We’ve been staying for the past few days in an old house in the King William Historic District. It’s located just outside downtown San Antonio and is connected to the city through an easy stroll on the River Walk.
You may ask, as I did: who in the heck was King William? You’ve searched your poor recollection of English kings and can’t remember a William among all the Georges and Henrys and Richards.
That’s because the Americanized reference is actually to Kaiser Wilhelm, Germany’s monarch during the 1870s. He was reigning when wealthy immigrant German burghers first started building grand homes in this area next to the San Antonio River.
The houses in the District are fabulous and would make the old Kaiser proud. Each step along the streets reveals a different style and architectural approach, with all of the special touches and artistic flourishes you’d expect from successful businessmen who wanted their houses to proclaim their prosperity to the world. Many houses are bounded by elaborate wrought iron fencing, and their grounds feature gazebos. fountains, stone lions, and yards filled with fragrant flowering plants.
Interestingly, the District fell into decline some time ago and some of the homes are still emerging from a period of prolonged neglect. It’s sad to see beautiful old homes that are overgrown with vegetation or crumbling — but it’s also encouraging to see that rehabilitation efforts are underway. San Antonio would do well to actively preserve this unique and lovely area, which is worth a short trip down the River Walk to visit.