San Antonio streetcar service began in 1878; at first, the cars were pulled by horses or mules. Real estate values soared along the line, which crossed land which was prairie up until this time. The service was electrified in 1890, following the completion of San Antonio’s first large power generating station.
Public Transportation made possible the development of suburbs in San Antonio, which was then the largest city in Texas (in 1890 the population was 37,673.) One of the first,and the most beautiful neighborhoods in all of Texas was Monte Vista. Dozens of distinguished architects were hired to design the in different housing styles that can be see in the Monte Vista area: Neoclassical, Italian Renaissance, French Eclectic, Georgian, Moorish. Craftsman, and Spanish Colonial Revival. King’s Highway is known as “Avenue of the Cattle Barons,” and some of the most spectacular homes are found there. The Monte Vista Historical Association has a helpful web site which will help you identify many of the houses both by architectural style and by street.
In the 1960s and 1970s Monte Vista residents became alarmed that their neighborhood was being encroached by commercialization and some of the most historic properties were being torn down. They formed a historical association and aggressively protect their neighborhood. In 1975 it became a historic district and the neighborhood has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings in Monte Vista are private and residential, but there are a couple in which you might be able to get a glimpse the interiors:
The Bushnell (240 Bushnell) was built in 1926 as a luxury high rise apartment complex. The rooftop terrace, modeled after one in Florence, Italy, is 250 feet higher than downtown and has breathtaking views of the city. The elevators and checked marble floor in the lobby are original. (Be bold and poke your head in!) The very large church in the background of the photo is Trinity Baptist (319 E. Mulberry) founded in 1949.
The Landa Library (233 Bushnell), built in 1928, was originally the private residence of Harry and Hannah Landa, designed in the Italian style by William Kelly, the architect also responsible for the Bushnell. In 1947 they donated the house and surrounding five acres to the City of San Antonio to be a library and children’s playground. The interior features beautiful original decorative tile work and marble floors. The original library book shelves were made from the same materials Gramer’s Iron Works had used for the ornamental iron in the home. The Landa Library is open 10am-6PM on Sunday, when the 23K walk will go by it.