Do you know your San Antonio neighborhood history? These 12 local communities have stories to tell.
From Davy Crockett’s heroic bravery at the Alamo to the spooky halls of the “haunted” Menger Hotel, San Antonio is full of stories. But while you may know San Antonio's urban legends by heart, what about your neighborhood history?
Though now considered a premier community containing some of the most expensive properties in the city; Terrell Hills began as some 600+ acres of family farmland. When Brigadier General Charles Milton Terrell (what a name!) bought the property in the late 1800s, he planned to use it for his family’s estate and livelihood. In the 1920s, his son Frederick Terrell began selling the land as residential space under the family name. “Terrell Hills” was incorporated in 1939!
2. Olmos Park
Established in the mid-1920s, Olmos Park began as the brainchild of famous oilman and real estate tycoon H.C. Thurman. After Thurman purchased the property from an Austrian count (could this story be any more posh?), he quickly developed the land into a high-end suburb bearing the Spanish word for “elm tree.” Over the past 100 years, the area has evolved from an outlying suburb into a central hub for luxury real estate. Just west of Alamo Heights (across Highway 281 and Olmos Basin Park), the “small town” of Olmos Park still retains a unique identity, functioning independently within the urban landscape. Though Olmos Park is known for its tranquil atmosphere and small-town feel, its central location ensures easy access to big-city perks.
3. King William
This neighborhood is fit for royalty! The name “King William” honors King Wilhelm I of Prussia from the 1870s...though, in a neighborhood founded by mostly German immigrants, we're still not really quite sure why good old Wilhelm took the cake on this one. Originally a collection of grand homes in the midst of Mission San Antonio de Valero’s farmland, the King William neighborhood now boasts a mixture of historic homes, shops, museums, and eateries.
A community on the eastern edge of Bexar County, Converse was established in the late 1800s by James Converse, a senior construction engineer of the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad. Initially comprised of a saloon, two cotton gins, and a grocery store, Converse's thriving population now reaches over 18,000. Converse fosters a family-oriented atmosphere and a strong spirit of economic development and growth. Nicknamed “Airport City,” Converse is just a 10-minute drive from Randolph Air Force Base.
Oh my, those Art Deco neighborhoods! Now boasting a vibrant local art scene and historic charm, the Woodlawn Lake neighborhood had humble beginnings. Merely a rural pasture area in the 1880s, a visionary real estate company bought the land, dammed a local creek, and created a man-made lake to draw in residents. Over the next several decades, Woodlawn grew into a north lying suburb perfect for downtown commuters and their families. We adore the area's quirky houses and distinct vibes.
Just west of I-10 in Central San Antonio, Monticello Park holds the charming appeal of a historic neighborhood with all the amenities and modernities of up-and-coming San Antonio. During the late 1920s, a group of developers took Monticello Park from farmland to fabulous, transforming it into one of the most desirable neighborhoods in San Antonio. They named the new neighborhood “Monticello Park” after Thomas Jefferson's Virginia plantation.
Though considered by many to be simply a district in central west San Antonio, Balcones Heights is actually an enclave city that fosters a strong, Texas sense of independence, Southern hospitality, and community togetherness. The town was named “Balcones” (the Spanish word for “balcony”) due to its perch on the Balcones Escarpment, a geological fault zone stretching across Texas from Del Rio to the Red River. This prime location allows residents to enjoy gorgeous views of San Antonio!
8. Tobin Hill
Uniquely poised just above the city center, Tobin Hill's main appeal lies in its vibrant sense of authenticity, diversity, community, art, and culture within the larger context of San Antonio. The neighborhood was named after John Wallace Tobin, known far and wide as the "gunless sheriff" of Bexar County. In 1883, he built a home atop his namesake hill in 1883...hence "Tobin Hill." Today, the neighborhood is composed of a diverse mix of families, professionals, and artists surrounded by a growing wealth of cultural attractions and thoughtful restoration and development.
Listed on the National Historic Registry of Neighborhoods, Dignowity Hill was the first exclusive residential area in San Antonio! The neighborhood’s namesake was Anthony Michael Dignowity, a Czech immigrant who came to San Antonio as a volunteer medic during the Mexican War, later starting his own successful practice in the San Antonio area. Unfortunately, Dignowity (a dedicated abolitionist) was forced to flee North during the Civil War. Today, with an incredible location and undeniably unique vibes, Dignowity Hill boasts an urban mix of residential, commercial, and community space with a flair for hospitality.
10. Hot Wells
Boasting one of the more intriguing neighborhood tales, Hot Wells was built around The Hot Wells Hotel and Spa, a popular upscale tourist destination in the 1900s. The local artesian well boasted therapeutic qualities. Incidentally, the well also ran a pipeline to the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum.
The charming town of Helotes (located off of Loop 1604 just northwest of San Antonio) served as a stagecoach stop between San Antonio and Bandera. Due to the valley’s fertile soil, feed corn was a major area crop in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The name “Helotes” is derived from the Spanish word “elote”, meaning “corn cob”. Corny? Nah, we say classic. Today, Helotes boasts a small town feel with plenty of Hill Country amenities, including Floore’s Country Store, Old Town Helotes, and Helotes Creek Winery.
Like many at the time, the Schertz family (a lively bunch of 12) journeyed to from France to Texas by ship in 1843 in search of cheap land and higher wages. They found beautiful views and prosperous business just north of San Antonio! Today, the small town of Schertz acts as a welcoming gateway into the Alamo City. The town’s location has been extremely strategic in recent years, benefitting greatly from San Antonio’s continual growth north towards the Hill Country and east towards Austin.
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Note: This blog was originally published in December 2016 and has been updated to reflect current info.