Alternativeless demolition

October 26, 2021 Historic Districts, Texas Comments (5) 909

This is the 1911 Hughes house at 312 W Courtland Street in San Antonio. It sits on a corner next to a parking lot and across from the epic and massive Koehler House. And it is up for demolition. Which is understandable, unless you look at it.

Nothing about this says “Please tear me down.”

It’s pretty. It’s intact. It is a solidly built, eminently adaptable house. Indeed, it has been owned by the Archdiocese for over half a century. They used it for a Catholic student center for most of that time, but now apparently it needs work. LIKE EVERY OTHER HOUSE IN HISTORY.

Gee whiz they even made it match.

So, we have an owner who feel they can’t rehabilitate a house they themselves have let go. What is the alternative? Are they going to build a new student center? A parking lot? What is the alternative? Nothing. Just like 503 Urban Loop, our brothel-cum-child care center that is up for designation December 2. The owners originally said they were building a residential highrise, not they are on to the NO ALTERNATIVE PLANS plans.

This old wreck is in the way of…um, nothing. Nothing you need to know about.

Does anything say “I’M A FLIPPER” more loudly than a request for demolition with no plan for a replacement?

I remember City Council members back in the 1980s in Chicago saying that they might vote against landmarking something if they saw that what it was going to be replaced with was better. That actually makes sense, because a legislative representative has to look at all the factors, whereas a landmarks commissioner focuses on whether the building meets the criteria for designation.

Oh yes, that looks much better.

If you aren’t revealing your plan, you probably don’t have one. In fact, you might just be shilling for the eventual owner, who has convinced you to do the dirty work of getting a demolition permit before they will ink the deal. It happens. But the Tobin Hill neighbors who are upset about the Hughes house are right, and the Council Member needs to have an alternative or he will be approving an Alternativeless Demolition.

Despite four non-profit and neighborhood organizations supporting the designation of 503 Urban Loop, it has its detractors because it is not conventionally pretty from all angles. Some might argue that the homeless are getting in and demolition is necessary. Because demolition solves the homeless issue?

312 W. Courtland is a very nice house so it might have even more friends, and fewer social ills in its Tobin Hill/Monte Vista neighborhood.

That’s real brick, man. You ain’t gonna be able to push it over. That’s a five or six figure demo.

No, the real issue at 312 W. Courtland is likely that a potential buyer is asking the Archdiocese to demolish it because, under state law, they can do it UNLIKE EVERY OTHER BUILDING OWNER because they are a church.

The building isn’t a church, of course, which is what the first religious exclusion laws in the 80s focused on. It’s a perfectly good house.

I know y’all property rich and cash poor, so why take the first bid from someone making you do the work/

Want to know the funny part?

The Archdiocese is likely getting hosed by the buyer – who is obviously making their offer contingent on the Archdiocese getting the demolition.

How many ways are there to be hosed in this situation?

  1. The property was never listed for sale, so all of those out-of-state transplants buying big lovely houses three blocks away have not had a chance to bid on this. The Archdiocese is leaving money on the table.
  2. The demolition and disposal cost on this is going to be high. Tile roofs are lovely, but heavy. Brick is also lovely, and you can’t push it over for $20k. Not a cheap demolition by any stretch. If the Archdiocese pays this bill for the under-the-market buyer, they are again….leaving money on the table.

So, what is the alternative? We don’t know.

Tobin Hill neighbors are asking for a Review of Significance, which you can support by contacting the Office of Historic Preservation, City of San Antonio. Again, State law allows the Archdiocese to prevail over landmarks laws, but let’s at least shine a light on it.


Visit the Conservation Society page on the Hughes House TODAY!

See the Conservation Society page on 503 Urban Loop now!

JUNE 2022 UPDATE: The HUGHES HOUSE IS SAVED! The Archdiocese found a willing buyer who is interested in repurposing the house! Apparently the sale closed today!

5 Responses to :
Alternativeless demolition

  1. Martin Tangora says:

    Sorry — Is that demo on Evergreen in SA or in Chicago? Not clear from the context

    1. Vince Michael says:

      San Antonio

    2. JohnJ says:

      This is the 1911 Hughes house at 312 W Courtland Street in San Antonio.

  2. RE: Demolition of house at 312 Courtland Pl.

    I would like to offer this letter of support for the preservation of the Hughes / Thomson house at 312 Courtland Pl. in San Antonio, Texas.
    I am advocating for this structure to be preserved.
    I come from a family that settled here in the 1730’s and we have a long line of civic minded citizens involved in the creation, evolution, and adornment of Texas and San Antonio.
    As a student at San Antonio College in the early 1980’s, I often parked near this house and took many photos of it and the surrounding area for my photography class. This house, designed by a renown architect is across from an Alfred Giles designed home and down the street from a Atlee B. Ayres designed home; It belongs in this company.
    This structure is a wonderful example of a manor home inspired by the Prairie School with the basic design principals and vernacular materials adapted to our climate and culture. The broad overhanging eaves of the roof offer shade to the upper verandas and the open spaces on the ground floor are shaded by these verandas. Before air conditioning, these exterior spaces offered open air rooms as extensions of the adjacent interior rooms and also insulated those rooms from direct sunlight. The use of stucco with moorish design inspiration and the clay tile roof are also wonderful examples of quality materials used appropriately within the design elements prevalent in that era and perfect for our climate.
    This wonderfully designed structure is the appropriate size and scale for that area. We should preserve the significant structures in this historic inner city, and this Manor house is significant.

  3. Bob Bryant says:

    This unique building certainly deserves a fresh start with a re-purposing and a renovation instead of being torn down. I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when many “old” buildings were demolished for a poorly conceived “urban renewal”. Now we wish we still had those classic buildings of character.

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