The National Register of Historic Places-listed South Alamo Street-South St. Mary’s Street Historic District is generally located between the San Antonio River, South Alamo Street, and South St. Mary’s Street. The district is also located within the King William Local Historic District comprised of the South Alamo Street-South St. Mary’s Street Historic District and the adjacent National Register of Historic Places-listed King William Historic District. The majority of houses within the South Alamo Street-South St. Mary’s Street District were built between 1880 and 1920. In comparison to the houses in the King William Historic District, most homes in the district are smaller, less ornate, and situated on smaller lots (Heck 1984).
This area of San Antonio was originally part of agricultural lands that belonged to Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) and remained a largely agricultural area until landowners began selling off the highly desirable land to developers like Ernst Wehrhan in the late 1850s, Hardin Adams and E.D.L. Wickes in 1871, and Axel and Paul Meerscheidt during the late 1880s. These developers then subdivided the land into lots and resold them over time to future residents. Like the King William Historic District to the east, many German immigrants first settled in this neighborhood. However, in this area, most residents were middle class in comparison to their wealthier neighbors to the north (Heck 1984).
The earliest development within the district began about 1870 and continued through the mid-1880s. This early development was concentrated within the triangle formed by South Alamo, South St. Mary’s, and Perieda Streets. Wehrhan built the first few houses in the neighborhood, one of which (a caliche block house built in 1865) still stands at the southwest corner of Pereida and Cedar Streets and is currently in use as a medical facility run by the South Alamo Medical Group. Other houses in this area were one-story, wood-framed, and had an L-plan (Heck 1984).
Development of the neighborhood generally continued to the south of the earliest development as the land developers purchased land and sold the smaller lots to buyers who then contracted with lumber yards and in rare instances, with architects, to build houses. The Meerscheidts entered into business with lumberman C.A. Stieren in 1890 after purchasing tracts in the middle of the neighborhood and some that abutted the river. Buyers were given the option to purchase just the lot or a completed house as well. The majority of these houses were one-story, L-plan buildings of wood frame or brick with some Queen Anne style details including an irregular and steep roofline, bay windows, decorative shingles, and patterned brickwork (Heck 1984).
Though the majority of the neighborhood was characterized by middle class homes, those constructed closer to the river or that had river frontage were located in an elite development known as the River Subdivision. This separate district within the neighborhood included substantial homes on larger lots that were purchased by more affluent residents. Most of these houses were constructed between 1895 and 1905 and exhibit various types of building construction and several popular architectural styles from the time period.
The majority of the architecture within this portion of the neighborhood can be described as variations of the Queen Anne style. Some of the characteristics of the style include: an asymmetric plan, multi-story and wrap-around porches, intricate wood scrollwork, 3-sided bay windows, tall chimneys, and use of different types of exterior materials and textures (Heck 1994).
The Faltin #1 House (1905), the McNulty-Travelers House (1895), the McManus-Heinen House (1908), the Edward Hertzberg House (1905), the Barnes House #1 (1900), the Vinke House (1895), and the Peyton House (ca. 1890) are examples of 2-story wood-framed Queen Anne style homes near the corridor. The Mockert House at 105 Crofton is also similar in style; however, it does not contribute to the district. It is a City of San Antonio Local Landmark. The Theodor Herzberg House (1895), the Voechting-Tewes House (1892), the Engleke-Reifel House (1895), the Rennert House (1906), the Faltin House #2 (1905), the Leo Dielmann House (1915), and the Stieren House (1890) are examples of 2-story, brick-framed Queen Anne style homes near the Mission Trails hike-and-bike trail corridor. The Wehrhan House (1905) and the house at 725 E. Guenther are one-story, wood-frame versions of the Queen Anne style. Additional homes located near the Mission Trails hike-and-bike trail corridor include one-story cottages with columns that reflect a mixture of Queen Anne and Neo-Classical styles. These homes are the Robbie House (1910), the Groos House #2 (1907), the Huerich/Davidson/Gething House (1895), the Albert Steves, Jr. House (1910), and the Bodkin House (1895). All of these resources are privately owned and not open for public tours or viewing.
The southern portion of the neighborhood continued to develop after the turn of the century; however, the majority of new houses built in this area were bungalows, which are normally one or one-and-half-story homes with an overhanging roof and a front porch. Other neighborhood resources constructed during this period include the San Antonio Mennonite Church (1928), a contributing feature of the district and City of San Antonio local landmark visible from the trail alignment. As with other nearby neighborhoods, new utilities and new types of transportation resulted in a change of demographics within the neighborhood beginning in the 1920s. The new generations of the close‐knit German community were able to afford to live in the more affluent suburbs outside the city core and commute to work. Many of these original German residents leased their property to a growing number of Hispanics, many of whom were later able to buy property in the neighborhood. After World War II, San Antonio had a major housing shortage due to the population explosion caused by military-related development during the war, and as a result, some of the houses were subdivided for multiple tenants or families. Recognizing the unique history and architecture of the area, the King William Association formed in 1967 to preserve the neighborhood (Heck 1994).
For more information on the South Alamo Street-South St. Mary’s Street Historic District see the King William Neighborhood Association’s website about the district. For information about the King William Association see the website.