The Maurer Apartments complex at 220 Beaureguard St., in San Antonio’s historic King William neighborhood, is done in Spanish Eclectic style. The complex was developed by Consuelo Maurer, after her husband William Maurer died in 1919. As a widow, she bought this home and turned it into apartments, an unusual accomplishment for a woman at the time. It’s featured in the latest edition of "The King William Area: A History and Guide to the Houses,” by Mary V. Burkholder and Jessie N.M. Simpson. Photo: Courtesy / King William Association
If you’ve ever dreamed of living in the King William Historic District, there’s a wish book for you that was recently redone in a larger format, with new photographs and even more information.
Effectively a catalog and capsule history of each house on the neighborhood’s major streets, the original “The King William Area: A History and Guide to the Houses,” by Mary V. Burkholder with photos by Graham B. Knight, was published by the King William Association in 1973 and updated four years later in a second edition.
After four decades, the classic reference was ready for a redo of its own. The book of the same name, this time by Burkholder and Jessie N.M. Simpson, with photos by Al Rendon, was published last year, also by the King William Association.
For wistful wannabe owners of historic homes, it’s a compendium of 19th-century period details – the gingerbread woodwork, the fairytale-house gables, the original gaslights that still work. For researchers, tourists and tour guides, Burkholder’s book is a handy reference, with the houses identified by address and original or best-known owner’s name, easy to use as you walk along King William, Washington, Madison and several other streets.
As the credits of the new edition reveal, it’s not just a new edition to sell more copies of an old favorite. The new book is a larger format (watch your step if you walk down the street with it), and it adds a lot to the story of our first suburb, “adjoining the city of San Antonio,” as it was described in an 1853 document.
That quote and nearly every other detail from Burkholder’s original are respectfully preserved in Simpson’s update. Recognizing the 1970s book as a foundational text in neighborhood preservation, a foreword by “The Burkholder Book Committee” notes that “The historic district was newly minted and fragile, and in those times of urban renewal and disdain for anything old … (Burkholder’s) work provided … a first attempt at documenting the neighborhood and the houses, the premise being that houses with documented history were more difficult to deface or destroy.”
The larger, new version is more inclusive, documenting 60 more houses on more than twice as many streets. They include what might have been called infill – structures newer than King William’s late 19th-century norm – purpose-built apartment houses and other non-residential buildings. Some houses have then-and-now photos, juxtaposing historical and current views.
Taken by longtime San Antonio photographer Al Rendon, the new photos are all in glorious color, while the original book had photos in black and white. The 21st-century pictures aren’t just more striking; with color and the larger format, they add a lot more information – the “painted-lady” paint colors chosen by some present-day owners, architectural details that pop, landmarks that make a cameo appearance in the background.
The text also is fuller. While Burkholder and Simpson had some important qualities in common – both longtime King William residents and retirees who committed to years of painstaking research – advances since the ’70s have made this kind of work a lot easier. “In an age before computers and the internet,” says the new book’s foreword, Burkholder “spent untold hours in a musty basement at the County Courthouse with no air-conditioning, poring over old, dusty deed records to establish chains of ownership to a significant portion of the houses.”
There’s more information available now, and Simpson has corrected a few errors, made some points more precise (an owner moved in not “later” but in 1902), added copious architectural identifications and personal histories throughout and extended the book’s reach to a wider concept of the King William neighborhood. Simpson has looked up everything that can be looked up, and all those facts are deposited here for a rich bank of information that will be useful to researchers of topics well beyond these houses and streets.
Included for the first time are the Braunnagel House, at 212 City St., a Richardson Romanesque brick mansion built by Dr. Julius Lucian Alexander Braunnagel, founder of the Santa Rosa Hospital training school for nurses, for his second wife after divorcing his first one. (Oh, and it survived a 1900 lightning strike.) The Wueste House, 125 City, like Braunnagel’s, was designed by Albert Beckmann and not previously known as his work; a later owner, Dr. Ariel Hernandez, was named physician to Pope John Paul II for his 1987 visit to San Antonio.
Asked what about her research surprised her, Simpson – who has been involved in renovation and preservation of historic houses since the original book was new – said it was the number of women who “bought real estate, built houses and lived on their own. Many were young widows forced to fend for themselves.” Consuelo Maurer, after her husband William died in 1919, “accumulated houses and turned them into apartments, even developing an apartment complex” – the Maurer Apartments, in Spanish Eclectic style, at the corner of Madison and Beauregard streets.
Another impoverished young widow, Carolina Garza, worked as a stenographer and invested in real estate. “She acquired houses and held onto them tenaciously,” said Simpson, “not allowing them to be demolished, protecting (what became) many historic properties.
Together, Burkholder and Simpson represent a combined 70 years of personal experience of the area and dedication to telling its story. Rendon’s photos add a further human dimension – the houses come as they are, with seasonal decorations, a few marks of age and time and contemporary touches that suit the current owners.
Burkholder won a San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award for the original edition in 1975, and she and Simpson are among the authors of books on San Antonio and Texas history to receive the same award March 29 in the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, 205 W. Houston St. The event, which starts at 10:30 a.m., is open to the public, and books will be available for sale and to be signed by the authors. Reservations are $55 per person; for details or to register online, visit www.saconservation.org/publication-awards or call the Conservation Society at 224-6163.
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