King William History/Cultural Significance
Close to 300 years ago, the King William area consisted of farmland belonging to Mission Concepción and canals (acequias) flowing from the San Antonio River. In the mid-1800s, enterprising German immigrants began buying land and building homes here. The main thoroughfare was named King William in honor of King Wilhelm I of Prussia.
Carl Guenther purchased property on the lower bend of the San Antonio River, where he constructed a flour mill (Pioneer Flour Mills) and a residence for his family. Other German immigrants soon joined him, building mansions near the San Antonio River in a variety of architectural styles, including Greek Revival, Victorian and Italianate.
Southtown and South Flores History/Cultural Significance
Southtown, an “urban village” home to an interesting mix of restaurants, galleries, coffee shops, studios and artisans, is an area that encompasses the King William, Lavaca and Blue Star neighborhoods. Boundaries are Cesar Chavez Blvd., Lone Star Blvd., South Presa and South Flores. Southtown originated in 1991 as part of a neighborhood revitalization project.
Many buildings in the South Flores area, at the southern edge of Southtown, are being repurposed from commercial and industrial spaces to locations for offices, residences, restaurants and galleries.
Key Area Highlights
King William Cultural Arts District
Tour grand mansions of the late 19th century that are open to the public and easily reached on foot:
Villa Finale, an Italianate mansion, was built by four different owners between 1876 and 1904. Philanthropist and civic leader Walter Nold Mathis bought it in 1967 and restored it to an elegant single-family residence that showcases 19th and 20th century antiques, silver, ceramics, fine art, books and Napoleona. Villa Finale is the first and only historic site in Texas owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Steve Homestead, built in 1876, is a three-story, ashlar limestone structure that is thought to have been designed by Alfred Giles, a prominent San Antonio architect. The residence is modeled after a French Renaissance mansion. In 1952, the San Antonio Conservation Society acquired the homestead and began operating it as a museum two years later.
The Guenther House was built in 1860 by mill owner Carl Guenther for his wife and seven children. In the 1920s, two stories were added to the original one-story stone structure. Today, the house features a charming restaurant reflective of the 1920’s art nouveau style, a roof garden, a Victorian parlor, a museum and a gift shop.
Don't miss the historic home of the San Antonio Art League Museum, dedicated to preserving and exhibiting their collection of local and regional art.
Southtown is anchored by the Blue Star Arts Complex, a 160,000-
square-foot collection of studios, art galleries, retailers, bars and eateries including a microbrewery
that has seen a remarkable evolution since its establishment in 1986. The complex grew around Blue Star Contemporary
, the longest running contemporary art institution in San Antonio. Make sure to be on the lookout for Brick Marketplace, a “curiosities pop-up” for special events, live performances, indie movies, eclectic markets and dancing. Blue Star is a great place to start hiking or biking along the Mission Reach
, the nation’s largest urban ecosystem restoration.
First Friday is the area’s monthly nighttime street festival for art, crafts and music, but this neighborhood celebrates creativity regularly as home to numerous artisan studios and shops, such as Garcia Art Glass, The Jewelry Box, Pulquerios' and El Sol. Casa Margarita specializes in home decor, jewelry and Mexican art. La Vida Gallery sells art, antiques, imported traditional clothing, gifts and cookbooks.
Restaurants popular with locals from all parts of the city include Rosario's, El Mirador, Tito’s, and Taco Haven for your Mexican food; Madhatter’s Tea House & Café for tea and sandwiches; Hot Joy (named #7 “Best New Restaurants” by Bon Appetit) for Asian fusion; La Frite for authentic Belgian cuisine; the laid-back Friendly Spot or La Tuna Grill for a beer and live music on the patio; Feast for New American cuisine with a Mediterranean twist; Bite for innovative plates to share; and Liberty Bar for American dishes served in a former convent. Bliss serves upscale, contemporary American cuisine with an emphasis on seasonal and fresh local ingredients.
On S. Saint Mary’s St., Francis Bogside is an Irish gastropub featuring Irish whiskey, signature cocktails and a small-plates menu. The bar is connected to Brigid, a restaurant offering contemporary American cuisine in an intimate and elegant environment.
Nightlife destinations include Azuca Nuevo Latino for dinner, drinks and dancing or Bar 1919, which is hidden under the Blue Star Complex lofts.
South Flores, or SoFlo to some, is home to Gallista Gallery featuring 10 artists’ studios, a thrift shop, and a café. Every month brings the Second Saturday art walk, a family-friendly and free event rich with art, music and creative experiences. Visit 1906 S. Flores, founded by designer and community leader Andy Benavides and home to eight artists’ studios and six galleries, including Gravelmouth. Gallery 20/20 at 1010 S. Flores displays the work of contemporary Texas artists.
Chef Johnny Hernandez’s The Frutería features fresh fruit cups, smoothies and tostadas for breakfast and lunch and Mexican tapas at night. The South Flores Market H-E-B provides the first complete grocery store for the downtown area with fresh food, quality items and meal-ready offerings.
Dorćol Distilling Co is an urban boutique craft distillery dedicated to creating fine spirits and craft cocktails. Their signature spirit is the Kinsman Rakia which is distilled from apricots in a nod to the owner’s Serbian heritage.
Offbeat, unique and quirky finds:
Repurposing is a hallmark of the area, and two prime examples are restaurants in buildings that were once gas stations. The Station Café and Filling Station Tap Room retain the original classic gas station exteriors, but the building that houses Bliss is barely recognizable as a former place to fill up your tank.
German culture is still well-preserved in King William. The Beethoven Maennerchor is one of the oldest singing societies in Texas, and the group, which will celebrate their 150th anniversary in 2017, practice at the Beethoven Maennerchor Halle und Garten on Tuesday evenings. Stop in at the Club Room for beer, wine and snacks. The group sponsors a lively Oktoberfest, a Christmas market, garden concerts, and First Friday and Fiesta events here too.
At Big Daddy’s Eats and Treats, you’ll find Kool-Aid-infused pickles and over-the-top raspas (snow cones) featuring just about any candy from your childhood, from gummy bears and Nerds to Pixie Sticks and Airheads – all topped with the staple San Antonio flavors of Chamoy and Lucas chili powder.