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German Influence in San Antonio

Sauerkraut Bend: Impressive Homes Built for German Families

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The King William Historic District, just south of downtown, was settled by German immigrants in the mid-1800s on former Mission Indian farmland that had been subdivided into lots after secularization of the Spanish missions. Known as Sauerkraut Bend, the neighborhood’s expansive homes were built in Greek revival, Victorian and Italianate styles. The main street, King William, was originally named “King Wilhelm” in honor of the King of Prussia in the 1870s. In 1968, it became San Antonio‘s first designated historic district. Names of families of German origin who lived here include Altgelt, Steves, Heusinger, Wulff, Groos and Guenther.

Influence on Business Life

By 1860, San Antonio had become the largest town in Texas (outranking Galveston for the first time) with more than 8,200 residents. German settlers were responsible for a large part of this growth, and German speakers outnumbered both Hispanics and Anglos until after 1877. The city had a number of German community and social organizations, including the Sons of Hermann, Schuetzen Verein, the Turnverein and the Casino Club. A few of the businesses created by San Antonians born in Germany include:

Lone Star Brewery: The Alamo Brewing Company of San Antonio was established in 1874 and purchased by Anheuser-Busch in 1895. It was originally housed in the old Lone Star Brewery on Jones Avenue (now the San Antonio Museum of Art). In 1940, a brewer from Munich formulated the first beer to be called Lone Star.

MengerHotel.jpg Menger Hotel: William A. Menger, born in Germany in 1827, arrived in San Antonio around 1850 and married a woman who ran a boardinghouse. He started the Western Brewery and, in 1859, hired another German, J. H. Kampmann, to build the Menger Hotel next to the Alamo. The Menger Hotel, which is still in operation, was designed by a Bavarian-born architect, John M. Fries.

Pearl Brewery: Otto and Emma Koehler came to Texas from Germany in 1884. In 1899, Otto became president of the San Antonio Brewing Association, which later became known as the Pearl Brewing Company. After his death in 1914, Otto’s wife, Emma, took over operations at the brewery. The Pearl is now a thriving residential, retail, office, hospitality and event complex on the San Antonio Museum Reach.


Pioneer Flour Mills: German-born Carl H. Guenther arrived in Texas as a young man in his 20s and worked in lumbering, farming and flour milling before he opened Pioneer Flour Mills in 1860 on the San Antonio River near downtown. The company thrives today, and you can enjoy breakfast or lunch in the family’s former home, The Guenther House.

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Schilo’s Delicatessen: The oldest continuously operating restaurant in San Antonio, Schilo’s opened in 1914 as a saloon owned by German immigrant Fritz Schilo. His wife started serving traditional German fare in 1917, and the restaurant moved to its present Commerce Street location in 1942.

Steves Lumber Company: Edward Steves was born in Germany but moved to Texas, where he founded the Steves Lumber Company in San Antonio in 1866 and became a city alderman. The house he built for his family in King William in 1876, the Edward Steves Homestead, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open for tours. His company, now known as Steves & Sons, manufactures wood, steel and fiberglass doors at a facility in San Antonio.