Uptown

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Uptown is the old name for an area along Fredericksburg Road, now within the Beacon Hill Neighborhood Conservation District, near St. Ann’s Church and immediately southeast of the IH-10 West–Fredericksburg Road intersection.
 
Fredericksburg Road, one of the oldest thoroughfares in the city, began as a wagon road in the 1840s. By the 1920s it had become a link in the Old Spanish Trail, the transcontinental highway stretching across the southern United States from St. Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California.  Automobile traffic and residential development north of the city in the 1920s led to a commercial boom along this corridor. A small part of this commercial development in area that became known as Uptown included the construction of a noteworthy cluster of buildings in the 700 block of Fredericksburg Road from 1925 to 1931.  Several were designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style popular at the time.

The unusual two story stucco building with an elaborately decorated corner entry at the northwest corner of Fredericksburg Rd and W. Ashby Place was designed by the architectural firm of Adams and Adams in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, with a foyer described as Moroccan.  Designed as one of numerous theaters built by Victor Theater Inc. in San Antonio, it was called the Uptown Theater and opened in August, 1928.  The decoration surrounding the corner entry was partially obscured by the later addition of a marquee as shown in a 1945 photo. The marquee and the Uptown sign have since been removed. The theater building was purchased by St. Ann’s Parish (located around the corner on St. Ann Street) in 1960 to be used as a gymnasium, youth center and center for religious instruction classes.  The architectural firm of Adams and Adams is perhaps best known for the design of Thomas Jefferson High School in 1930-1932, also in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.

Architects Eichenroht and Cocke designed the two commercial buildings adjacent to the theater in 1930, with similar stucco facades.  Hemley Furniture Store was to be one of the original lessees.  Marvin Eickenroth and Bartlett Cocke were partners from 1927 until 1931 when Mr. Eickenroth became a sole practitioner.  

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Uptown Theater, 1945. The Zintgraff Collection, UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures, #Z-2647-O-1, Courtesy of John and    Dela White.


At 708 Fredericksburg Road across from the old Uptown Theater, is a one story commercial building designed by Albaugh and Steinbaugh. Constructed to accommodate six retail spaces, the multiple arched entrances are flanked by twisted cast-stone columns, and a decorative tile wainscoting extends along the façade beneath the store windows.  A special feature was a garden located behind the stores in which customers could take refreshments.  A July 17, 1927, San Antonio Express News article states construction was to begin in ten days. The widening of Fredericksburg Road from two to four lanes has left this building and its neighbor with a very narrow front walkway.   

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The neighboring Seidemann Building at 720 Fredericksburg Road, similar in size and also built for retail businesses, was designed by Morris, Noonan and Wilson, architects and engineers.  Two of the lessees, Beacon Hill Bakery and Aylett Drug Co., held a grand opening July 18, 1925.  A newspaper article at the time congratulated the owners for pioneering this development on Fredericksburg Road.
 
Also built by Morris, Noonan and Wilson, across the street at 1241 W. French Place and set back from Fredericksburg Road behind a small triangular park, is an L-shaped Spanish Colonial Revival style building.  Prior to construction, an October 25, 1931 San Antonio Express News article reported that some of the building’s space was already leased for a fruit, vegetable, and meat market. Another space was being reserved for "an electric concern."  The great amount of parking space available around the triangular park is mentioned.  This building has been substantially restored and today houses an art studio and living quarters for the owners, as well as leased space for four apartments (two with studio space for artists) and a small business.

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Close by at 115 Michigan, is another similar building that has been restored, with a white stucco exterior and a red tile roof.  The collection of buildings provides a unity of style around the little park. The park is called the Liz Davies Greenspace and was planted by the owners of 1241 W. French Place.  It is dedicated to Liz Davies, the first president of the Beacon Hill Neighborhood Association and a former San Antonio Conservation Society President.
 
Slightly north at 1318 West Russell (near the Fredericksburg Road intersection), the Magnolia Petroleum Co. Station No. 309 was built in 1927.  The west side of the 800 block of Fredericksburg Road had numerous retail stores advertising tires, radios, store room rentals and cleaning, pressing and dyeing services, according to 1927 newspaper ads. A lumber yard has existed in the west side of the 900 block since at least the 1920s under various ownerships.
 
 
Lisa Davis (text and research)
San Antonio Conservation Society Volunteer – Historic Survey Committee
February 2009

 
Sources:
Brian Davenport research - San Antonio Conservation Society volunteer
 "Reconnaissance Survey of Historic Age Resource Along Fredericksburg Road and IH-10, San Antonio, Texas"
San Antonio Express News
San Antonio Light
The Century in Southwest Texas