A dear friend and long-time King William neighbor has died. Ralph Wells suffered a fatal heart attack while preparing breakfast early on a recent Wednesday morning. He always said he wanted to die in his own backyard with his dogs nearby. He made it as far as his back porch. He had just celebrated his 84th birthday the day before.

September is only technically the beginning of fall in Texas, since rain and temperatures will not catch up with the calendar until much closer to Halloween than to Labor Day. From my back porch the newly mowed lawn looks more like a field of straw. I’d half expected to see the three figures from Millet’s painting “The Gleaners” picking their way across the tawny stubble looking for left-behind grain.

Located on the western edge of our neighborhood, at the corner of W. Guenther and S. Flores Streets, is 1010 South Flores, a mixed-used development.  A variety of businesses are located on the first floor with apartments occupying the remaining two stories. 

The first business to move in was HerStory: Style Bar & Boutique in July 2014.  Owner and San Antonio native Kenyada Bell knew this was an “up and coming area” when she was scouting for a new location.  She describes her clothes as contemporary and trendy. 

The disappearance of plastic pails and shovels, rubber sandals and sunscreen from store shelves, and their replacement with pencils, notebooks, rulers and calculators signals the end of summer and the return to school for students and their teachers.

This year there may be different kinds of school supplies that have to be purchased elsewhere – ammunition.  Around the world it’s been an exceptionally violent summer, by any measure.  It’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish between active war zones and ordinary city streets.

When I meet my new graduate students, I will wonder if any of them will be carrying guns.  It is perfectly legal for them to do this, starting with the first day of August.  I hope that the people who wrote this legislation were ignorant of the meaning of the date – no one could be that cruel or that insensitive to have picked that day, above all others, for this law to take effect.

Roofless Solar has come to San Antonio and is now available to every CPS Energy customer in the area.  CPS Energy, the nation’s largest municipally owned utility, in partnership with Clean Energy Collective, is providing a greener way to buy power.  Community solar is ideal for all CPS customers, including renters, those with rooftops not suitable for rooftop solar and anyone who wants to harness the sun’s energy but doesn’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars for an on-site system.

We had another great July 4th Regatta in King William.  Started in 1983, the Regatta is organized by the near-mythical King William Yacht Club for the happy purpose of enjoying our neighbors and our neighborhood by cruising our portion of the San Antonio River.  A great crowd showed up this year, some to power-paddle in the canoe and kayak races, others to show off their stars-and-stripes style in our leisure class, and the rest of us for the thrill of spectating. 

On June 6, VIA launched a new branded service called VIVA.  The three lines that comprise the VIVA service include:

  • VIVA Culture – direct connections to Southtown, King William, Downtown, Pearl and Broadway
  • VIVA Missions – direct connections between the Alamo and the San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site
  • VIVA Centro – connections between Centro Plaza and St. Paul Square

VIVA replaces the blue trolley line. For more information visit viainfo.net/BusService/VivaMain.aspx.

The City of San Antonio has started a Sidewalk Cost Sharing Program.  Since the KWA is in a non-CDBG area, the city will pay for 50% of the cost to replace sidewalks.  The City’s program can be combined with the KWA’s Sidewalk Program.  The KWA will pay $25 per linear foot to help King William residents to repair their sidewalks.

Hope, Help, Independence

Visual impairment is an ever-increasing health issue and the leading reason for loss of independent living among older Americans.  Where can they turn for non-medical help?  What can they do to maintain independence?  How can they stay connected with the community?  The Low Vision Resource Center (LVRC), which just celebrated its 19th anniversary, can help.  The LVRC offers two major programs for visually impaired people in the San Antonio area: the San Antonio Low Vision Club and Owl Radio.

As directed by the KWA Board in 2014, the KWA Finance Committee began the task of developing a Statement of Investment Objectives, Policies and Management Guidelines (the “Statement”).  The Statement was carefully crafted by the Finance Committee Investment Subcommittee over two years.  The Subcommittee deliberately built a schedule to provide a generous amount of time to gather input, review, adapt and deliver the Statement to the Board for their consideration.  The Board approved the Statement at the May 2015 meeting.  

