KWA Newsletter Articles

One of the most fascinating stories on King William Street surrounds the Alfred Giles house at 308 King William. Alfred Giles designed and built the house. His granddaughter, Amy Dreiss Scott, appeared in the driveway in 2001 and told Margaret Leeds, the current owner, that she was born in the house eighty years to the date and that her niece had driven her down from Comfort to drive by and see the old place. She said that her grandfather was Alfred Giles and that she grew up in the house.

She was born in the front bedroom just after the 1921 flood. Alfred Giles told her stories about the flood when she was older. He told her that the wooden front steps had floated down the street along with numerous pianos and front porches from other houses. King William Street became an actual river. When he went searching for the steps, he encountered two ladies who thought the steps belonged to them. He entered the evidence that he had supervised the building of the steps and that he could show them the saw cuts in the board, which he did. The ladies were convinced and let him have the steps.

…about 202 Madison’s infamous past. When I moved in next door in 1979, Cecil Reynolds, the owner, told me that it had once been a brothel. He invited me down to the half-basement which had a long hallway down the middle with rooms 1 through 6 on one side and 7 through 12 on the other. The numbers over the doorways were in black lettering on green tiles.

Alan Cash

…when we were growing up at our house on W. Johnson Street. Our property backed right up to the river back then. Our Dad had a boat dock at the base of a huge tree on the bank of the river. He had a wooden boat with a Johnson 3 hp outboard motor. We’d cruise up and down the river in that boat. We could go south only as far as the S. Alamo dam, but we could go up river almost to town since the Nueva St. dam didn’t exist back then. Dad told us that he could remember a time when he would see guards with guns posted around the perimeter of the U.S. Arsenal (now H-E-B headquarters). The guards would sometimes stop him and make him turn around and go back down river.

When they realigned the river in the late 1960’s and took out the bend that went behind the Guenther Mill, we no longer had the river at our backyard. Our mother was sad for a long time. Not only did they take away our part of the river but they cut down that magnificent tree.

Marco Botello

…when Pioneer Flour Mill would have enormous trailer trucks lined up overnight with their motors running waiting to deliver grain to the mill. They would line up on King William, Main and Guenther. That was before they purchased and developed the area behind the mill.

Carolene Zehner

There has been a military presence in San Antonio from the very beginning. In 1718, when Spanish padres came to start a mission, they were accompanied by soldiers who built barracks and established a military post. San Antonio’s geographic location has made it a strategic spot for military installations ever since.

In 1858, the U. S. Army chose San Antonio as the location for a permanent arsenal. It would be a facility large enough for the army to store arms and munitions to supply all the frontier forts and outposts in Western Texas. Up until that time, the army’s ordinance department had used rented buildings, principally the Alamo complex to conduct its arsenal operations.

…when we’d walk from our house on Mission Street to St. Mary’s to catch the street car. That was the Hot Wells line which crossed over to Presa Street then ran south out to the Hot Wells Hotel. That was a very popular place years ago, up to the 20’s and 30’s – maybe even later. Many famous people went there to take the hot sulfur baths. Back then, St. Mary’s was called Garden Street. We’d also ride the streetcar on Mill Street which is now South Alamo.

Selma Nuessle

…the ruckus that was caused in the neighborhood when the Father Hidalgo mural suddenly appeared in the early 1980’s without benefit of proper approval. It depicted Father Hidalgo leading the Diez y Seis de Septiembre revolt and was prominently displayed on the south wall of the old A&E Food market (now Tito’s) at the corner of South Alamo and Beauregard.

Originally painted as a backdrop for a Budweiser advertising poster, it showed, in vivid color, the Father literally ripping apart the chains of oppression. Some say that Walter Mathis, arbiter of neighborhood decorum, turned the color of plum jelly when he saw it.

It remained a controversial subject among several of the neighborhood folks for a long time but eventually the opposition either got used to it or lost the will to fight. It was still on the wall until about five or six years ago when new tenants decided to whitewash over it. By then, it had become such a neighborhood icon that many of us were bitterly disappointed to see it gone.

Bill Cogburn

…when Bonham Elementary had only one large pecan tree and three bushes out front –the rest of the campus was asphalt and gravel.

