A 1993 letter from Arthur Goldschmidt to the King William Association gives us a glimpse of life in our neighborhood in the 1920s. Arthur was born in 1910 at 315 Adams Street, known today as the LaCroix/Goldschmidt House. His parents, Herman and Gretchen Goldschmidt, purchased the house in 1904 for $5,150. Born to German parents in Monterrey, Mexico in 1868, Herman owned and operated Goldschmidt & Co., a San Antonio merchandise broker. His wife Gretchen was a teacher in the San Antonio public schools and an active member of the King William Area Conservation Society, forerunner of the King William Association. The Adams street house was home to the Goldschmidt family for 60 years.
January 2, 1993
King William Association:
I am very grateful for your response to my request for a walking tour brochure and for enclosing a map of the King William Area. It follows closely a major portion of my Saturday Evening Post route each Thursday 70 to 75 years ago. It also lists the houses of many of my friends, especially 335 King William where Carl Jockusch stayed with his Groos relatives while completing his high schooling at Brackenridge a year ahead of me. Also the home of his cousin, my sister’s close friend, Elsa Buss, who taught me to play tennis and dance the fox trot and the tango. Laura James from up the street (1) might have also been there, though the girls would have preferred her older brother Ted who finessed the girls of his age to rob the cradle by marrying the Guenther girl. (2) She gave lovely parties at her house by the flour mill at the end of King William. (If that is now the restaurant shown on the map, they have either moved the river or the map is wrong!) (3) We swam in old Mrs. Steves’ pool occasionally on our best behavior but I never knew it was the first indoor pool in town. (4)
Did you know that a misguided patriotic fervor changed the name of King William Street to Pershing Avenue during World War I? Many of the big houses had door mats that emblazoned the old street name along with the house number. These were prudently kept and brought out as soon as the Armistice was signed, or at least before the street signs were returned.
My parents bought the 315 Adams Street house from the Guenther Street Wagners (5) when they got married in 1904. When my father suffered heavy financial losses with the blessed fall of Porfirio Dias, we rented the house out and lived in Fredericksburg from 1913 to 1918. Back then, the house had a wide front porch, level with the bottom of the French windows, with heavy balustrades. Their vase-shaped balusters were impossible to scrape and paint. One of the best features of the place for us kids was the huge barn complex that in richer days had not only housed horses and carriages, but their tenders as well.
There have been great changes in the area since I left in 1927 after graduating from Brackenridge High School; Durango Street crossing the river is new and South St. Mary’s was called Garden Street when I went to Bonham School. They were changing the school system, so Thomas Nelson Page Junior High School that I attended was temporarily housed in the German-English School (6) that my mother and her King William Street crowd had attended.
My mother, Gretchen Rochs, came to San Antonio about 1885 with her parents as a small girl and lived there all her life. Her father, Dr. Arthur Rochs, had been brought in by its publisher to edit the Freie Presse fur Texas, which I’m told, flourished long before there was an English language newspaper in town. Its offices were on Commerce Street across from Joske’s. My grandfather, who had a PhD in philology, was always held up to me by our family’s friends as a great man. My younger brother said even the chickens we kept in the back yard cackled, “Doctor Rochs, Doctor Rochs!”
I tried to work my passage to Germany in 1927, taking a year off before going to the University of Texas as my mother and my siblings did but I got stuck in New York and ended up going to Columbia University and never got to meet any of my German grandparents. Why did this popular Rochs couple go back to Germany, get caught by the war and never return? I’d be interested in any clues.
So my gratitude is simply (as I was taught at my mother’s knee) a lively sense of more favors to come!
Sincerely, Arthur Goldschmidt
After “getting stuck in New York,” Arthur Goldschmidt went on to graduate from Columbia University, marry Elizabeth Wickenden and raise a family. He became an ambassador to the United Nations in 1967. Prior to that, he had government posts in Washington and was chief of the Interior Department’s power division. Arthur died in 2000 at age 90 at his home at Haverford, PA.
- Bill Cogburn
(1) The James House at 303 King William Street.
(2) 29-year-old Ted James married 21-year-old Marie Louise Guenther in 1934.
(3) For flood control purposes, the river was re-routed to run in front of the mill house in 1968.
(4) Now called “The River House,” a meeting room for San Antonio Conservation Society.
(5) Adolph and Amanda Guenther Wagner lived at 219 E. Guenther.
(6) Currently Marriott Plaza San Antonio Conference Center on S. Alamo St.
Sources: 9/28/2000 New York Times Obit; Mary Burkholder’s Down the Acequia Madre; KWA Archives