The San Antonio Registry of Houses
Beyond the Spanish Mission Barracks, a surprising number of Spanish Colonial Jacal and Adobe structures still exist, many buried beneath 19th and 20th century additions. It’s the combination of Mesquite, Adobe, and Stucco veneer that define San Antonio’s earliest residential structures. An uneven plane of stucco over a squat building resting close to the ground, will often identify our earliest buildings. The later porches, primitive or highly articulate will often disguise the early roots. A south east orientation with Porches to the south and east, enclosed sheds to the north and west defines the early settlement houses as well as well considered 21st century homes.
The 19th century saw a broader use of Caliche. The soft limestone filled a void between the institutional stone structures and primitive jacals. The Stone was readily accessible, easy to carve and provided a solid substrate to smooth plaster walls. These buildings, often constructed by northern European settlers with an innate sense of proportion introduced well considered residential Architecture, constructed with primitive local materials. Fries, Kampman, and Giraud were 19th century Masons and Master Builders that perfected the craft of creating Neoclassical gems with primitive local materials.
Limestone was initially limited to Commercial and Institutional buildings, but a rising Mercantile class demanded a higher quality building material. The unique golden hued Stone from the quarries west of Brackenridge Park supplied the refined King William and Fort Sam Houston houses designed by English Architect Alfred Giles. The British forms of these Romanesque and Victorian Italianate houses were easily identified, but the large blocks of local limestone and delicate tracery of the deep porches identified them as unique to San Antonio. Domestic Queen Anne architecture in San Antonio retained the delicate porches, but in only a few cases gave way to the more conventional Wood or Shingle siding. A regional hand formed buff brick was the San Antonio solution.
At the turn of the 20th century, Julian Onderdonk and Harvey Page began exploring the romantic imagery of the local landscape and vernacular architecture. Craftsman cottages & the new American Prairie house soon began to dominate the country and San Antonio’s version included primitive regional fieldstone and broad deep porches. The San Diego World Fair solidified the national movement in Eclectic regional Architecture and introduced a new wave of residential Architecture through local Architects such asAtlee B. Ayers and Carleton Adams. They continued to respond to the climate and reassessed the roots of American Architecture. Spanish Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival and Tudor Architecture was this eras choice and the work was extremely well executed. Craftsmen such as Hannibal Pianta, Voss Ironworks, Redondo Concrete Tile and Mission San Jose Tileworks created materials that are as highly celebrated as the Architecture.
The mid 20th century introduced O’Neil Ford to the region. Residential projects from the Ford office produced the most significant work in the state and ranged from Vernacular, Bauhaus, International to New Traditional. Regional materials including stone, brick, and tile with emphasis on celebrating the work of regional craftsmen. The Ford office seeded many of the Architects, including Isaac Maxwell and E.B. Flowers that continued and built on the modern regional craft traditions.