Panel acts to protect 12 historic sites

Panel acts to protect 12 historic sites

Conservation to be weighed by City Council this summer. A city panel has gone forward with plans to protect a dozen historic structures dating as far back as the late 1700s, including a house built by an early Texas settler a few years after the battle of the Alamo.

A city panel has gone forward with plans to protect a dozen historic structures dating as far back as the late 1700s, including a house built by an early Texas settler a few years after the battle of the Alamo.

Wednesday's action by the Historic and Design Review Commission marked a milestone in a five-year effort to protect historic houses, barns and other structures, and at least one cemetery, in parts of San Antonio that once were used as farmland. By coincidence, it came as the commission said goodbye to the city's longtime historic preservation officer.

The San Antonio Conservation Society which provided $42,000 and received a $10,000 national grant to help prepare an inventory of historic farm and ranch properties throughout Bexar County applauded the move, which is set for City Council consideration in August.

"At a time when historic farm and ranch complexes are threatened by urban sprawl as the county undergoes urbanization and highway construction, these properties need to be designated as local city of San Antonio landmarks," said Paula Piper, a former Conservation Society president, as she read a statement from the group.

Kay Hindes, senior planner with the city said the "finding of historic significance" by the city, if approved, will put those properties under landmark status, protecting them from demolition, and will help the owners qualify for preservation grants and tax exemptions.

Patrice Villastrigo owns a site on the North Side that includes a stone building, known as the William H. Jackson House, that predates the Civil War. She said she didn't know all of the history the city has learned about the property, which was used as a stagecoach stop, but appreciates knowing it will be protected at a time when much of the city has been paved with concrete.

"I think this is a fabulous project," Villastrigo told the commission.

Another site among the 12 up for historic designation is a house on the South Side, built by Texas pioneer Asa Mitchell around 1840. Mitchell, one of Stephen F. Austin's "Old 300" settlers, fought in the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, where the state won independence from Mexico after the Alamo fell.

Action on five other sites was delayed for the commission's next meeting on June 18. Hindes said some owners wanted more time to study the designation. A few might want the city to reduce the area of land surrounding a structure to be deemed historic, she said.

In other business Wednesday, the commission postponed action on a proposal to demolish the Hedrick Building, a 10-story structure downtown at Martin and St. Mary’s streets that opened in 1928. The city staff has recommended the commission deny a demolition request and approve a historic designation for the building, which is owned by RBRA Inc.

The meeting closed with an emotional farewell from commissioners and staff to Ann McGlone, the historic preservation officer since 1993. McGlone, whose last day with the city is Friday, will be the community development director in Alamo Heights, where she'll coordinate development of a comprehensive plan for the suburban community. Hindes will assume the role of preservation officer as the city conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

McGlone recalled fighting demolition of the old, abandoned $3 Motel on Fredericksburg Road in the mid-to-late 1990s. Though many residents wanted it razed, Councilman Roger Flores saw its historic value as a former motor court of the 1920s, when the automobile age was in its infancy.

The motel later was leveled, and replaced by an auto parts store and other commercial businesses. But McGlone remembered how Flores, who died in 2004 courageously argued to preserve it, saying communities often regret destroying a building, but never regret saving one.

"I wish more council people had the strength to say that, because I really think that's true," McGlone said.

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