Carolene Zehner

There are twelve houses in King William which are here today because of the foresight and thoughtfulness as well as understanding of architectural history which Walter Mathis demonstrated. These twelve houses helped to spur the restoration of many more houses in King William and across the city of San Antonio.

I have been working since April on a series of sketches of these twelve houses which Mr. Mathis rescued. They will be completed by the opening date for the Villa Finale Visitor Center and will be exhibited at my home. Over the next twelve months, I will attempt to write a short narrative or give some historical information for each of the twelve houses, beginning with the Chabot House.

The Chabot House is one of the richest in detail and has been on my drawing board for several months. Curtis Johnson and Leland Stone provided me with a letter from Walter Mathis to the Texas Historical Commission for the marker application. In Mr. Mathis’ application for a marker, he made these comments about the house. I have condensed his comments for the newsletter. “I have been unable to locate any records indicating the architect and contractor.

October 6, 2008, marks the 40th anniversary of the closing of HemisFair ‘68. I plan for this essay to be the first of a series about HemisFair. In ‘68, I had just graduated from Texas Tech, and started training for my position as Bi-Lingual Official Guide that January. I have great memories and I remember so many excellent, and eye-opening, events.

The fair was characterized as a “Jewel Box.” Our attendance was strong, and everyone was charmed by the fabulous foreign, domestic, and artistic pavilions. We had an international food court, water-skiing in the lake, daily parades and a myriad of unique events. Remarkable shows were the Bolshoi Ballet, Fiddler on the Roof, Verdi’s opera, Don Carlo, Ray Charles, and many more.

...Mission Street, when it was just a dusty dirt road with horses hitched to wagons passing up and down. That’s the way I remember it when I was growing up.

When our father bought our house at 422 Mission Street in 1908, it only had four rooms, two on either side of the hall. My sister and I were both born in this house; Mildred in 1911 then me in 1916. Our father eventually enlarged the house by adding a kitchen, bath and another bedroom but we still had the outhouse out back for many years. The only heat in the winter was from a big iron stove in the kitchen. I remember always having electricity but we kept the kerosene lamps out on the tables for years because electric service wasn’t very dependable.

Eddie and Elfreida Basse lived across the street. Eddie and his brother had a hardware store on Military Plaza across from City Hall.

Selma Nuessle

…how O’Neil Ford loved his old vintage cars. One Sunday afternoon on our way home from church, we passed by O’Neil’s office on King William Street and there he was, polishing his 1923 Bentley. I’m nuts about vintage cars so I stopped to admire it. O’Neil held up the keys to the car and said, “Here, take it for a spin.” I was so taken aback that I declined and I’ve kicked myself ever since for not taking that Bentley around the block.

Richard Garza

…in the 1980’s when the old Reilly House that was at 230 Madison Street burned to the ground, taking with it six elderly tenants. In the late 80’s, the house directly behind on South Alamo was turned around and moved to the vacant site on Madison to become the Brackenridge House B&B. When the house faced South Alamo, it could best be described as a flop house with residents sleeping on the porch and the front yard strewn with beer and whisky bottles.

Alan Cash

…when Walter Mathis would drive around the neighborhood checking out the condition of the lawns. If your grass was getting a bit overgrown, he’d stop and tell you to take care of it.

Bill Cogburn

…when Don Lee checked your tires, washed your windshield and filled your car with gas at the Gulf Station at the corner of King William and South St. Mary’s Street.

Carolene Zehner

…the year that the fair was almost rained out -- sometime in the late 1990’s. It had been raining off and on all the night before and was still raining when the parade started. To ease the tension and put the best face on what was beginning to look like an absolute disaster, the fair cochairs, Lola Austin and Lynn Dickey, went home and put on their swim suits and rode in the fair parade on top of open convertibles, hamming it up like bathing beauties. About eleven o’clock when the parade was almost over, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Although attendance was down that year, many of the fairgoers who persevered said it was the best fair in years because it wasn’t so crowded.

Bill Cogburn

…when Christine Carvajal was the Grand Marshall of the 2001 King William Fair Parade. She was absolutely thrilled with the honor and went right out a bought a new dress and a pair of red shoes for the occasion.

