and Personal” with Historic Preservation


One of the featured houses on King William Street is still a work in progress. Len Ambrosio told me he fell in love with the house, which was in serious need of repair. “Hell, no!” was Tim Ziegler’s first thought. With your ticket to the KWA Home Tour on Saturday, December 6, you can see for yourself how well they have succeeded in preserving the lovely Sanger House, built in 1906.

Read more: The King William Home Tour

Some facts regarding vinyl windows from the City of Newport, Kentucky’s Historic Preservation office:

  • Vinyl is not a rigid material and will shrink and expand during the seasons. Vinyl expands more than twice that of wood. It expands seven times farther than glass with each degree of temperature. This can cause the seal between the vinyl framework and the glass to fail.
  • Wood windows have survived for centuries. Vinyl windows have a 15 to 20 year lifespan.
  • Insulated vinyl windows have desiccant filled spacers between the glass panes. The desiccant eventually absorbs all the moisture making the window appear cloudy.
  • As much as 85% of air filtration (or heat loss) is around the edges of the sash, not through the glass.
Read more: Did You Know: Vinyl Windows

I have received several inquiries from neighbors regarding repainting of buildings within the historic district. For the record, please note that colors are administratively approved by the Office of Historic Preservation staff, as the City of San Antonio Historic Design Guidelines do not address paint color.

As a professional architectural historian, I have to admit I am conflicted regarding exterior paint color for historic properties. In San Antonio, most house facades were painted white before and during the Victorian Era. Color was only used on trim, due to the high cost of colored paint. My own Folk Victorian Style house, built in 1904 and designated as an individual historic landmark, is painted brown with red and purple trim as accent colors. My paint has dark, muddy colors, close to colors that would have been available during the Victorian Era but realistically would not have been used on such a modest house. Most of my neighbors on my two-block street have white facades, and only their trim woodwork is painted a different color. My neighbors’ houses - some historically designated, some not - more accurately reflect the historic color palette available in San Antonio during the era in which our houses were constructed than my own house.

Read more: Of Creed or Color?

Our intern Mary Minor has been hard at work and has completed the sidewalk (or “windshield”) survey of the S. Alamo/S. St. Mary’s National Register Historic District. When the National Register nomination was written in 1984, the architectural historian determined if a building was “contributing” or “noncontributing” to the historic district.

Read more: Neighborhood Building Survey Update

Voting members: Jack Kent (Chair), Christine Viña, Derek Klepac, Max Martinez*, Chris Price*, Pat Conroy*, Anne Alexander* (* also members of the KWA Board of Directors)

Contributing member: Charles Schubert

The primary function of the AAC is to comment on cases to be heard by the City of San Antonio Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) that are located in King William or may have an impact on our neighborhood. Because the AAC may be perceived as speaking for the KWA, a majority of our voting members are also members of the Board; other members have a background in architecture and other design professions. We seek to rotate the non-Board members through voting and contributing status. In practice, nearly all AAC decisions are reached by consensus.

Read more: Architectural Advisory Committee: May 2014

The City of San Antonio preserves its unique cultural heritage by setting aside certain areas as historic districts. The King William Historic District is one of those areas. By ordinance, every resident or business within an historic district must have approval from the San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation before any construction, renovation, or alteration of a property occurs. This includes painting, landscaping (tree removal too!), fences and signs. While simple repairs may be approved administratively by OHP, many projects require review by the Historic and Design Review Committee (HDRC), an advisory commission appointed by City elected officials. OHP/HDRC approval is a mandatory first step in obtaining City building permits.

Read more: Architectural Advisory Committee: September 2013

Imbrication: The weather-tight covering formed by overlapping rows of plain or end-modified tiles or shingles thereby producing distinctive surface patterns.

From the Old-House Dictionary, by Steven J. Phillips

Imbrication is often seen in Victorian-style houses, and the “modified” shingles are identified by the end shape of the shingle. For example, look at the shingles in the gable end roof of the photo above. Starting from the top then going down, there are five different rows of shingles types: square, diamond, octagonal, fish scale and square again. Overall, Phillips has identified nine types of imbrication styles.

The Architectural Advisory Committee of the King William Association has declared 2013 “The Year of the Window” ... and in previous issues of the Newsletter we have discussed the City’s historic guidelines that call for appropriate, energy-conserving restoration of historic windows over replacement. In this installment we visit with neighbors whose home and guest house exemplify best practices for residential window restoration (and much else besides!).

