Julius Joske brought his family from Germany to San Antonio in 1873 and started a mercantile store near Alamo Plaza, which he named J. Joske. By the 1970s, his chain of department stores had become Joske’s of Texas. His store in San Antonio was perhaps the most popular store in the city.
In 1892, Julius’s son, Alexander, bought the property at 241 King William for $9,000. There was a stone house on the site built by Thomas Wren
in 1881. The house you see today, which was completed in 1900, incorporated the smaller 1881 structure. Alexander Joske’s new mansion measured 7,500 square feet, including the basement, and featured the most up-to-date furnishings of any house in the city including a complete steam heating plant, an indoor telephone system and eight fireplaces.
It was the Joske family’s home until 1922 when they moved to the suburb of Terrill Hills. The terrible 1921 flood may have prompted them to seek higher ground away from the river. They put their King William house on the market for $30,000.
For the next several years, the old mansion was used for various purposes: converted into several apartments and even a halfway house for mental patients for a time. By the 1980s, it had become so dilapidated that sections of the porches were being propped up with braces of scrap lumber. For years, it was mired in complicated tax and ownership disputes, but when those problems were finally resolved around 1987, the house was bought by Jessie Simpson and subsequently restored.
- Bill Cogburn
Source: A History & Guide to the Houses by Mary Burkholder; The Snootiest Neighborhood in Texas by Gary Cartwright; 1980s photo courtesy Robert Maxham; current photo by Scott Cogburn