Bill Cogburn

…when Rayford Dobie talked me into chairing the first King William Fair back in 1967. The first fair was from 1 to 5 on a Saturday afternoon and was really just a home-made event. Neighborhood volunteers nailed together craft stands and set them up in yards along King William Street.

Back then, the fair was just arts and crafts – no food or beverages. The neighborhood association received 10% of sales and we netted $35.55 that first year. The next year, the proceeds were up to $47.15. I think Julian Trevino’s father had a tamale booth that year and we made about $10 off that.

Mary Schug

…when I moved here in 1979, neighborhood volunteers were still making all the food booths for the fair. For weeks preceding the fair, the booths were banged together with 2 x 4’s and plywood on the lot which is now the garden for the King William Lofts on Madison Street. Very early on the day of the fair, they were trucked, one by one, out to the street. After the fair was over, it took us a month to disassemble the booths and we always stored them in the Masaro’s barn. I think we were constructing about fifteen booths at the height of this madness before we finally had the good sense to have the job contracted out. The Masaro’s old rustic barn, by the way, has since been beautifully restored into a guest cottage on the river behind 221 E. Guenther.

Alan Cash

…I think it was 1973, the second spring that Ernest and I were back in the neighborhood when Carolene Zehner and I were doing publicity for the King William Fair. We had hand-drawn fliers and we begged newspapers and TV stations for publicity. That was the year that Patsy LeBlanc sold chalupas from Sonora Hartley’s front porch. You should have heard the flak we got from the neighborhood old guard – selling food at the fair for heaven’s sake! What’s this neighborhood coming to!

Karen Casillas

…at one of the early King William Fair planning sessions, everyone agreed that we really must have rest room facilities for the fairgoers. The association didn’t have the money to rent port-a-potties so Hazel and I volunteered our house as a rest stop. ‘How bad could it be?’ we said to each other. Well….on fair day, we quickly found out just how bad it could be! It was absolutely awful! We spent days cleaning up that mess.

Al Conner

…one of my fondest memories of “Batt” Batterson was chauffeuring him in the Red Beetle when he was Parade Grand Marshall in the 1983 King William Fair.

Ralph Wells

 …on a warm summer evening when we would be sitting on our front porch, we’d sometimes hear singing coming from a church camp meeting down on the river where Constance Street meets Crofton. This must have been back in the 30’s. These folks would drive their cars off the road by the Brooks house down a path to the river’s edge and set up their tents. Some would be in cars but some would be in wagons pulled by horses. They might be there for two or three days. When they had baptisms, there would be a lot of shouting and wailing.

Mildred Nuessle

…when the San Antonio River was just a narrow stream where it ran through the Arsenal area. It was overgrown with trees and bushes and was a permanent home to lots of “campers.”

Caroline Zehner

…when the river was my playground as I was growing up. The neighborhood kids would spend hours and hours playing and exploring along the banks of our river. Back then, it was a winding, natural wooded area, not the straightened cemented channel you see today. All the flood control work started in the late 1960’s. The original river circled behind the Guenther Mill where a dam formed a deep pool for the old water wheel. We’d go back there for the best fishing.

Richard Garza

…when Bobbie Masoro fished the half-drowned dog out of the river behind her house at 221 E. Guenther. Unfortunately, that dog had serious behavioral problems, probably from being abused. Even after many sessions with a trainer, she was never socialized, but Ed and Bobbie were crazy about her and showered her with love and affection until the day she died. Her name was “Beauty” – a definite misnomer.

Bill Cogburn

…before the 1960’s when you could drive across theriver at Johnson Street on a vehicular bridge. After the river realignment was completed, there was no bridge at all, just a dead-end street. It was another sixteen years, in the mid 1980’s before the pedestrian bridge that you see today was installed. It’s often referred to as the O. Henry Bridge as the spires of the bridge once stood on the old Commerce Street Bridge which inspired O. Henry’s short story, "A Fog in Santone."

Henry Botello

…when my husband, Humberto and I moved into our house on Washington Street in 1963, our dead-end of the street was just a dusty road – muddy when it rained. No curbing, and from the road, it sloped down to a primitive, meandering river. The area between the house and the river was an overgrown tangle of trees and vines. I was determined to clear that jungle and after a lot of work and several attacks of poison ivy, I finally had a beautiful picnic area and with the addition of tables and benches, it became a favorite spot for family cook-outs. Church and school groups and neighbors often had their parties on the grass under those huge pecan trees.

