The National Register of Historic Places-listed and locally designated Lavaca Historic District is located southeast of downtown San Antonio about two blocks east of the King William Historic District and south of HemisFair Park. The majority of the buildings within the district are smaller-sized homes built during the late 1800s and early 1900s, though a small concentration of commercial buildings mostly dating to the early twentieth century are located along the western edge of the district. This area of San Antonio was originally part of mission agricultural lands and remained a largely agricultural area until Mexican landowners began selling off their land to immigrant Anglo developers in the 1830s. Texas Revolutionary hero Samuel Maverick and his business partner Thomas Devine bought large sections of the present‐day neighborhood, and together, the men surveyed, subdivided, and resold the Lavaca area (Moore et al 1999).
During the late‐nineteenth century, the majority of residents of this neighborhood were middle class German‐speaking immigrants in comparison to the mostly upper class residents of the nearby King William neighborhood. The Lavaca neighborhood was a close knit community and most people worked as craftsmen or owned small businesses in the area. These early occupants built small, caliche-block houses that mimicked a popular Hispanic building tradition in San Antonio. The earliest examples of these houses remaining in the neighborhood date from the 1870s and 1880s. One of these houses, the Caliche Block House (ca. 1880) can be viewed from the Mission Trails hike-and-bike trail corridor (Moore et al 1999).
The neighborhood developed slowly but steadily until the arrival of the railroad in the late 1870s. The railroad brought in mass‐produced building materials like milled lumber for homes. The houses built after this period tended to be wood‐framed instead of stone but remained small in size. For the most part, the homes within the Lavaca neighborhood during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were not designed by architects, though they did reflect popular architectural styles. New homes could be chosen from pattern books found at local lumber stores, which also sold the building materials and architectural detail pieces. At this time, the most popular architectural style in the city was what is now known as Queen Anne. The finest examples of Queen Anne style houses, which can be found in King William Historic District, are two-story, irregular in shape, and have contrasting textures and different types of exterior materials. In contrast, the Queen Anne style houses within the Lavaca neighborhood are more modest, mostly one-story, and have an L-shaped plan.
During the early part of the twentieth century, another popular residential architectural style was Classical Revival. Homes in this style featured full height porches with classical columns and symmetrically balanced façades with a central entry and flanking windows. The last wave of new construction within the Lavaca neighborhood occurred just after World War I. Most of the homes built during this time were Craftsman-influenced bungalows that were small one-story houses with low roof lines, inset porches, and handcrafted woodwork. This style is the most predominant type of house within the neighborhood. Examples of these types of houses can be seen within the central part of the neighborhood, off of the Mission Trail corridor (Moore et al 1999).
Other changes within the city and the neighborhood at the beginning of the twentieth century included access to water, gas, electricity, and public transportation with the arrival of the streetcar in 1914. These developments brought commercial development first in the form of food-related shops, then retail stores, and later, automotive‐related businesses. Many of these types of commercial buildings are visible from the Mission Trails hike-and-bike trail corridor and include: the McKnight-Gabriel Building (1880), the Seale Dry Good Store (1910), the Siedeman Building (1915), the Simms Building (1915), the Ruiz Hotel (1930), and the former gas station at 716 South Alamo (1930) (Moore et al 1999).
The availability of new utilities and transportation resulted in a demographic shift within the neighborhood starting in the 1920s. The new generations of the close‐knit German community were able to afford to live in more affluent suburbs outside the city core and commute to work. Instead of selling their homes in the Lavaca neighborhood, they leased their properties to a growing number of Hispanics who were later able to buy property in the neighborhood. Additionally, the area beyond South Presa and east of Labor Street became predominantly African American in character, and both groups of people constructed new homes and associated institutional and commercial resources. Much of the African American neighborhood, including churches, stores, and dwellings, was cleared during the urban renewal experiments of the 1940s to make way for public housing projects (Moore et al 1999).
For more information on the Lavaca Local Historic District see the City of San Antonio’s website. The Lavaca Neighborhood Association also has information about the district on their website. The table below lists all of the contributing resources within the district by address.