As we begin the year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the King William Association (KWA), it is appropriate to pay tribute to those who worked tirelessly to assure the preservation and restoration of the neighborhood we know today. By the time the first meeting of the KWA was held on October 4, 1967, residents had already been working for 20 years to protect the place many of their families had called home since the 1800s.
Concerned about the decline of the neighborhood, residents formed the King William Area Conservation Association (KWACA) in March 1947. The group included descendants of founding residents — the James, Groos, Steves, Pancoast and Guenther families — as well as more recent arrivals. At a party in their honor, new residents Della Gething and her daughter Margaret suggested forming an organization to preserve the “unique charms and historic values of King William Street.”
For the next 20 years, members of the KWACA defended the neighborhood against threats of an expressway, funeral home, river channelization and commercial encroachment. Members relocated the Arsenal bandstand to King William Park, dressed in period clothing to showcase homes, and petitioned City Hall to remedy zoning violations.
By the early 1960s, a new group of preservation-minded homebuyers began to invest in the neighborhood. They included Raford Dobie, Earnest Sam Heard and Henry and Roma Hafermann who purchased houses on King William Street. Dobie, who was deeply interested in preserving the area, envisioned a non-profit organization that could buy and sell property, conduct tours and operate businesses — a more far-reaching purpose than that of the existing group. He named the new organization the King William Association (KWA).
Organized in July 1967, 21 members attended the group’s first membership meeting on October 4. The KWA’s founding board included Raford Dobie (president), Henry Hafermann (vice president), Roma Hafermann (secretary), Earnest Heard (treasurer), and Richard Garza, Jack Kent, Sr., Graham Knight, and Mrs. P.S. Navarro. Members discussed still-familiar issues — a new sprinkler system for the park, traffic, street lighting and membership recruitment. And they voted to hold a fair and home tour on April 27, 1968.
The KWACA and KWA operated along parallel lines for eight years. Discussion of merging the groups began in 1974 and in December 1975, the KWACA voted to “disband and pass into history.” Since the 1970s, increased interest in historic preservation and living in the inner city have assured a steady stream of new owners who have transformed the neighborhood. As a result, the KWA has continued to grow and prosper. And, as the saying goes, “the rest is history!”
- Maria Pfeiffer