Elvira Ramirez

..…the little shop which sits diagonally on the corner of S. Alamo and Beauregard for years was Tiende Guadalupe but before that, it was a popular neighborhood bar called “The Friendly Spot.” They had live music and attracted large crowds, especially on weekends. For a while, the crowds were so large that they would ice the beer down in the back of a pickup truck. Many neighbors remember the place with fondness but to others it was merely an irritant because of the loud music.

Alan Cash

. . . . O’Neil Ford had lunch in our restaurant every day for years. One morning, he came in early to speak to my husband, Julian. “I’m going to be bringing some important people for lunch today”, he said. “They’re from Europe and they’re considering me for a big commission so I want everything to be really special.”

The food was good and the service attentive. When presented with the check, Ford pulled out his check book and wrote out a check for the meal adding a generous gratuity, all done with a flourish. My husband took the check, then leaned close to Ford’s ear and whispered loud enough for everyone at the table to hear, “Mr. Ford, do you want me to hold this check for two weeks like last time?” My husband was always joking. It didn’t matter who they were.

Mary Trevino

..…when the monthly King William meetings were held in the house behind the Girl Scout Headquarters on King William Street (now Charles Butt’s house). We met there even during Girl Scout cookie season – cookies stacked five and six feet high. The aroma was delightful torture!

Carolene Zehner

..…back in the 1950’s when I attended grade school at St. Joseph’s downtown. The school was on Commerce Street just past Dillard’s – back then, it was Joske’s. Every morning, the nuns would line us up and march us to mass next door to the church. If you’ve seen the movie The Bells of St. Mary’s you get the picture

Ernest Casillas

In 1908, trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church- South signed a contract to pay Joseph and Julia Courand $3,000 for the two lots at the corner of S. Alamo and Wickes. The Courands, who owned Courand Grain Co., lived next to those two lots in their impressive mansion at the corner of Adams and S. Alamo. By 1912, the newly formed congregation had accumulated enough money to build a new church building. In 1913, the church was dedicated and given the name, Alamo Methodist Church. Beverely Spillman designed the building, a fine example of mission style architecture popular in South Texas at that time.

For over fifty years, the little church played an important role in the spiritual life of King William residents but by the late 1960’s the membership had declined to the point that the church could no longer be sustained and the congregation finally disbanded. After sitting vacant for several years suffering abuse from vandals and vagrants, the church building was purchased in 1976 by Bill and Marcia Larsen who transformed it into a restaurant and theatre. In 2005, the building went through yet another extensive renovation by the new owner and King William neighbor, Paul Alan Boskind.

…the house at 322 Washington Street began its life in 1901 on the near north side at the SW corner of E. Elmira and Lexington Streets as a two story, gabled yellow brick Victorian. In the 1940’s, Worthy Wolff operated his restaurant and night club in the house. In 1951, to make way for the Pan Am Expressway, the brick was removed and the structure was cut into four sections and moved to Washington Street. At the new location, it was reassembled, stuccoed over and given a Mediterranean look. If you’ve walked by the house lately, you will see that it has gone through yet another transformation – back to its Victorian look of a hundred years ago.

Bill Cogburn

…the big flood of 1921. When the water finally began to subside, our whole family, with my baby brother Joe in the baby carriage, walked along the river all the way downtown to see the damage. There was all kinds of debris floating down the river; furniture, lumber, even a piano bouncing along in the water. Bridges were crumpled. Houston Street was several feet under water. On the way back, we stopped at our grandparent’s house on North Street, which is now a part of Hemisfair Park. They lived next door to Riebe’s Mortuary where flood victims were lined up on the porch.

Selma Nuessle

…in the mid 1930’s when there was an ice cream parlor on the corner of S. Presa and Callahan Streets where Sandy’s Beauty Salon is now. They had many flavors to choose from and we felt it was such a treat for our dad to take us there and treat us to an ice cream cone of any flavor of our choice.

