The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city and region by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special. Have we been to your neighborhood yet? Get in touch to share your story.
Growing up in San Antonio, I rarely left my bubble. Aside from the few friends or baseball practices that gave me a reason to venture up to the North Side, I was always in Castle Hills.
I finally left my San Antonio bubble for college when I was 17, and moved back when I was 22. During those five years, I feel as if both myself and my city changed. We both grew, and had more to offer one another.
I got my first job just north of downtown and got to know that area for the first time as an adult. In December 2019, my dad asked me if I would like to fix up one of his old houses on the East Side to live in, and in January 2020, we began working on the 900-square-foot two-bedroom, one-bath house in Dignowity Hill that my grandfather originally bought in the 1970s, which was passed down to my father when Papo passed in 2006.
When my father originally pitched the idea to undertake this project together, I was excited and nervous. There was a huge learning curve for me and I quickly realized just how much I did not know. But I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with and learn from my dad while honoring my grandfather’s legacy. When my dad and I began drawing the first of many iterations of our floor plan, I had no idea what was in store.
First, I learned about the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) and the tedious permitting process. Everything we touched had to have its blessing. The OHP required wooden window frames, the same front door that had been in the original plans, even the paint color for the outside of the house had to be approved. Then, as we were finally ready to submit our plans and application, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and delayed all operations of the OHP.
Patiently, we waited for months to present our plans. Operations picked back up in the summer of 2020 and, with a script in hand, I nervously made our case to the board via Zoom and received the go-ahead to begin the work with my dad.
My journey to Dignowity Hill was a long and arduous process, but well worth it. My girlfriend, Hannah, and I were finally able to move into our little house on Hays Street on Dec. 27, 2021.
Hannah and I wanted to prioritize plugging ourselves into our new community and finding out what it means to be twenty-somethings in what I consider to be one of the most underrated cities in America.
We now know that Con Huevos Tacos is the go-to spot for life-changing breakfast tacos. (Check them out in the San Antonio episode of “Taco Chronicles” on Netflix.) Tank’s Pizza on New Braunfels Avenue is so good that a DoorDash driver threatened to steal it and eat it themselves (really).
At Hackberry Market, The Magpie and Black Lab Brewing — with Rosey’s Fish & Chips on Wednesdays — are throwing together the best eats and drinks, while at 125 Lamar Street, we can stop by cool community pop-up events and get everything from dinner to natural wine and smoothies at Burleson Yard Beer Garden, Scorpion, Southwest Elixirs, and Boxcar Bar. Often, we make the eight-minute drive to Southtown or the four-minute drive to the Pearl for more delicious eats and treats.
Hannah and I celebrated one year in our home just a few weeks ago. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, each other and our neighborhood. What I love about Dignowity Hill is how accessible it is from our favorite parts of the city. The neighborhood is bustling with longtime residents, families and young professionals alike. We have the space to play with our dog Mickey Minaj, and enjoy breathtaking sunsets and views of the San Antonio skyline from the Hays Street Bridge just a few blocks away.
It is not lost on us what it means to live in Dignowity Hill in 2023. What has been a predominantly Black and Chicano neighborhood is undergoing gentrification and faces rising property values. Though it seemed a hassle at the time, I now see why the work of the Office of Historic Preservation is so important. The houses here maintain their integrity with unchanging facades and without unnecessary architectural enhancements. We do our best to support Eastside businesses and recognize the work of Eastside community projects like San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE), Gardopia Gardens and Garcia Street Urban Farm.
The past year has felt like a homecoming, and I am so grateful to live here. ¡Viva el East Side!
Disclosure: Hannah Rhodes is the San Antonio Report’s membership and audience engagement manager.