Some San Antonio historic neighborhoods get all the fanfare. Residents and tourists alike regularly explore Alamo Plaza, the King William Neighborhood and Monte Vista. But some of our oldest areas are often overlooked. There are actually 26 historic districts in San Antonio. Sothe city's Office of Historic Preservation is doing their darndest to spread the word and share the interest in some of the less frequented historical neighborhoods, and they are doing it in an unusual way.
For instance, staffersof the Office of Historic Preservation led a free guided 3-mile running tour through San Antonio's eastside, stopping off at seven key locationsalong the way. (See the slideshow.)
At each of the stops a guide shared interesting highlights from the neighborhood. The run started early Saturday morning at the Carver Community Cultural Center on N. Hackberry, then proceeded to Ellis Alley, Sunset Station, the Dignowity Hill Historic District and the wonderful Hays Street Bridge.
- Ellis Alley is represented by a small group of homes that sprung up in the early 1900s. These five homes are all that remain of one of San Antonio's oldest African American neighborhoods.You can find thehomes at 212-220 Chestnut Street and 215-217 Ellis Alley.
- The Hays Street Bridge just reopened Wednesday after being closed for 28 years. Many thought the huge bridge that traverses the rail-yard, should have been torn down years ago. Thankfully, it was not. Instead, the city bought the bridge from Union Pacific and restored it for $3.7 million. The bridge sat first over the Nueces River in 1881. But it was transported to San Antonio's eastside in 1910. Originally the bridge was designed for vehicular traffic. But now it is strictly for pedestrians, bikers, and the like.
- Nearby Dignowity Hill is San Antonio's oldest 'exclusive' neighborhood. Historical Preservation planner, Amy Unger, says the area was first developed in the mid 1800s, and features some rambling old homes, and some much more modest and in need of repair. San Antonio realtor and Dignowity Hill resident, Sylvie Shurgot, the average home price in the area is about $28,000. But, the gorgeous, stately, remodeled manses can run more in the $170K to as high as $500K. Shurgot travels with a pack...of four dogs and one spouse, but even without her entourage, she says she feels safer in this neighborhood than she did in her former home on the northwest side of town.
In the center of the neighborhood stands a simple mowed park. Actually, there are two parks right next to each other, each made up of one square block: Lockwood Park and Dignowity Park. There is not much there now, but that will change soon. Texas Public Radio recently announced they have selected Dignowity Park to be the site of a this year's xeriscape project. That means on September 25 about 100 volunteer gardeners will descend upon this green hilltop and transform it into a hotbed of hothouse activity. If you can use a hand spade then put that green thumb up and volunteer through TPR.
The Eastside Guided Running Tour was the fourth running tour sponsored by the Office of Historic Preservation. In May, Historic Preservation Month, the office escorted participants through King William and Lavaca Historic Districts, the Museum Reach and downtown. Check the website to find out about its next adventure. Until then, mark your calendar for the Historic Homeowner Homefair on August 28 at Municipal Auditorium. The Office of Historic Preservation is hosting this second annual event that will feature informative sessions on energy efficiency, and living green in historic properties, as well as other topics like how to repair old windows. There will also be an exhibitors' fair.
It isfree for those who cherish old homes.