BY CHERYL ANDERSON
San Antonio, Texas, has many beautiful and historic sites and neighborhoods, but its King William neighborhood, once called the Sauerkraut Bend, is by far my favorite. I have strolled along its beautiful streets many times, pushing a stroller and savoring the quiet, absorbing its history.
In December my two granddaughters, now in high school, joined me on my King William walking tour. One of the houses on King William Street is where the girls used to live when they were small, but I hadn’t taken the time to walk around the neighborhood in years. The girls had a great time seeing their old house.
These are some of my other King William Street favorites:
After lunch at the wonderful Guenther House, which was part of our tour, we took a stroll down Madison Street. Here is just a selection of some of the beautiful homes located along that walk:
The Jesse Oppenheimer House, on Madison Street, is an eclectic Victorian-style home sporting a Queen Anne influenced round tower, with classical columns, and rounded shingles. There’s a little bit of everything going on in the design of this house! I remember, as a child living in San Antonio, the same style of metal chairs that sit on this porch. There was hardly a porch without them.
German immigrants started arriving in 1840s, and the Guenther family was one of the earliest families to settle in San Antonio. They built the Pioneer Flour Mill in 1854, the only operating mill remaining on the San Antonio river. The Carl H. Guenther House, the old family home, is located at the end of King William Street at 205 East Guenther. It is a working museum with its own gift shop and restaurant.
Around the 1860s, families like the Guenthers began to establish their community in San Antonio with the building of Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italianate mansions in the King William District. Amongst these mansions, however, are quaint cottages and bungalows, one more charming than the other.
Encompassing 25 blocks, the King William District is lined with beautiful trees, lush green gardens, brass plaques offering the history of some of the houses, others with medallions posted in front noting their significance, and porches fronting homes to be envied. Interestingly, a few concrete blocks still exist along the sidewalks where people would step down from their carriages.
Crossing the bridge, off of King William Street, and down an incline to the left, you can take a leisurely stroll along the curving walkway on the southern, more serene reach of the River Walk. You won’t find many tourists strolling along this section of the River Walk that runs behind the historic homes. Children delight in feeding the mallards leisurely floating by.
As we walked around on the last day of December, we saw houses waiting to be brought back to their former glory and others surrounded in scaffolding that are in the process of renovation—many renovation projects began in the 1950s and continue to this day.
Incorporated in the neighborhood are sleek, modern homes replacing the traditional ones. To me, these new modern homes don’t look out of place, merely adding variety and proof the neighborhood is still regarded as a very desirable place to live no matter the architectural style of the home.
We didn’t walk along all the streets, only two, but there’s always next year. The King William Association office has brochures full of stories about the people that lived in the homes in the early days, the history of the houses, and a newly revised book for sale with even more information, maps, and stories. I purchased one and it has all you need to know to make your visit an interesting event.
My suggestion for another fun place to eat is at the Madhatters Tea House and Café at 316 Beauregard. I’ve been there many times with grandkids. One visit, I saw a young girl dressed up as Alice as in Wonderland! My 2-year-old granddaughter was very impressed! To this day, I’m still not sure if she was meeting a group or just felt like being Alice in Wonderland on that particular afternoon. Beauregard is an interesting street to walk along—The Huntress House is beautiful and there’s even an apartment building, the Maurer Apartments located nearby!
Beyond the Alamo, discover the historic King William Neighborhood on your next visit to San Antonio.
For more information, visit the King William Association office, located at 122 Madison Street, San Antonio, Texas; call (210) 227-8786, or visit ourkwa.org.