KWA Newsletter Articles

Historic District designation is a “Zoning Overlay” administered by the City of San Antonio. Two additional zoning overlay districts within the boundaries of the King William Association include NCD-1 and RIO-4. Both NCD-1 and RIO-4 are Zoning Overlays. Each property within the boundaries of these districts has its own base zoning which determines the use of the property. For example, a building could be C-1 for commercial use, such as a retail store or a restaurant, or O-1 for an office use. The overlay zoning districts regulate the property’s architectural and site characteristics.

Read more: Did You Know? December 2012

My view of the King William Association and our community has been shaped by my experiences as surely as yours has. I arrived in San Antonio in 1992 when I began training to be a surgeon at Wilford Hall Medical Center for the USAF. All new officers are sponsored by a local family to welcome them. My sponsors were Warren and Gina Dorlac, who invited me to dinner at their old house on Adams Street. I was enchanted by the neighborhood because it reminded me of the place I had just left behind.

Read more: My Perspective: October 2012

With over five inches of rain overnight on August 19th and more in mid-September, plants have had a growth spurt not usually seen this time of year. Check to see if you have trees and shrubs that need trimming because they now block traffic signs or walkways. Weeds have also come up in abundance. Treat them with a mix of one gallon of 9 % vinegar and 2 ounces of Orange Oil. The vinegar is in the grocery and the Orange Oil at most nurseries. This is an organic mixture and will kill whatever it touches, so be careful.

Read more: Out in the Garden: September 2012

I have a favorite country and western song that goes by the title of “How can I miss you (if you won’t go away?).”

Well, here I am again after my supposed farewell column in the August newsletter. Our loyal newsletter staff informs me that owing to the editorial calendar, which requires me to submit the text for the September newsletter no later than August 15, I still have plenty of time to contribute one more column. At the end of this column you will see the number -30-. The explanation for that, in case you missed out on the era of green eye-shade journalism, is that it is traditional for columnists to exit the scene with this number as a sign-off at the end of their final opus. Journalists are divided on the origin of this practice, since most articles in the days of letterpress journalism were ended with this number. The origin is thought to have been from the first telegraphed dispatches which always ended with -30-, which is Morse code for “the end” or “finished.”

Read more: President's Column: September 2012

I should check with my erstwhile editors, but I think this is my last column as President. In September there will be new Board members and a new President. Early indications are that they will all be strong candidates who have already demonstrated a love for King William and devoted ample time volunteering for various tasks here.

Because of the lead-time necessary to meet press deadlines, I’m writing this column on July 6. Like everyone, I’ve returned to work after the midweek holiday a little more sun-burned and a little more fatigued, but much happier. I had a wonderful fourth on our stretch of the River in the annual King William Regatta, the all-for-fun canoe race that seems always to be a summer idyll. Spectators lining the banks and a picnic afterward. Thanks to Marita Emmet, the muse and steward of this wonderful occasion, the lucky participants can always count on the completely ad-hoc event coming off every year. Marita suffers from the curse of success: the event is so beloved by its participants that she can’t retire from organizing it. I don’t know how she feels about the labor, but I’m glad she does it. I know my holiday would be much poorer without it.

Read more: President's Column: August 2012

“I was only eight years old when HemisFair opened in April 1968," said Debbie Ray,” but I still remember the excitement. The crowds, the music, balloons, popcorn, snow cones, candy apples…it was noisy and colorful. My family attended the fair several times that summer. I still remember the straw hat my mother insisted that I wear because it was so terribly hot. That is literally burned into my memory!”

“The mini-monorail was a big feature of the fair. It was a high-tech contraption that soared high above all the activity below. It was tested over and over again and on opening day, everything went off pretty well except for a couple of minor glitches.” However, a few months into the fair they had a problem. “A rear-end collision due to brake failure brought everything to a halt,” said Jerry Williamson. “Luckily, no one was seriously injured but a lady was thrown to the ground and pinned under part of the wreckage. As they were trying to get to her, she said, ‘No, I'm not hurt, check on the others first.’”

Read more: September 2008: Remembering HemisFair '68

When you stroll through our neighborhood on Fair Day, have you ever wondered about the names given to certain Fair sites – “Pat’s Pub," “Julia’s Veranda," “Ilse’s Attic”? Old timers will recognize those names, but if you’re a newcomer, you might be curious.

Over the years, the various Fair committees have chosen to recognize a few ‘gone but not forgotten’ King William residents who have left an indelible imprint on our neighborhood. It’s yet another way to honor those who have gone before us and to keep their memories alive.

Read more: The King William Fair Remembers Neighborhood Heroes

Ben Garcia, Sr., and his wife, Eloise, moved to their home at 315 Mission Street in 1968. Their son, Ben, Jr., who still lives in the neighborhood on Forke Street, and his two sisters were also part of the family.

