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.
The Sunday, April 15, 1951, the San Antonio Light announced “Six romantic old homes will be shown on the ‘Tour of Old World Charm’ from 2 to 6 pm Thursday, December 19th. This event, sponsored by the King William Area Conservation Association, is a new feature of San Antonio’s annual week of glorious Fiesta.” The homes and their hosts for the tour were: Dr. & Mrs. Peter Keating at 222 King William; Mr. & Mrs. F. G. Antonio at 335 King William; Mr. & Mrs. Ernst Schuchard at 516 King William; Mrs. George Wurzbach at 309 King William; Mr. & Mrs. Ike West at 422 King William; and Mrs. John Shuttleworth- Gething at 409 E. Guenther. Included in the home tour was a Kaffee Klatsch at six pm in the garden of Beethoven Maennerchor, where visitors sat under the big pecan trees to listen to folk songs and have coffee and cake. Tickets for the home tour were $1.20. The home tour was also covered in a feature article in the Monday, April 16, 1951, San Antonio Evening News.Writer Jill Porter paid a visit to each of the owners of the homes featured on the tour. “I first dropped in at 516 King William Street, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ernst Schuchard.
I was surprised to learn that the house was only about 25 years old as it was so carefully constructed to blend in with the much older houses on the street. The home was tastefully furnished with family antiques and Mr. Schuchard’s paintings were in evidence in every room.” “I next dropped in on Mrs. George Wurzbach at 309 King William Street and she informed me that five queens and 35 duchesses for Fiesta had lived on the aristocratic old street,” writes Ms. Porter. Fiesta’s first Fiesta queen, Mrs. Nora Hummel Chilton, was a hostess in the Wurzbach home that Thursday. Other hostesses in the house were Mrs. Curtis Vaughn, the former Miss Edna Steves, and Mrs. Helena Guenther Muir, both Battle of Flowers queens. Mrs. Helena Hummel Foy, who was born at 309 King William Street, was also a hostess. The house was built in 1884 by Charles Hummel, who was a dealer in guns and ammunition. His business partner, B. J. Mauermann, was Mrs. Wurzbach’s grandfather. Mrs. Wurzbach bought the house in 1941 and lived there until she died in 1955.
Jill Porter’s next stop was the home of John and Mary Keating at 222 King William Street, where she learned that Mary Keating was one of the Southwest’s leading artists, having had 18 one-man shows of her artwork. “The original house,” Mrs. Keating told the news writer, “consisted of one room and a lean-to. Later, wings and rooms were added.” Mary Keating was an active member of the King William Area Conservation Association and was chairing the 1951 home tour. In describing the Society’s conservation efforts to the news writer, Mrs. Keating said, “Tourists don’t come to San Antonio to see the skyscrapers and filling stations, but rather to see the old charm for which San Antonio is famous.” “At the home of Mrs. Ike West at 422 King William Street,” writes Ms. Porter, “I not only met Mrs. West but also Mr. West’s sister, Mrs. Alfred Ward of Vanderbilt, Texas, who, with her brother, Ike, was raised in the house. Ike’s father, Sol West, a stockman, bought the house in 1892 for $8,000. Most of the furnishings were brought to Texas from Philadelphia by wagon in the 1860s.” Next was the home of Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Antonio at 335 King William Street, known as the Groos house. “In the kitchen,” writes Ms. Porter, “Mr. Antonio showed me the old German cast iron molds used to make Marzipan, an almond paste confection.
These molds, in the shapes of raspberries, strawberries, walnuts, almonds and flowers, were used by Carl Harnisch in the late 1800s in his famous confectionery and café, Harnisch and Baer, on West Commerce Street. Visitors on the tour were served Marzipan treats at the Beethoven House.
“One of the most interesting homes I visited,” writes Ms. Porter “was that of Mrs. John Shuttleworth-Gething at 409 E. Guenther St. She has the largest and most beautiful collection of fans I have ever seen and the beautiful antique furniture was outstanding.”
Assisting Mrs. Shuttleworth-Gething as hostess in the home was her daughter, Margaret Gething. Margaret would inherit the house upon her mother’s death seven years later in 1958 and continue to live there until she died in 1975. Margaret Gething, former Broadway actress and decorator, had the distinction of being a founder of the King William Area Conservation Society. In the late 1940s, she and 40 neighborhood women met in the home of Mrs. Carrie Steves at 431 King William Street. That meeting gave birth to the King William Area Conservation Association, forerunner of the King William Association. Margaret chaired the new organization for its first two years, when Nellie Pancoast took over as chair. “Miss Margaret’s House,” now a museum, is open to the public for tours during the two weeks of Fiesta. The flood control project of the 1960s put the century-old bald cypress trees along the river behind Miss Gething’s house in serious jeopardy. Margaret Gething and other members of the King William Area Conservation Association used their considerable influence all the way to Lady Bird Johnson to get assurance that the trees would be saved. The King William Home Tour has played an important part in the history of our neighborhood. It serves to fulfill one of the tenets of our mission statement–to preserve our historic structures and to educate the public.