Julie Medina

…when parking problems in the neighborhood were caused, not by First Friday but by the Food Stamp Office housed on S. Alamo. Back then, everyone eligible for the program had to get in line once or twice a month, missing work for the day, to receive their allotment. This one office served the whole city.

…if you remember when Walter just had one house.

Carolene Zehner

In response to April’s “Old Timer” feature:

Bill Cogburn’s story about the burning of the Maurer-Fry Houses on Madison brought back the vivid memory of being awakened to screaming sirens and a flaming sky. The awareness of what was burning was immediate – we had all feared that those houses would be lost.

I made it to my porch just as Eddie Polk came rushing thru the front gate. I’m recalling that he had a mop in his hand but maybe I made that up. Our house’s first major improvement, a new cedar shingle roof, had just been completed. Eddie, at the time, was the only insurance man in town willing to insure our “wreck”. He was sweating his decision to insure us and willing to climb up and douse sparks to protect his business and, in the process, our house. What a unique neighborhood it was.

Jessie Simpson

…in the mid-80’s when La Focaccia Italian Grill was a muffler shop. I remember driving in there, not to get a pizza but to have a new muffler installed on my car

Alan Cash

…back in 1972 when Hazel and I were in the process of moving into our new place on King William Street. We had just arrived in town from Virginia – been driving all day; me pulling a trailer and Hazel driving our car. I was dog tired after a long day on the road so I walked out to the street to stretch my legs when this guy walked up and said, “Do you like good Mexican food?” “I sure do,” I replied. “The best Mexican food in San Antonio is just down the street at a place called El Mirador,” he said. When Hazel and I got around to going there to eat, I recognized this same fellow. Then he introduced himself as Julian Trevino.

Al Conner

…when the two old mansions in the 300 Block of Madison burned to the ground in the late 1980’s. Shortly before they burned, they were used as a setting for a chase scene in the 1987 movie, Nadine starring Jeff Bridges and Kim Bassinger. At first, the neighbors thought it was exciting to have the film crew working in the neighborhood but after a few days of equipment noise, bright lights and trash, many were wishing they would go back to Hollywood.

Bill Cogburn

If you live on E. Guenther, did you know that in 1880’s, your street was named Ewell? I didn’t until I was searching through the 1882 City Directory trying to locate August Biesenbach, the builder of our house.

I found him alright, but he was living at the corner of King William and Ewell Streets. By 1889, the Guenther Mill family had evidently prevailed to have the street name changed to Guenther. Also, the 1889 map shows that S. Alamo was called Mill Street and Sheridan was named Lee Street. Even earlier, in the 1870’s, Sheridan was called Chabot, named for the Chabot family who lived on the corner at Madison Street.

The 1889 map shows Vine Street running along the north side of Bonham Elementary, which is now a parking lane for the school. S. St. Mary’s was Garden Street and Durango was Victoria Street. On a 1909 map, the lower three blocks of Cedar from where it jogs near Claudia was called Henrietta and Eagleland was of course called Temple Street.

Most historians seem to agree that Ernst Altgelt gave King William Street its name in honor of the Prussian ruler, Wilhelm I. The street name was changed to Pershing during WWI, in the interest of political correctness, no doubt. In spite of what you may overhear the tour guides say, the street was never named Kaiser Wilhelm Street.

Bill Cogburn

Walter Nold Mathis passed away on 30 December 2005 at the age of 86 years. He was born in San Antonio on 13 August 1919 to Arthur Mathis and Jessie Bell Mathis. He was the grandson of Thomas Henry Mathis, rancher and founder of Mathis, Texas and co-founder of Rockport, Texas. His maternal grandfather was Samuel C . Bell, former mayor of San Antonio.

Mathis was a direct descendant of Maria de Jesus Curbelo, a member of one of the original Canary Island families who founded San Fernando de Bexar in 1731 and of John W. Smith, who brought 32 volunteers to the Alamo from Gonzales, was the Alamo's last messenger, and San Antonio's first Mayor under the Republic of Texas. Mathis graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor's Degree in business administration. He was a member and officer of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity.

