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.
During our visit to San Antonio we are staying on the second floor of the Aaron Pancoast Carriage House, in a bed and breakfast arrangement. On trips like this we look for an alternative to hotels if possible, and Kish did a great job in finding this place.
I’m a fan of old hotels, but when you’re staying somewhere for more than two days they can begin to feel cramped and sterile. Under those circumstances, the bed and breakfast can offer some real advantages. You’re in a real neighborhood, rather than a downtown hotel district, and often that allows you to get a more rounded perspective on the town you’re visiting. It’s also nice to camp out in a place that has a refrigerator, a large common area where we can spread out and read, and other agreeable amenities.
Our lodging here is one of three locations owned by Noble Inns. All of them are located in the beautiful King William Historic District area of San Antonio (more about that later). The district is on the RiverWalk, which means we’re just a short stroll away from downtown. It’s nice to be able to walk rather than driving, and we’ve taken advantage of that convenience.
We eat our breakfast in the lushly decorated Oge House. It’s got a historic landmark sign outside, and inside it has all of the fantastic carvings and moldings and nooks and crannies that make me marvel at how unique these old homes were, and how soulless and cookie-cutter our modern homes have become. It’s a pleasure walking in the front door and eating a home-cooked meal in the dining room.
We stay in the carriage house found right across the street. It’s a pleasant place with one huge advantage: a fantastic pool complete with statuary that makes you feel like you’re hanging out at a Roman villa. I am not much of a pool person, but when you’ve been walking along in 90-plus degree heat and bright sunshine it’s nice to take a dip in cool water and then find a shady spot for some reading and conversation. The Romans knew what they were doing.