For many years, there was a corner of the King William neighborhood that was made up mostly of families of Italian decent. Many were first generation immigrants from Italy. The four square blocks bounded by S. Main, W. Guenther, Sheridan and Flores was a quiet, peaceful neighborhood where families like the Granatos, Pantusos, Martinos and Scarnatos would gather on one front porch or another after a day’s labor to exchange news and gossip.
All that changed in 1970. The U.S. Postal Service needed a new Central Post Office in San Antonio and decided it should be located where this tranquil neighborhood had existed since the early 1900’s. The properties were condemned, homeowners were offered market value for their homes, and before they had time to sort out their future plans, the bulldozers arrived. Even the church at the corner of Nathan and W. Johnson had to go “for the greater good.”
In a 1970’s interview, Rose Granato Whittington recalled how she was personally impacted by the decision. Several of her close-knit family members owned houses in the neighborhood, mostly on W. Johnson Street. The news that their homes would be razed created great concern among her family. The older family members in particular were devastated to realize that they would no longer be able to putter around in their yards and walk across the street to talk to life-long neighbors. One of the favorite front porches was that of Rose’s uncle, Joseph Granato, who lived at 317 W. Johnson (see photo). Rose could remember countless evenings spent on that porch listening to the grownups talk about the old country.
Rose’s father, Frank Granato, who lived at 403 W. Johnson, was a well-known and respected dealer in fresh produce. In his earlier years, he made his living selling fresh fruits and vegetables from his horse-drawn cart throughout the inner city neighborhoods.
By 1973, the USPS had changed its mind and decided not to locate the central post office at this site, but by that time, the damage was already done. Nothing could bring back the homes, the neighborhood or the people. Several ideas were proposed for the now-vacant land. One was a motor pool and later a SAISD cafeteria warehouse and commissary. The surrounding neighborhood, bitterly opposed to commercial use of the property, mobilized and with the support of the King William Association led by board president Justin Arecchi the plan was successfully blocked.
In the early 1980’s, the U.S. Dept. of the Interior donated the property to San Antonio Housing Authority with the stipulation that it would be for public use. The SAHA offices were built on the Flores Street side of the property and the O.P. Schnabel apartments and the expansive Beautify San Antonio Park occupies the S. Main Avenue side. Large shade trees are the only reminder that it was once a vibrant historic neighborhood.
- Bill Cogburn
Sources: June 1979 River City Press; Richard Garza archives; SAPL archives; Granato family archives