King William Historical District Tour, San Antonio

King William Historical District Tour (Self Guided), San Antonio

San Antonio’s first “suburb” and the very first historical district in Texas, revitalized during the 1960s, the King William District encompasses 25 blocks south of downtown and east of the San Antonio River.

Back in the late 1800s, it was the most elegant residential area in the city. Settled by German immigrants, the neighborhood was named after Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia and represented their achievements as they prospered and built opulent mansions.

Steeped in architectural beauty, this district boasts a collection of well-preserved 19th-century homes, notable for their style, many of which today have been converted into museums and cultural centers.

Among such notable landmarks is the Anton Wulff House, a stunning example of German Renaissance Revival architecture. Nearby, the San Antonio Art League Museum showcases works by local and regional artists, providing insight into the city's vibrant art scene.

The Oge House, Sartor House, and Carl Wilhelm August Groos House offer glimpses into the lives of prominent residents from the past, while the Norton–Polk–Mathis House and Steves Homestead Museum provide further opportunities to explore the district's history.

Be sure to visit the Guenther House, a beloved local spot known for its delicious baked goods and historic ambiance.

For anyone interested in experiencing the rich history and cultural heritage of San Antonio, a visit to the King William Historical District is a must. Wander the tree-lined streets, admire the architecture, and immerse yourself in the stories of generations past!
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King William Historical District Tour Map

Guide Name: King William Historical District Tour
Guide Location: USA » San Antonio (See other walking tours in San Antonio)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: ChristineT
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Anton Wulff House
  • San Antonio Art League Museum
  • Oge House
  • Sartor House
  • Carl Wilhelm August Groos House
  • Norton–Polk–Mathis House
  • Steves Homestead Museum
  • Guenther House
Anton Wulff House

1) Anton Wulff House

The Anton Wulff House is named after its original owner, Anton Friedrich Wulff (1822–1894) who was a native of Hamburg, Germany, and immigrated to Texas in 1848. Wulff was actively involved in civic work, served as San Antonio's first park commissioner, and was elected a city alderman. He was also the man who designed the layout and took part in the beautification of Alamo Plaza, much of it at his own expense.

The multi-story Italianate limestone edifice was built in 1869–1870 on the land originally owned by Pedro Huizar, and which was once part of San Antonio de Valero Mission. In 1902, the Wulff family sold the property.

Flooding in 1921 resulted in a 1926 flood-control measure that included re-routing part of the San Antonio River. Prior to that, the Wulff house was adjacent to the river and included a boathouse and a bathhouse. After a 1950 sale, the structure was converted into individual apartments, and later, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners remodeled it further. In 1968, the house received a zoning exemption due to its inclusion in the King William District.

In 1974, the San Antonio Conservation Society (SACS) purchased the home for $250,000. In 1975, SACS moved its headquarters into the Wulff home. In honor of the land's original owner, an adjacent lot is named the Pedro Huizar Garden. In 1976, the property was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Bexar County, Texas as a contributing structure of the King William Historic District.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
San Antonio Art League Museum

2) San Antonio Art League Museum

The San Antonio Art League & Museum (SAALM) is the oldest arts institution in San Antonio. The League's location changed many times until, after a long struggle and some moving around, it was finally given the opportunity to settle in a venerable building in the heart of the historic King William District.

Visitors to the SAALM often ask about its building, and are often surprised to find out that, although it was built in 1896, it has a very non-Victorian "pedigree". The intimate house-turned-museum and gallery today houses over 600 works in its permanent collection, and is mainly focused on local and regional art, featuring works in all media - including paintings, drawings, prints and photographs, furniture, ceramics and sculpture - available for public viewing. The heart of the collection are the paintings from the Edgar B. Davis Texas Wildflower Competitive Exhibitions dating back to the 1920s.

