Wednesday, August 26, 2015
The National Register of Historic Places-listed Carl Hilmar Guenther House was originally constructed in 1859, making it one of the oldest houses in the King William neighborhood. It was extensively modified in 1915, and its current appearance is characterized by alterations from that date. Carl Hilmar Guenther, the house’s original owner, first arrived in Texas from Germany in 1851. He was a trained cabinet maker, stone mason, and millwright, and constructed his first mill in San Antonio in 1859. The C.H. Guenther and Sons Flour Mill, now known as Pioneer Flour Mills, was located adjacent to his homestead along the San Antonio River. The dwelling was one of only three constructed in or before 1859 within the King William neighborhood and became one of eight constructed by Guenther family members in the area during the second half of the nineteenth century (Watson et al 1990).
As originally constructed, the Guenther House was a raised, modified T-plan cottage constructed from locally available materials including limestone blocks quarried from an area near modern-day Brackenridge Park and mortar containing local sand reinforced with horse hair. The dwelling’s northern façade still reflects its original 1859 composition, though much of its current detailing was added in 1915 and is reflective of the Arts and Crafts Movement popular during that period. Major features on this façade include curvilinear brackets supported by a gabled green tile canopy over the entrance and casement windows on the first and second levels installed prior to 1915.
The windows on the second level open onto a balcony with an Oriental-influenced railing (Watson et al 1990).
The dwelling’s western façade is dominated by a 2-story, 3-bay addition dating to 1915. It has a gabled roof, a limestone chimney, and features double-sided stairs with cast iron railings leading to a multi-paned door on the northern end. This façade used to have an ornate porte cochere that was removed in the 1940s. The dwelling’s southern façade is also dominated by the 1915 addition and features an interior chimney, an elaborate art glass door with C.H. Guenther’s initials, and a row of basement-level casement windows with art glass transoms decorated with an ivy motif. The house faces northeast along the former north bank of the San Antonio River, and its setting is dominated by the presence of the adjacent Pioneer Flour Mills Complex (Watson et al 1990; Sanborn Fire Insurance Company var.).
Today the house serves as a museum, gift shop, and restaurant and is open to the public. For more information about Carl Hilmar Guenther and his contributions to early historic development in San Antonio, see a biographical article and an article regarding the history of milling in Texas in the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas Online. For additional property history and visitor information, visit the C.H. Guenther and Sons website.
Watson, A. Maria and Ford, Powell & Carson, Architects (with Amy Dase, Historian, THC)
1990 - National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Carl Hilmar Guenther House, copy on file at the Texas Historical Commission.