My mother sister and I were in San Antonio for the weekend and were looking for something new to do. We had the pleasure of touring the King William District with the guidance of San Antonio Walks. The guide was very knowledgeable and made the tour quite interesting. He knew the history of the houses, pointed out architectural details, and had interesting stories about the past and current inhabitants of the houses. I learned so much about a part of San Antonio that I didn't even know existed, even though I have been there ten or more times! We would never have gotten the same experience walking or driving through on our own.
We "locals" found an exceptional tour company here that opened just over a year ago called San Antonio Walks. The Public Walking tour is phenomenal but they offer the best King William Tour as well. Very reasonably priced too. Highly recommend.
The area called the King William Neighborhood of today was subdivided into lots in the 1860s and laid out with the present streets. It was about this time that a great many Germans who had immigrated to Texas in the 1840s began to settle in this area along the San Antonio river and it became known as "Sauerkraut Bend" to the rest of San Antonio. although there are several architectural styles represented it is interesting to note the use of locally quarried limestone as the main building material.
The main entry street into the area was given the name King Wilhelm in honor of King Wilhelm I, King of Prussia in the 1870s. During World War I, when America was at war with Germany, the name was changed to Pershing Avenue. A few years after the war was over the original name was restored, but this time it was given the English version of the name, King William, and it has remained so since. In 1967 the King William District was designated the first Historic Neighborhood District in Texas.
The majority of homes are still private residences. In April of each year the local Neighborhood Association hosts a street fair. The main area consists of only 2 streets, King William and Madison, both 5 blocks long. There are too many beautiful houses to include them all in this tip so I'll post others in an San Antonio travelogue.
We spent part of an afternoon walking around the King William historic district, an area filled with gorgeous old mansions in many different architectural styles-Greek Revival, Victorian, and Italianate. We walked in the hot, hot, hot sun from our hotel to this area, a better way to get over there in the extreme heat would have been the blue line streetcar which has stops in the King William historic district.
We started at the Guenther House which houses a restaurant, gift shop and small museum and then wandered down King William Street and picked up a map at the only other home open on a regular basis, the Steves Homestead Museum. You can download the same map here.
King William Street and the historic district are named after King Wilhelm I of Prussia. The early settlers here were German immigrants including Carl Guenther who built the nearby Pioneer Flour Mill on the San Antonio River.
Some of my favorite mansions on the walking tour:
Picture 1-George Kalteyer House, 425 King William, built 1892 for George Kalteyer, a druggist
Picture 2-Steves Homestead, 509 King William, built 1876 for Edward Steves Sr., a lumber businessman
the king william historic district is located about 1/2 mile south of the river walk area. the historic district is bordered by durango street to the north, alamo to the east, guenther to the south, and the san antonio river to the west. the king william historic district is a nice area to walk around and see historic homes. the guenther house and the steves homestead museum are open to the public. a great place to visit for those interested in architecture.
The King William district was quite an elegant neighborhood where the movers and shakers of the period lived. Successful businessmen who became wealthy from investing and retailing, built lavish homes in this district. Most had come from Germany and had constructed their 'castles' in the mid-1800's.
As we explored King William Street, we saw that each house oozed refinement and affluence from the moment one stepped up to its ornate fencing. (To see more, please go to my travelogue.)
The Guenther House and Steves Homestead are opened for tour, but most are private residences. A walking tour guide is available at the visitor's center in town or at the Anton Wulff house at 107 King William street.
This old neighborhood of stately, Victorian homes is comparable to many others around the U.S. It was originally settled by German-American newcomers. Local residents don't like tour buses to come through. With a special permit, they can drop off and pick up tourists here. But you can easily tour this area on foot. And it's a fairly short walk from downtown.
We began our quick walking tour at the San Antonio Conservation Society HQ at the intersection of King William, Durango, and South St Mary's. After picking up a map and brochure of the area, we wandered down King William Street passing numerous historical residences. We turned right on Johnson Street then at the bridge, turned north and walked along the Riverwalk back to downtown San Antonio. Along the way we passed HEB grocery store's world HQ and an old mill along Washington Street.
The Anton Wulff House which was built of local limestone in about 1870. Anton Wulff came to Texas from Germany in 1848 and became a prosperous San Antonio merchant. The house was built to accommodate his wife and 11 children. In 1902, the house was sold to Arthur Guenther, owner of the Liberty Flour Mill.
Today it is the home of the San Antonio Conservation Society.
The King William Area provides another nice place to take a stroll. A helpful walking tour guide is available for the 25 block area located not too far from downtown. In the 1880s, this area was the most fashionable living area for the San Antonio's wealthy. The homes are beautifully restored - well worth a look if you have a couple of hours.
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