The San Antonio Art League was organized in March 13, 1912. Among the notable Texan artists represented in its diverse and highly respected collection are Robert and Julian Onderdonk, José Arpa, Emma Richardson Cherry, E. G. Eisenlohr, Mary Bonner, Martha Mood, Charles Umlauf, and Amy Freeman Lee. Revolving contemporary exhibits displayed at SAALM also represent the unique diversity of Texas talent.
Oge House

3) Oge House

One of the only houses within the King William District not built by German immigrants, the Newton Mitchell or Oge House is also the most important of the three fine residences found on the one-block-long Washington Street. This imposing two-story late Greek Revival edifice was built by the U.S. Army as the commanding officer's quarters for the San Antonio Arsenal in 1860, and is one of the early stone residences in the city. Its first floor and basement date back as far as 1857 when the place was owned by Attorney Newton. A. Mitchell and his wife Catherine (Elder).

The exquisite Neo-Classical antebellum mansion sits on 1.5 acres of land overlooking the famed San Antonio River Walk, surrounded by lush plantings, rose gardens and lawns. Louis Oge (1832-1915) bought this property in 1881, after migrating to Texas in 1845 with the Castor Colony, serving in Texas Rangers under W.A.A. ("Bigfoot") Wallace, and making a fortune as a rancher. He was a San Antonio business leader and served as alderman and school board president. Oge hired a leading local architect Alfred Giles to enlarge and remodel the building.

Today, the Oge House forms part of Noble Inns, a collection of three distinguished San Antonio bed-and-breakfast properties in the heart of the hot Southtown dining scene. Lovingly restored, it features 10 elegant guest rooms on three floors offering all the modern amenities to discerning travelers.
Sartor House

4) Sartor House

This gem of a house was designed by Alfred Giles for prominent jeweler Alexander Sartor, Jr. in 1881. Though best known for his larger commissions, Alfred Giles, the most popular architect in San Antonio at that time, also created some delightful small-scale works, such as this one.

While many of the homes in this area have highly decorative porches, the Sartor House is unique in its details that are well worth noting. An outstanding example of a typical San Antonio Victorian-era residence, this home features a wide front porch with street-front Italianate detailing which includes five large windows opening onto a handsome deep frame veranda. The soft caliche block walls are stuccoed to imitate ashlar masonry with protruding mortar joints. The central, front porch pediment with hanging pendant, that frames the front door, reflects the Gothic influence. Arched openings, dentil molding and decorative porch elements further mark the Victorian style.

A native of Germany, Sartor came to San Antonio in the mid-19th century. He was a popular watch repairman and had one of the first jewelry stores open in the city. Mr. Sartor lived in this house with his family until 1909. After he had sold the house, it was used for a variety of purposes, including a medical office and a literary studio.

From the 1950s, the house belonged to the Tobin Foundation and was used by the Family Welfare Association, and later as a guesthouse for Hemisfair visitors. In 1973, the property was sold again and underwent a thorough restoration. The new owner is said to have sold old jewelry and gold coins to buy the house. In the late 1970s, she added to it the ornate antique iron fence, a gift from her son-in-law.
Carl Wilhelm August Groos House

5) Carl Wilhelm August Groos House

The Carl Wilhelm August Groos House is the former property of Carl Wilhelm August Groos, a German immigrant and one of the founders of the Groos National Bank. He came to Texas in 1848 and in 1854 joined his brothers, becoming part of the freighting firm of F. Groos and Company. In 1862, during the Civil War, Carl was arrested by Confederate authorities and taken to San Antonio.

In 1880, Groos hired the local architect Alfred Giles to build a home for him and his wife Hulda. The result was a limestone Victorian residence featuring a Gothic Revival influence. The Groos descendants occupied this property until 1948.

In 1957, the house was purchased by the San Antonio Council of the Girl Scouts of the USA, which they later sold to Charles Butt. It has since been restored and remained in private ownership. In 1977, the house was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Bexar County, Texas as a contributing structure of the King William Historic District.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Norton–Polk–Mathis House

6) Norton–Polk–Mathis House

The Norton–Polk–Mathis House, also known Villa Finale, is a historic building occupying one of the oldest sites in the King William Historical District. In 1869 Russell C. Norton, San Antonio merchant and Mayflower descendant, acquired three lots of land fronting on King William Street and running down to the San Antonio River. He began construction on the property in 1876.

