Prior to Highland Park’s development as a residential area, the 780 acres were owned by Albert Steves Jr. who made the land available to local dairy farmers as pasture land. The land, referred to at this time as "the old Steve pasture," was purchased in 1909 by L.P. Peck, Benno Kayton, W.C. Rigsby, Ben Hammond, Charles Peterson, and A.M Avant. They formed the Highland Park Improvement Company with an original plan for each investor to build a large house on a street named for himself. Charles Peterson elected to forgo a street in his name, which resulted in Highland Park Boulevard and the main thoroughfare through this suburban area.
Highland Park was a planned community with utilities placed in the alleys and upper-middle class homeowners in mind. Deed restrictions were set very high to protect land and property values. Key to the development of what was then the largest suburb in San Antonio was the new trolley line to facilitate commuting to downtown. The No. 10 Line passed through Highland Park via Rigsby Avenue ending at Adele Street until 1933 when the trolley was replaced by bus service. Better educational facilities were also advertised as one of the advantages of this area. Records show Highland Park plats for the years 1909, 1913, 1917, and 1921. The current population density of this neighborhood was reached between WW I and WW II.
The character of the community began a decline in the mid 1970s when two-story homes were converted to apartments and an increasing number of properties fell into disrepair. The establishment of an active neighborhood association was the key to a renaissance period beginning in the 1980s and continuing today. A San Antonio Express News article in February 2007 describes the neighborhood as it appears today, "Like a neighborhood suffering an identity crisis, Highland Park streets are lined with evidence of both deterioration and pride."
Architectural styles in Highland Park include bungalows, Spanish Revival and English Tudor Revival styles, numerous "eclectic" Craftsman houses, and later minimal traditional homes. The Craftsman style was very popular in the period 1905 through the 1920s. Many of the houses were constructed in part by use of "pattern books" by builders, which resulted in many houses with similar features such as hip roofs with exposed rafters, triangular knee braces below the roof, and a variety of porch columns. Two structures of special note are the E.O. Goldbeck home and studio built in 1929-1930 located at 723 E. Drexel and the Asian influenced bungalow built in 1912 located at 843 Rigsby.
Goldbeck was a world-renowned panoramic photographer. In the 1930s he operated his National Photo Service company from his home and studio (rear yard) on Drexel. The Asian-influenced bungalow on Rigsby is an outstanding example of Japanese-influenced architectural detailing applied to a traditional bungalow form, and one of only a small number existing within the city. Both Goldbeck’s home and studio on Drexel and the Asian-influenced bungalow on Ribsby remain impressive structures within the neighborhood.
Linda and Larry Segesman
San Antonio Conservation Society volunteers – Historic Survey Committee
- Office of Historic Preservation – research files and survey notebooks
- Central Library Texana-Geneology files (San Antonio Public Library)