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Architectural Exploration in San Antonio’s King William Neighborhood

_Architecture_Alive_KingWilliamsWith all the lively riverfront action in San Antonio, it’s easy to forget about cultural treasures such as the King William neighborhood. Named after King Wilhelm I of Prussia, the district sprang to life at the hands of German immigrants in the mid-19th century. It’s now deemed a cherished Cultural Arts District by none other than the Texas Commission of Arts, and it holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s All About the Architecture

Roughly 25 blocks in the King William Historic District are chockfull of stunning mansions, museums and warehouse structures ranging from Victorian high styles to Italianate, Romanesque Revival, Second Empire, the Arts-and-Crafts movement and 19th-century industrial. The “frozen in time” architectural display is jaw-dropping enough from streetside, but you can actually step into vestibules of the past by touring Villa Finale or the Steves Homestead Museum. But the crowning glory is undeniably the circa-1859 Guenther House.

With its own listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the vernacular dwelling of Guenther House features native limestone from a quarry near what’s now Brackenridge Park, and the mortar is local sand fortified by 150-year-old horse’s hair. Keep your eyes peeled for striking architectural anomalies such as the green gabled tile canopy, oriental-style balcony railings and ivy-motif art-glass transoms.

Inside Guenther House, you’ll find a museum stuffed with memorabilia from early San Antonio history, including milling artefacts, antique baking paraphernalia and anniversary Dresden china plates, which were once doled out as gifts to mill customers. Stop by the store to pick up souvenirs, or grab a bite at the onsite restaurant, which is open seven days a week. From the windows of Guenther House, you’ll get a perfect view of the adjacent Pioneer Flour Mills Complex, originally constructed by C.H. Guenther as the first steam- and water-powered mill in San Antonio

How to Explore the District

Whether you’re a serious architecture aficionado or just happen to love “big old houses,” it’s easy to stroll the tree-lined streets of this impressive chunk of San Antonio heritage. The district perches prettily between South Alamo Street, South St. Mary’s Street (which are both historic districts in the own right), Cesar Chavez Boulevard and the San Antonio River.

Tour buses offer guided excursions, but you can also roam at your own pace. To get there on foot, meander along the Mission Reach extension of the River Walk, which takes about 15 minutes when you pick up the trail from downtown. Make up your own self-guided tour using pamphlets available near the gates of the San Antonio Conservation Society at 107 King William Street, which was once part of San Antonio de Valero Mission.

Making your home in San Antonio places you in the heart of Texas heritage. Check out our San Antonio apartment communities today with a private tour and current move-in specials.