On the morning after Pearl Harbor, Mathis enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Following pilot training, he was given command of the 45th Squadron, 265th Division, 9th Air Force. The unit, called "First Pathfinders," provided front line B-26 aerial support for the Normandy invasion and later for General Patton and consisted of 196 men. Only 28 survived. Although eligible for discharge after completing 25 missions, Mathis completed 65 missions and remained on active duty until the war ended. Captain Mathis mustered out of the Army Air Corps on 29 December 1945, rewarded by three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Air Medal, and a Presidential Citation.

….the house that is now the King William Manor [formerly the Columns B&B] on S. Alamo, until sometime in the late 1990’s was a used book store. The house next door, now nicely restored, had a concrete block addition on the front which housed an auto parts store. A fledgling theatre group eventually took over the space in the late 90’s calling themselves Jump Start Theatre. Now, of course, they are a well established and respected performance company located at Blue Star.

Alan Cash

.…Joan and I have lived in King William since 1976 and we’ve never felt threatened or bothered in the least by problems that seem to face many inner city neighborhoods. But then, we were not here in the bad old days when this was essentially a red light district and crime was more of a problem.

John Larcade and I did take a walk through the Madison Apts. in the late 1970’s and actually saw residents shooting up in the hallway and in one of the rooms where the door had been left open. We reported this to the police and learned shortly thereafter that the chief of police actually owned the apartments at that time.

Thanks to the vigilance and hard work of fellow residents and Walter Mathis’ leadership, the police agreed to patrol regularly. Soon thereafter, the ownership of the Madison Apts. changed hands and things began to get better.

Our biggest problem today is the spin-off from first Friday and the trash left over from the Fair. No big deal compared to what this neighborhood was like thirty-five years ago.

Gates Whiteley

….when China Latina on S. Alamo was Rosario’s or even earlier when it was a car repair shop. I took Maggie Egan to lunch there one day soon after Rosario’s opened and she laughed when she saw that our table was sitting right where the old car lift used to be. When it was a garage, she said it was a constant irritant to the neighbors because, with no off-street parking, they parked cars two deep out front making it impossible to walk on the sidewalk.

Bill Cogburn

.…when looking up at the second floor of an adjoining house was an adventure. Madeline Guyer saw a woman pour out the evening’s cooking grease and Margaret Larcade saw a man answer the call of nature.

Carolene Zehner

The year was 1909. It was a hot sultry morning in late May when three neighborhood teenage boys gathered in the backyard of 208 King William Street, the home of fifteen year-old Arthur Bergstrom. Besides Arthur, there was Walter Giesecke from 218 Washington Street and Willard Berman from 338 Madison Street. Bored and with the prospect of a long summer vacation from Bonham School #10, they began casting about for something to do. According to a written account by Arthur’s younger brother, Walter Bergstrom, it was Walter Giesecke who suggested the idea of forming a boy’s club. Willard Berman is said to have come up with the name for the club – The Merry Knights of King William.

With permission from Arthur’s parents, the upper floor of the Bergstrom’s carriage house would become the Merry Knight’s clubhouse. There was much to be done to make the space suitable for their purpose. The first order of business was to recruit additional members to form a work crew for the task ahead.

Those new recruits were Ernst Schuchard who lived at 221 East Guenther and Percy Clarkson from 213 Washington Street. Next they brought on Albert and Werner Beckmann from 529 Madison (now 222 East Guenther), George Henyan, 202 Madison Street, Harry Ankerson, also from Madison Street, Henry Pancoast at 203 King William and Frederick Bollinger from 236 King William Street.

… in King William in the 1930’.s . My teenage years on Guenther Street were a happy time. The intersection of Guenther and Crofton was our playground. Traffic wasn’t a problem back then, so on a summer evening all the neighborhood kids, and there were lots of them, would congregate at the “Y” to play pop-the-whip on roller skates. The boys would play touch football. We were a rowdy, noisy bunch. No one had air conditioning in those days and with all the open windows, we must have been a real nuisance but I don’t remember anyone complaining.

Helen Geyer

… the early 1970’s when the property bounded by Main, Guenther, Sheridan and Flores was a vibrant neighborhood, many of them families of Italian decent. There was a Baptist Church at the corner of Nathan and Johnson Streets. The government decided that it would be a good location for the city’s main post office so the property was condemned and all the houses leveled. A few years later, the post office plan was abandoned and the property was offered to the school district as a location for their cafeteria warehouse and commissary. The surrounding neighborhood, bitterly opposed to such a use of the property, mobilized and, with the support of the King William Association, managed to reach a compromise for the Housing Authority facility and the nice park that we see today.

