While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Christopher Long
Ernst Hermann Altgelt
Photograph, Portrait of Ernst Hermann Altgelt. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
House in King William District
Photograph, A house in the King William Historic District. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

KING WILLIAM HISTORIC DISTRICT. The King William Historic District is just south of the central business district of San Antonio. It comprises parts of some twenty-two blocks with seventy-nine historic structures, most dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. The district, bounded roughly by Barbe Street on the south and the San Antonio River on the west, was originally part of the labor de abajo, or lower labor, assigned to the San Antonio de Valero Mission. After the mission was secularized in 1793, its lower farmland was divided into equal tracts for the fourteen Indian families in the vicinity. This area became the southern part of the historic district. The most famous part of the historic district is an area between Alamo Street and the San Antonio River. Between 1853 and 1859 streets were laid out, including King William Street, the district's major thoroughfare, which is said to have been named by Ernst Hermann Altgelt in honor of Wilhelm I, King of Prussia. The area was annexed by the city of San Antonio. The rest of the historic district developed after the King William area. There were a few houses on Cedar, Alamo, and the south sides of both St. Mary's (Garden) and Pereida streets in 1873. Gradually development moved south, and by 1902 Adams, Wickes, and Guenther streets reached as far as Barbe Street. Over the next several decades the King William area became the residential heart of the city's thriving German community. During the decades after the Civil War, many of the city's German business elite built houses there, among them the Groos, Joske, Kalteyer, and Steves families. Prominent non-German residents included family names like Chabot, Van Derlip, Oge, James, Norton, and Blondin. The earliest surviving structures in the historic district from the 1860s and 1870s are simple one-story buildings with thick masonry walls, shutters, and porches. Later structures feature various Victorian high styles, including Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, and Italianate. The area also features the works of many of San Antonio's best late-nineteenth-century architects, among them Alfred Giles and James Riely Gordon.

Steves Homestead
Photograph, Steves Homestead, a restored house in the King William Historic District that is now a museum. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

During World War I, when anti-German sentiment ran high, King William Street was renamed Pershing Avenue, but the name was changed back after the war. The original German families began moving out of the area during the 1920s, and after World War II many of the houses fell into disrepair. Many of them were divided into apartments because of the housing shortage. San Antonio city officials, recognizing the unique historical and architectural significance of the King William neighborhood, designated it a historic district in 1968, and in 1972 the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Since that time, many of the houses have been restored. The King William Association, a private nonprofit organization made up of residents and others dedicated to the preservation of the architectural heritage of the area, organizes tours and coordinates conservation efforts. 


Mary V. Burkholder, Down the Acequia Madre: In the King William Historic District (San Antonio, 1976). Mary V. Burkholder, The King William Area: A History and Guide to the Houses (San Antonio: King William Association, 1973). Vertical Files, San Antonio Conservation Society Library.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Christopher Long, "KING WILLIAM HISTORIC DISTRICT," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ghk01.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 5, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...