"We had long outgrown our little house on Forest Ave. off South Flores Street," says Ben, Jr. "Looking back years later, it was hard to believe that five of us could have possibly lived in that tiny house."

"Both my sisters went to Brackenridge High School but I went to Fox Tech on North Main. I sometimes walked to school but what I really wanted was a car so I could drive. My mom said, 'If you want a car, you‘ll have to get a job to help pay for it.‘ So I got a part-time job after school working in the basement at Joske‘s on Alamo Plaza as a stock boy making $1.60 an hour – minimum wage."

Read more: Focus on Neighbors A look back

St. Benedict’s Lofts on South Alamo Street has brought 66 new homes and five new businesses, including the Liberty Bar and Restaurant, to the King William neighborhood. Six single-family garden homes facing Madison Street will complete the project. This redevelopment has ended 17 years of decline of the buildings that once housed St. Benedict’s Hospital and Nursing Home, as well as the St. Scholastica Convent. (Historical note: Saints Benedict and Scholastica were twins born in 480 AD in Italy. Benedict created his order of religious men, and then his sister formed an order for women based on Benedict’s rules.)

Read more: St. Benedict’s: Then and Now

Madison Street neighbor Linda Winchester recently posed an interesting question about a bit of King William history. She was told by an old friend of her father’s that he remembered living in the 100 block of Madison Street as a child. He also remembered that his mother walked him across the street to a French private girls’ school, which he was allowed to attend until he was six years old.

The man’s childhood home no longer exists, but Maria Pfeiffer identified the school as Bonn-Avon School at 117 Madison. She says that the school was named after the birthplaces of Beethoven and Shakespeare.

Read more: The McDaniel House and the Bonn-Avon School

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.

Read more: First Home Tour Billed as “Tour of Old World Charm”

A tale of the supernatural in the neighborhood

In August of 2008, not long after moving in to the two-story Victorian wood frame house at 123 Cedar Street, the new Proprietress, her two young sons, and their Governess, who was older and more sensitive than the rest of them, returned from a long weekend in the country and noticed something amiss. The Governess climbed the staircase to the first landing and protested loudly and repeatedly.

“What’s got her so stirred up?” the elder boy asked.

Read more: Observance of Hallows, Saints, and Souls in Lavender

Jack Kent (1920-1985) was a cartoonist, children’s book author and illustrator, and longtime King William resident. Born John Zurawski to first-generation Polish and Austrian parents in Iowa, he became Jack Kent when his dad, a traveling linoleum salesman, relocated to Texas in 1926 and changed his name to something his customers could more easily remember. From that day forward my father was a Texan and, except for a honeymoon in Mexico and some tedious business in the Pacific during WWII, never lived anywhere else.

By his mid-teens he was “Texas Jack” and already sure of his calling. He wrote fan letters to all the great cartoonists of the day—his most treasured correspondent was George Herriman, creator of the strange and wonderful Krazy Kat. But he was more than a fan. It was the Depression, and Daddy’s career started early. His formal schooling ended at 15 as he worked as a printer’s apprentice and sold caricatures to the San Antonio Light.

He was self-taught in art and everything else. For a high-school dropout in a rural state, he was extraordinarily well-read and aware of the wider world. He loved opera. His work for The Light was inspired by Miguel Covarrubias, the Mexican artist, anthropologist and New Yorker cartoonist. His artistic taste went far beyond the comics page to Picasso and Miró, Ben Shahn and Paul Klee. He spent his spare time (and his spare change) at the two temples of the literary life in 1930s- 40s San Antonio: Rosengren’s Books and Norman Brock’s used bookstore.

Read more: Jack Kent, King Aroo, and King William

You probably know that in 1967 King William was the first neighborhood to receive the Historic Neighborhood District in Texas designation. The history of many of the houses is recorded in Mary Burkholder’s books, one volume of which is appropriately named Down the Acequia Madre In the King William Historic District. But did you know that beneath the King William neighborhood lies a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, designated by the Society of Civil Engineers in 1968?

Part of the Spanish acequia system lies beneath portions of our neighborhood. Acequia Madre (or mother ditch), mentioned by Burkholder, is so named because its part of the primary ditch network. My late colleague I. Waynne Cox’s book The Spanish Acequias of San Antonio provides a good source of history and archaeology for anyone interested in following up The Alamo acequia (or Acequia Madre) began at Madre Dam, now in Brackenridge Park, flowing down the valley, behind the Alamo, down Alamo Street and eventually empting into the San Antonio River across from Blue Star. Diversion systems fed off of this acequia to water the fields supporting the early San Antonio settlement and missions. Wickes street today follows a feeder ditch extending from the Alamo acequia at South Alamo to the river at Eagleland. Another important ditch, Pajalache or the Concepcion Acequia, followed the path that is now S. St Mary’s Street, beginning at La Villita, extending down St. Mary’s to Roosevelt Park where it turns toward Mission Concepcion. But these are only part of the extensive acequia system which lies beneath the city of San Antonio.