…..when this extremely tall, very skinny man used to sunbathe frequently in the front yard of a house in my block. He paid homage to the sun wearing a loin cloth and stood to catch the rays for long periods of time several days every week. Tour buses didn’t know whether to speed up or slow down!

Carolene Zehner

. . . .back in the 1940’s when the Handy Andy that used to be on St. Mary’s was brand new. They would set up tents in the parking lot and conduct cooking classes. My mother was really into that sort of thing. She came home one day proudly carrying her winning prize – a beautiful coconut cake

Evelyn Barker

....when they were building the walkways along the river in the late 1960’s after all the flood control work was finished. Our dad would tell us kids that one day we’d have a river walk all the way to Roosevelt Park. Of course, we couldn’t imagine that ever being possible, but he evidently knew what he was talking about. It looks like it’s finally going to happen.

Marco Botello

The King William Park, bounded by Washington, Turner and King William Streets, appears to have been purposely laid out as a park, but it wasn’t. The city actually bought this triangular piece of land in 1901 from Mrs. Phoebe Groesbeck for payment of delinquent taxes. Although the city designated it as a park shortly thereafter, it was years before landscaping and trees were planted.

The park’s gazebo began its life in the 1890’s near the Commander’s House on the grounds of the United States Arsenal (now H-E-B Headquarters) across the river from Upper Mill Park. In 1954, threatened by demolition, the gazebo was moved to its present location through the efforts of the King William Area Conservation Association, the predecessor of the King William Association. Most everyone was delighted with the new addition to the park; everyone that is, except the neighborhood boys who had been using the park for their baseball field.

Dedication of the gazebo was conducted by the Merry Knights of King William, a club started by neighborhood teenage boys in 1909, but over the years having evolved into a men’s club. One of the founding members, Willard Berman, donated, in the name of the Merry Knights, an impressive solid brass eagle weather vane to mount on top of the gazebo. Werner Beckmann, another Merry Knight, delivered a touching dedicatory oration.

Unfortunately, the brass weather vane disappeared after a short time. Mr. Berman graciously replaced it with a duplicate only to have the second one stolen. The gazebo went without a top decoration for years until some inventive neighbors came up with the clever idea of using a round copper toilet float attached to a rod.

Once installed and looked at from the ground, it appeared for all the world as if it had been especially designed for just such a purpose. It remained the gazebo’s crown until a major restoration in the late 1980’s when the weather vane you see today was installed.

The park is an oasis for many neighbors who like to stop, sit, contemplate, meet with other neighbors or just stroll around the perimeter, but it is also popular for weddings, concerts and parties. The park is also, literally, the center stage for our King William Fair when it takes a real beating from the crowds.

It has been suggested that some of the Fair proceeds be set aside to refurbish the park. Not only does the grass need attention but many of the trees are beginning to die from old age and disease. We may be somewhat behind the curve for timely replacement of the park’s trees, but we’re trying to catch up.

As Maria Pfeiffer described in her July 2007 newsletter article, the Parks Department will be planting two red oaks and one Monterey oak tree this fall. You may also have read Maria’s article with photo in the August 2007 newsletter showing Bartlett Tree Experts planting a nice size Monterey Oak at the west corner of the park at Washington and Turner to commemorate Bartlett’s one hundredth anniversary. Maria will continue to work with the Parks Department on a long range plan to replace additional trees.

There is a great deal of interest in the neighborhood to further enhance the park with major landscaping – shrubs, flowers, benches, water fountain(s), improved trash containers, etc. It has also been suggested that a monument with plaque giving a brief history of our neighborhood be installed at the northeast corner of the park at King William and Washington; that location being essentially the gateway to our neighborhood, particularly for walking tourists. All that is needed are a few dedicated souls to plan and implement the park renewal program. If this idea sparks your interest, call the King William office and volunteer to be a part of the team. This park could be King William’s crown jewel. Bill Cogburn

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