Read more: Window Conservation: Old Pane, More Gain

Home builders of the 19th and early 20th centuries recognized windows as critical components of environmental control that offered natural daylight and ventilation before the advent of electric lighting and mechanical air conditioning. The functional importance of windows was celebrated by making these elements a critical part of exterior design – in simple houses like Craftsman bungalows, windows might be the primary design element. Yet one of the most common mistakes made in rehabilitating historic homes (and one of the most common issues homeowners face in passing the City’s mandatory historic review) is to replace original, usually wood, windows with new “energy saving”, mass-produced products. Tempting as they are, these new products are often far less durable than the historic windows they replace, and lack the detail that contributed to the original character of the house. Worse, some homeowners are tempted to alter the size and proportions of original openings to accommodate stock sizes of contemporary windows, forever altering the original design of the house.

Fortunately, a growing number of San Antonio builders recognize that historic windows can often be repaired rather than replaced at competitive cost. Damaged wood can be reconstructed, and drafts can be stopped with sealants and storm windows that have minimal visual impact on the original design. The Architectural Advisory Committee of the King William Association has declared 2013 the “Year of the Window,” and in future issues of this newsletter we will introduce you to neighbors and local contractors who have demonstrated best practices for restoration, repair and maintenance of historic windows.

On November 8, 2012, City Council adopted new, comprehensive City of San Antonio Historic Design Guidelines to provide detailed guidance for property owners, architects, and contractors – and also to define the standards that the City Office of Historic Preservation now uses to review plans for building repair, rehabilitation, additions, and new construction in King William and other historic districts. You can access the guidelines at www.sanantonio.gov/historic/HistoricDistrictGuidelines.aspx or read them in the reference sections of the Central Library and several branch libraries. In the words of the Guidelines:

“The proportion, shape, pattern, and size of historic doors, windows, and screens help convey the style and period of a building and contribute to its overall architectural character. In addition, the quality of construction of historic windows is generally much better than that of replacement windows and can be preserved through regular maintenance. Properly maintained and sealed historic windows are efficient and sustainable.” -- CoSA Historic Design Guidelines 2: Guidelines for Exterior Maintenance and Alterations.

Part 2: Eyes Wide Open

I forget who said it: if eyes are the windows of the soul, then windows are the eyes of a house. And like our own eyes, windows reveal the character and personality of the homes they illuminate… and they need to be treated with care and respect.

The Architectural Advisory Committee of the King William Association has declared 2013 “The Year of the Window” to focus on this important component of historic design. In the March KWA newsletter I noted the temptation for an owner of an historic house to replace old windows with allegedly energy-efficient units, despite the serious threat that this poses to the historical integrity and character of the home. (And that character is why we choose to live in King William, right?) It’s worth remembering:

Replacing windows is expensive, and existing windows can often be brought back to good performance for a comparable cost.

Substantial energy savings can be achieved by addressing other components of the house – especially insulation in attics and roofs – often at a cost less than or comparable to extensive window replacement.

Infiltration (drafts), the major thermal issue for windows in our relatively temperate climate, can be controlled by repairing glazing putty, adjusting poorly-fitting sash, installing storm windows … or just closing the drapes.

Historic homes were designed to ventilate well – and that’s a good thing. Although it can be hard to remember when we’re suffering through a Texas August, about half the time a well-ventilated house in San Antonio needs no artificial climate control except for ceiling fans.

Historic windows do require maintenance and, after decades of service, may need substantial repair. A useful guide to repairing wooden windows – the most common type in King William – is available from the US Department of the Interior at www.nps.gov/history/hps/tps/briefs/brief09.htm.

- Jack Kent, Jr.

What’s to do with all of this dazzling, but overwhelming sunlight?” was the question we first asked ourselves upon the return to the family home. We had been away from Texas for seven years to the cooler climes of the West Coast and abroad. In that time the planet had grown incrementally hotter. The 110 degree summer threw a shocking homecoming. The aquifer was low, electricity for AC prohibitively expensive, and an uninsulated house whose brick walls wouldn’t cool down once they warmed up under the southern sun all made us look for an answer.

