The East French Place Historic District is a small area located in central San Antonio in the Tobin Hill Neighborhood. The street was first developed in 1922 and includes excellent examples of Craftsman style homes. All homes were constructed by local builder H.C. Thorman in a similar style and size. The streetscape is further unified by sidewalks, driveways on the east side of each lot, matching setbacks, and central walkways. Building materials are wood and brick.
East French Place was subdivided in 1922 by H.C. Thorman and included 42 lots. The neighborhood was bound by Jones Street (N St. Mary’s St) to the west and the Upper Labor Acequia to the east. All 33 homes are Craftsman bungalows that share character-defining features including elements such as exposed rafter tails, decorative window screens, clipped gables, and large porches supported by massive columns. Thorman built all of these houses in the span of two months, with the help of local building supply company Hillyer-Deutsch-Jarrat. With the exception of a few lots lost to Hwy 281 to the east, the historic district is entirely intact.
Developer H.C. Thorman constructed hundreds of homes across San Antonio, often working with local manufacturing supplier and contracting firm Hillyer-Deutsch-Jarrett and pulling from a distinct plan book. The New Encyclopedia of Texas proclaimed Thorman was the “leading home builder of this city,” best known for the San Antonio Country Club Addition and Olmos Park Estates. Other neighborhoods developed by Thorman include areas along Cincinnati, in Mahncke Park, and in Olmos Park Terrace.
The structures in the E French Place proposed historic district are all Craftsman bungalows that share similar decorative features. Thirteen of the thirty-three homes feature clipped front gables; many have linear front walkways and driveways to the east of the house. Other shared design features include exposed rafter tails, triangular knee braces, decorative window screens, and columns on large pediments supporting the porches.
A Magical Colony
The secluded nature of this neighborhood off of N St. Mary’s produces the feeling of an almost suburban subdivision. The development pattern of consistent deep setbacks, front porches that clearly address the street and similar home sizes make for a strikingly coherent streetscape. Although its eastern edge today is defined by Highway 281, in fact the Upper Labor Acequia originally provided the terminus for this street. Thorman subdivided this block in 1922, and proceeded to rapidly build 42 modest Craftsman bungalows. The American Lumberman covered the story in its May 6, 1922 edition, stating that “Building interests here have had their attention centered recently on the almost magical development of a new colony of homes by H.C. Thorman, who within a period of less than sixty days erected forty-two cottages…From 600 to 700 men have been kept at work on the houses, probably the largest number ever employed on any one such contract in the city.” The HillyerDeutsch-Jarratt Lumber Co., where Maury Maverick served as sales manager, was instrumental in the prompt completion of the project. Represents social and economic history of San Antonio The homes were purchased by families of diverse backgrounds. Most had middle-class incomes from jobs as bookkeepers, salesmen, insurance agents, and storekeepers.
The East French Place Historic District was designated by City Council in 2017 and is San Antonio's 29th local historic district.