The term acequia is derived from the Arabic word al-saqiya. Irrigation technology dates back at least 3,000 B.C. in western Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, and this technology made its way to southern Europe through cultural exchange. The Spanish brought and spread this technology to the New World, although many American Indian cultures had invented their own centuries before the Spanish arrived. Governor Don Martin de Alarcon ordered the construction of the San Antonio acequias using conscript Indian labor. Construction of the acequias began in 1719 by diverting water from San Pedro springs. Eventually some 50 miles of ditches were dug, leading to a network of fields on both sides of the San Antonio River. The acequias served all of the mission settlements The ditches were used in the downtown area until a few years after 1870, when the first railroad reached San Antonio.

Read more: Historic Waterways Run Under the King William Neighborhood

Consider removing non-native plants from your property

A variety of habitat restoration projects are underway in San Antonio, including the Eagleland Reach of the San Antonio River Improvement Project. At Eagleland and elsewhere, efforts have been made to install a variety of native plants as part of habitat restoration. Native plantings are a way we can reverse the negative impacts we have on our environment, including habitat destruction and fragmentation, which has occurred over large parts of our landscape. In other words, it is one of the positive impacts humans can have on the environment. By restoring native plant communities we can reintroduce various native species that have been absent from an area for decades if not centuries, we can conserve biodiversity of native species, and we can benefit in numerous direct and indirect ways from the plentiful ecosystem services that native plant communities provide. Humans require healthy, functioning ecosystems to live, and it is this fundamental reason that compels many of us to participate in projects that aim to restore the native plant communities, which are an important part of any ecosystem.

Read more: Invasive Plant Profile: Chinaberry

I want to remind readers of the history of The Engelke/Reifel House, so here’s a portion of Mary Burkholder’s book Down the Acequia Madre. She takes the history through the 1960s, and I’ll pick it up from there.

Mrs. Sophie F. Engelke built this home in 1892. After living there for six years, she sold the house to Adolph W. Hartung, Sr. This was his family home until he sold it in 1907 to C. Michaud. Dolores Wilhelmi bought the property in 1912; in 1922 it was sold to Thomas and Mary Spellessy, who lived there for three years. Thomas and Minnie Vann bought the house from them in 1926.

Read more: The Engelke/Reifel House

That was the year my family moved to San Antonio, so HemisFair was our initial dip into a long residence in Texas. I remember an incredible nonstop hum of interesting activities (sort of like the wonderful LUMINARIA experience downtown in March) attracting everyone of every age to return again and again to the fairgrounds. I loved the intriguing lighting and vibrant colors and the music in the air … teenagers wandered happily around by themselves – the mood of each exhibit was inspiring.

Surprises always popped up, things we hadn’t seen before or anticipated. The mix of human beings seemed delicious and the activities never too canned or prescribed like theme parks often feel. HemisFair felt authentic and bubbling and harmonious and engaging … plays and puppets and voices and films and exhibitions and demonstrations of all varieties. I could never figure out why we didn’t get to keep the monorail, why, in fact, it couldn’t have been extended all over town! It was a delight!

Cheers, and nice to remember …

Naomi Nye

The accompanying photo shows my mother, Mildred “Peggy” Archer (right), and her first cousin, Gerry McIntyre. They are standing in front of the house, which I believe was at 118 Madison (now a parking lot), where they lived for several years. The photo is labeled 1937, when the girls were 15. My mother and grandmother, Aline Cumby, rented the house, and then rented out one of the bedrooms (a “room for rent” sign can be seen on the porch railing). My grandmother ran a beauty shop in the living room and slept in the second bedroom. My mother slept on the screen porch. Peggy Archer graduated from Brackenridge High School in 1939. Eventually she worked at Joske’s, where she met my father. My father, John Salling, had another near- King William connection. His father, uncles, and grandfather owned a small “chain” of grocery stores, numbering 5 or 6 at one point. Sallings Grocery #3 was located at 1111 S. Presa. The building is still there, and is now AAA Freight Salvage. The “chain” went out of business in 1942; the Butt family moved into one of the locations, on Broadway, as they expanded their grocery business into San Antonio.

Nancy Salling Diehl


Monthly column from KWA president.

Tips and resources for historic home and building preservation.

Learn the history of some of the neighborhood's historic structures.

General history and anecdotes about the King William Area.