Read more: Hot Tin Roof (Solar Panels)

Most of the buildings in the King William Association are located within the boundaries of a Historic District, or are designated as a local landmark. Both of these are “zoning overlays” regulated by the City of San Antonio’s Zoning Ordinance administered by the City’s Office of Historic Preservation (OHP). As a local landmark or by location within a historic district, City ordinance requires you to have your project reviewed by the OHP.

It is all about a process. The best way to start is to contact the OHP and explain your project. From there the OHP staff can guide you through the steps you need to take. Some projects that fall under “repair and maintenance,” like replacing rotted wood, can be approved administratively. The OHP staff will give you a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA). You or your contractor will need to submit the COA and an application to get a permit from the building department.

Read more: Projects, Permission & Permits

I want to start by pointing out that winter in San Antonio is something that most Americans would like to flee to, not from. Having said that, we in San Antonio will feel the sting of much higher natural gas prices after cold winds finally arrive this far south. And for those of us in drafty old houses, the sting will be even greater. If you haven't done it after all these years, it's STILL not too late to take action to keep out the wind and keep in the heat. In my house, the windows are easily the worst culprit when it comes to heating (and cooling) inefficiency. They are big, single pane, and totally out of compliance with modern building codes. They sit so loosely in their channels that they shake and bang and rattle in any wind and allow frightening amounts air to pass in and out. Still, nearly all of them are original, and I think they are gorgeous. I wouldn't trade them for Pella double-glazed low-E windows if someone offered them to me for free (and nobody has). So an ongoing (Laura says never ending) project of mine is to add bronze V-type weatherstrip to the window sash channels. This old-fashioned V-type strip creates a far tighter fit. It cuts the draft dramatically and eliminates the rattle completely. You can nail the strips in place with little copper tacks or you might find a version that comes with double sided tape.

Read more: Tune-up Your House for Winter

Due to overwhelming demand (at least two people have asked me), I want to write about stripping, staining and varnishing the wood trim in our house on Adams St. Like much of the restoration project, this aspect of it had no budget and no timeline. And I had no idea what I was getting into. Laura claims we never even had a discussion about stripping the white-painted wood rather than just repainting it. I find that hard to believe, but there is a small chance that in the rush of construction I forgot to mention to her that Scott, my brother-in-law-contractor, had scraped a spot of white paint off of some window trim and in one of those "eureka!" moments we realized there was varnish under the layers of paint, which pointed to the only possible course of action that made any sense--strip all of the wood in the house and restore it to something like its original look. As luck would have it, there was a lot of original woodwork just waiting to be stripped and restored. All of the windows, doors, and baseboards; the window and door casing and jambs…. Laura, I was sure, would love it when we were finished.

Read more: Refinishing Interior Wood Trim, Or How Our Restoration Project Took 6 Months Longer Than We Expected

My wife and I are still married. That's my greatest achievement as we pass the two and a half year mark as owners of our house at 310 Adams Street (featured on the December Home Tour). For both Laura and me, purchasing a shell of a house was a leap into the unknown. We both saw the potential in the long neglected 2- story house, and with enthusiasm that only the love-struck and naïve possess, we paid too much to the seller in 2002 and started what I assured her would be a 6-month project.

Read more: How to Renovate a House in 16 Months and Not Get Divorced

Before my wife and I bought our house on Adams Street, we sat down with our brother-in-law and contractor- to-be, Scott Day, to discuss a barebones budget. (Please see last month's column in which I discussed the futility of good budgeting during a renovation project). One of the items that Scott thought we should include in our budget was labor and material for fireblocking. Laura asked for an explanation, and Scott gave her one, and I nodded knowingly, not admitting that my mental image of fireblocking was rather fuzzy. When he added that our house needed fireblocking because the walls were almost certainly balloon-frame construction, I said, "Of course," and began to get nervous. I'd never heard of balloon-frame construction, but it sounded neither solid nor fire resistant. Laura was enthusiastic about every single fire prevention measure that Scott could think of, so we agreed that we needed to include fireblocking in our renovation plan. And to my surprise, I soon became obsessed with effective fireblocking.

Read more: What is Fireblocking and Why Does My 100-Year Old Wood-Frame House Need It?

Grant Application

The KWA is now accepting KWA Grant applications. Applications are due Friday, June 23rd. Download 2017-18 grant application.