At the eclectic heart of a diverse and creative city, King William has long seemed to have more than its share of wordsmiths. But every writer needs a publisher to get those words out into the world. Fortunately, King William has that too. From his home on East Guenther Street, which he and librarian and writer Mary Guerrero Milligan have shared since 1979, Bryce Milligan carries on the art and business of publication as owner of a small, brave, and essential San Antonio imprint, Wings Press.

In July 2011 the Texas Commission on the Arts designated our area the King William Cultural Arts District.  The mission is to improve the quality of life by promoting educational, cultural and recreational pursuits and activities. In addition to the many museums and galleries in the area we have an extraordinary number of outstanding professional artists.  The KW Cultural Arts Committee would like to feature some of them from time to time in the newsletter. 

June in South Texas means rain, tapering off toward the end of the month, graduation parties, and weddings.  I experienced all three phenomena in May.  One of my best graduate students has completed his Masters of Architecture and will be joining our firm.  He’s been working part time with us since he enrolled in our Master’s program and has a well-earned reputation for hard work, good humor, and an old fashioned southern gentleman’s sense of courtesy.  He came our way from near New Orleans.  If he was seeking lower humidity he was sadly mistaken, at least this year.

Thrillist.com “power ranked America’s most beautiful historic ’hoods,” and King William made #11:

“While the area was originally farmland owned by the Mission San Antonio de Valero (aka the Alamo) in the 1700s, this primarily residential neighborhood didn’t really take shape until the 1860s when German immigrants began to settle and build homes in the area.  By the late 1800s, it had evolved into the city’s most elegant district.  These days, you can stroll the banks of the San Antonio River and check out historic mansions like Villa Finale and the Steves Homestead Museum while admiring the neighborhood’s beautiful Greek revival, Victorian, and Italianate homes, many of which feature plaques out front offering historical info.”


May is a special month in any year, but this year it stands out as the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.  An act of Congress, the legislation provided the basis for the formation of historic preservation agencies in all 50 states, for the creation of local preservation ordinances based on newly written guidelines from the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, and for the identification and formation of local historic districts like King William. 

Last month I had to have my home tented and fumigated for the third time in 10 years to eradicate drywood termites.  Sad to say that one of my neighbors on Rische Street also went through this same process about a year ago.  I have to wonder if perhaps the termites on my side of the neighborhood are swarming from house to house before being discovered.  These unwanted house guests were eating my home and forced me to move out for 24 hours. 

My pest guy told me that drywood termites are often misdiagnosed as subterranean termites.  Drywood termites “swarm,” whereas subterranean termites crawl on the ground because they require moisture.  Drywood termites are sneaky, they can enter the house through infested furniture or through foundation or attic vents.  They often eat away for months or years at your dry, good, 100+ year old wood floor or rafters before they are discovered.  Termites cause billions of damage each year in Texas.  

About five years ago, my wife Anne and I installed solar panels on our 100-year-old King William home.  We went through HDRC review on this installation and got approval, as the panels were in the same plane as the roof and were on a side exposure minimally visible from the street.  They fulfill most of our daily energy needs and sometimes produce a little extra that we sell to CPS.  When we realized that we could also charge an electric car with our solar panels and stop buying fossil fuels, we were ecstatic.  

As historic property homeowners or renters, we are stewards of history and as such should try to maintain the architectural integrity and authenticity of the exterior of our houses for future generations.  There are several resources available that provide guidance to improving energy efficiency in historic houses.

First, the City of San Antonio Historic Design Guidelines has these suggestions: 

Insulate buildings using minimally invasive techniques to improve energy efficiency. Appropriate insulation techniques vary based on the type of construction and should be selected in consultation with a contractor specializing in historic home maintenance.  Moisture problems within the wall cavity should be addressed prior to adding any sort of insulation.  Blown in insulation may retain entering moisture, ultimately leading to rot and decay.

Sustainable.  Green.  Net zero.  EnergyStar.  LED.  These are the buzzwords of late.  Daily we are becoming more and more familiar with the lingo of our time, but most of us truly have no idea what any of these things mean, or how we as individuals can make our own little corner of the world work better for us, our wallets, our families, our homes and our communities.  How can each of us contribute, lessening our own carbon footprint and saving our hard-earned money? 

The good news is this: there are many ways that we can make our homes and businesses more sustainable and energy efficient, and many of them come with rebates and tax incentives attached to help ease the burden of investment.  

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