The significance of this house is that, in the course of the 19th century, it was remodeled several times progressively adding a second story and typical Victorian gingerbread rear gallery, thus allowing to trace the evolution of Texas architecture, from the simple stone frontier building to the monumental Italian Renaissance Revival tower and porch.

After a sequence of owners, the house was eventually turned into a boarding residence and remained so until 1967, when it was purchased by local civic leader, Walter Nold Mathis, who then spent two years undertaking its extensive restoration and returned the house to its original condition. Mathis named the home Villa Finale as he intended it to be his last dwelling. He also purchased 16 more properties in the King William neighborhood, restoring some of them fully and stabilizing others prior to selling them to those who agreed to finish the work. For his efforts in resurrecting the neighborhood, Mathis came to be known as the "father of the modern King William".

In 1971, the house was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and, as a contributing property to the King William Historic District, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Upon Mathis's death in 2005, he willed the house to the National Trust for Historic Preservation which now operates it as a museum – open for tours on a limited basis.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Steves Homestead Museum

7) Steves Homestead Museum

The Edward Steves Homestead is the showcase of an immense wealth that was amassed by lumber baron Edward Steves, founder of the Steves Lumber Company, who immigrated to Texas from Germany in 1849. The homestead incorporates an elegant three-story mansion with a concave mansard roof decorated in iron cresting, which is characteristic of the French Second Empire and the Italian Villa styles, plus some out buildings. Made of ashlar limestone (which means “precisely cut and finished”, also known to masons as “peck work”), the Steves mansion was built in 1876, possibly to the design by Alfred Giles, the prominent San Antonio architect.

As for the homestead's out buildings, they include The River House, a one-story brick structure at the rear of the Homestead property, which held one of the earliest natatoriums, or indoor swimming pools, in San Antonio. This brick-lined bit of luxury used to be filled with water from the artesian well located on the property. Mrs. Steves is said to have swam there every day, at two o’clock, regardless of the weather.

To hold storage during the homestead construction, the two-story frame and stone Carriage House was built in 1875, a year before the mansion itself. Thoroughly restored in 1976-1977, the Carriage House still provides storage for the Edward Steves Homestead today.

Once the mansion was complete, servants’ quarters were necessary to house the full-time gardener and a “stable boy” who worked for the Steves family. This was built around 1877. The Servants Quarters was restored in 1983-84 and currently serves as a Visitors Center, where tickets are sold and tours originate.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the homestead remained a family residence until 1952 when Steves’ descendants donated it to the San Antonio Conservation Society who then turned it into a museum in 1954. Visiting this museum today makes one feel back in time at least hundred years.
Guenther House

8) Guenther House

The Guenther House is a restaurant, museum and a store located in the King William neighborhood at the intersection of King William and Guenther streets. Currently operated by C. H. Guenther and Son. Inc., the home was originally built as a private residence by Pioneer Flour Mills founder, Carl Hilmar Guenther.

This vernacular native limestone home was one of the first built in the neighborhood in 1859. The stones were quarried in the area that is now Brackenridge Park, and the wood used in the construction was East Texas pine. The original entrance to the house faced southward towards the mill.

A 1915 expansion of the house changed the entrance to the north side, fronting the San Antonio River. The original entrance now serves as a hallway between the museum and the River Mill Store part of the house. The top floor, known as the Roof Garden, once hosted dances. Presently, the space is used for large meetings or luncheons. The south side of the house today has a patio and arbor for outdoor dining.

An area of the house, that once served as the library, is now the museum containing family keepsakes, as well as artifacts of milling, dining and baking history in San Antonio. Travel souvenirs from around the world are also part of the museum. The museum, store and restaurant are open to the public 7 days a week.

The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Bexar County, Texas on October 11, 1990.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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