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La Villita: San Antonio's Oldest Neighborhood
June 14, 2021

La Villita: San Antonio's Oldest Neighborhood

by The CE Shop Team

Step Back in Time at La Villita

The Alamo might be one of America’s most recognizable historic properties, but it wasn’t necessarily a “neighborhood”. Rather, it’s the historic La Villita just south of the city where San Antonio’s oldest residences were built and still stand — helping establish San Antonio as a city.

A Brief History of La Villita

La Villita was once the site of a Coahuiltecan village, and European settlement didn’t spring up until the early 1700s. Soldiers associated with San Antonio de Béxar Presidio were likely the first permanent residents, and they erected the area’s first structures. However, it wasn’t until the early 19th century that many of the structures that are still standing today were constructed. Though La Villita is beautiful, it also suffered its share of violence, particularly as it became the site of revolutionary activity during the Texas war for independence from Mexico. After the five-day Siege of Bexar in December 1835, Mexico’s General Martín Perfecto de Cos surrendered to the Texan commander, General Edward Burleson, at the Villita Street building, (which still stands, though it’s now called Cos House).

By the 1840s, La Villita had attracted a variety of new groups including German, Swiss, and French immigrants, adding more European flair to the existing Spanish and Native American flavor while becoming one of San Antonio’s first established neighborhoods. Over the years, the city would thrive as it became home to craftsmen of every sort, from stonecutters to cabinetmakers. The population grew steadily — perhaps too steadily. In the following decades, La Villita would fall into disrepair.

By 1939, the area was purchased by the city of San Antonio, which owns it to this day. Under the behest of San Antonio Mayor Maury Maverick, a plan was put into place to transform La Villita into “a symbol and monument to those simple people who had made possible the great city which had grown up around it." His passions paid off in spades. Not only was the area preserved, but it began thriving again. Thanks to governmental aid and focused preservation efforts, 27 structures in the area were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

La Villita Today

Today, La Villita serves the city as a time capsule that hosts art galleries, shops, restaurants, and concerts all while preserving some of the earliest pieces of Texas history.

At the very least, it adds immensely to San Antonio’s already charming vibe, making downtown San Antonio one of the most unique places to live in Texas. Want to get up close and personal with the buildings? We recommend booking a guided tour.

Historic Properties and Preservation

downtown san antonio

By owning a historic home, you not only own a slice of history but also enjoy a slew of additional benefits. To begin, the home is unique in that builders aren’t likely to recreate that particular style of architecture when constructing new builds. Next, historic homes are often in very desirable locations — which is why they’re likely still standing. They also tend to sell faster and fetch higher asking prices than your run-of-the-mill property. Lastly, homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places are oftentimes eligible for tax credits, grant money, and preservation loans if they meet certain rehabilitation standards. As always, check with both federal and state agencies or preservation networks to see if you or your client can help save a piece of the past with your next property purchase.

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