On Saturday you’ll be walking through the historic King William area. To give some historical context to your walk you can pick up a brochure for the King William walking tour (or download it here.)
If you have time to linger, there are two historic houses you can visit, both of them about a mile east of the event hotel.
The land that we now know as the King William Historic District started out as the labores, or farm fields, of San Antonio de Valero Mission, the Alamo. In 1793 the land was secularized and divided amongst 16 native families. In the 1850s it was acquired by a developer, and became the center of prosperous German-American life in San Antonio; the King William moniker comes from Kaiser Wilhelm. It now comprises parts of some twenty-two blocks with seventy-nine historic structures, most dating from the second half of the nineteenth century.
The Steves Homestead, pictured above, was built in 1876 for Edward Steves, founder of the Steves Lumber Company. The ashlar limestone structure, constructed in the French Second Empire style, features a concave mansard roof with decorative iron cresting. It was donated to the San Antonio Conservation Society in 1952 and is operated as a house museum.The Homestead is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m; last entry is at 3:00 p.m. A self-guided tour is $7.50 for adults; Seniors 65+, active military, students get in for $5.00. (509 King William.)
The Villa Finale was the home of Walter Mathis, now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. By the 1960s this house, and most of the other grand houses in King William, were sub-divided into boarding houses. The once exclusive neighborhood was run down and unsafe. Walter Mathis spent two years meticulously restoring the “Norton House,” renaming it Villa Finale as he rightly expected it to be his final residence. He also bought other old homes in the area and restored them, and in doing so, restored the entire neighborhood. Mathis was also a collector, and his stuff — including an especially fine collection of Napoleonic artifacts — are on display. You can take a self-guided tour of the first floor Tuesday – Saturday between 10:00am – 1:00pm for $7.50 ($5.00 for seniors, students & military.) Guided tours of the entire house are offered on the same days, 1:30pm or 3:00pm, for a few dollars more. (401 King William)
If you have worked up an appetite with all the morning’s walking and touring, treat yourself to lunch at the Guenther House. This was the home of Carl Hilmar Guenther, founder of the adjoining Pioneer Flour Mill. The downstairs Restaurant reflects the Art Nouveau style of the 1920’s, characterized by the use of stained glass, symmetrical lines and extensive plant motifs. Constructed between 1915 and 1918, the room reflects the miller’s trade, with plaster bundles of corn and wheat used as supports for the mantel and wall buffet. Southern Living magazine recognized The Guenther House as one of the top 5 breakfast picks in Texas (breakfast is served all day) and especially noted “The towering buttermilk biscuits and the Southern Sweet Cream waffles taste so light and airy you’d almost think they could float away.” Parts of the house itself is open as a museum. (205 E. Guenther, around the corner from Steves Homestead. See that little wrought iron table and chairs at the right edge of the photo? That’s our checkpoint!)
If you’d prefer a beer and a burger, stop by Beethoven Maennerchor, 422 Pereida (it’s about a 5 minute walk southeast of Steves Homestead.) The club’s purpose is to preserve German song, music, and language. It is the one of the oldest German singing societies in Texas. The bar and restaurant is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 4:00pm until midnight. And what timing! Beethoven Maennerchor is celebrating a major milestone, its 150th anniversary: in conjunction with the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio and Beethoven’s own concert band, the Maennerchor will perform classic German songs including works by Ludwig Van Beethoven at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, February 25. . The concert is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6 p.m. with the concert beginning at 7 p.m.