A big Victorian with sweeping, wraparound porches, the house sits on a quiet corner in Government Hill, the historic neighborhood that developed in the late 19th century as a Gilded Age suburb – now part of the central city sandwiched between Fort Sam Houston and downtown.
Known as the Gibbs House, it was built in 1884 by Col. C.C. Gibbs, a Confederate army veteran and railroad man who purchased a 320-acre parcel in 1877, just a year after construction began on the historic fort, and built his dream house there.
The architect isn’t known, but the house is “a fine example of late 19th-century Neo-Classic Revival,” according to the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission, which went on to note, “Over the years, this property’s various owners have expanded this once classical Victorian townhouse into a unique blend of architectural styles that includes Southern Colonial, Spanish, Gothic and American revival motifs.”
And, in 2018, it was just what Logan Fullmer, 39, and and his 36-year-old wife Lissette were looking for. Not as a home for their growing family, which includes three young kids and another on their way, but for their business. Asset Resolution Partners is a niche real estate firm that specializes in resolving complicated title and rightful ownership problems. In addition to lawyers, the company has a staff private investigator and even a genealogist.
“Col. Gibbs was in land; we’re in land, so it seemed like the right fit,” Logan Fullmer said during a conversation in his first floor office, which has rebuilt floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on smaller cottages across the street.
According to a 1909 article in the San Antonio Light, Col. Gibbs was land commissioner for the Southern Pacific Railroad, responsible for 9 million acres of land in 1889, “undoubtedly the largest body of land then in charge of a single man.”
The San Antonio businessman’s legacy includes the 1909 Gibbs Building, catty-corner from Alamo Plaza, thought to be the city’s first high-rise office building, now a luxury hotel.
“Farmer boy to millionaire is the life story of Col. C.C. Gibbs of San Antonio,” the Light stated.
“He liked to throw lavish parties,” said Lissette Fullmer, who handles real estate deals for the company. “Any famous people who came through San Antonio supposedly came to the house. We believe that President McKinley visited, but we haven’t found a record of that. It’s a good story, though.”
Weary of rented, cookie-cutter office space in Loopland, the Fullmers discovered the Gibbs House in foreclosure two years ago.
“We wanted to be near downtown, in a centralized location,” Logan Fullmer said. “And we wanted something with a little history. So, we found this big, old, ugly yellow building that had obviously been through a lot. At one point, it had been broken up into several small apartments. The house has a history of distress and prominence, distress and prominence.”
The house, now a crisp blue-gray with white trim, had water leaks and a bad case of wood rot. The selling price wasn’t disclosed; repair costs exceeded $300,000.
“We replaced probably 30 percent of the exterior siding,” Logan said. “At one point, we had scaffolding surrounding the entire house, and carpenters would take off one board and discover more rotted wood underneath. We had to have the siding milled, and they were up and down the scaffolding for a good two months.”
Turning a residence into a business can be a viable solution for historic property, said Mark Mosty, owner of Mark Mosty Construction, who worked on the Gibbs House.
“It’s a good idea because a lot of these old houses are so big and expensive that not many people can afford to buy them, much less keep up the maintenance,” said Mosty, who specializes in pre-1940s residential work. “The Gibbs House is a fabulous house, but that was the problem with it – the maintenance just didn’t get done. Fortunately, Logan went above and beyond to make it right.”
Although a previous owner had stabilized the foundation with concrete piers, the original limestone foundation was in sad shape.
“One of the things I was most excited about was the foundation’s brick and limestone cleanup job,” Logan said. “It had been covered with stucco and concrete lath mixes over the years, and during the renovation, a skilled mason was able to remove those coverings while repointing the bricks and blocks to highlight them. It looks really good.”
Fullmer said he’s made every effort to maintain the architectural integrity of the home, while modernizing basic systems such as HVAC “so it doesn’t function like an old building.” For instance, he’s building a nine-space parking carport behind the house with solar panels on its roof.
“We hope to power the whole place,” he said.
Inside, the 5,500-square-foot building features seven offices downstairs and six offices upstairs, in what were once opulent parlors and bedrooms, with a kitchen on each level.
“We have six fireplaces, too,” Fullmer said.
The second floor has been recently leased to TradeCraft, a local marketing and advertising firm, which will move in Nov. 2, after staff has worked at home for several months due to COVID-19. According to Camille Mandigo, principal and founder, the company outgrew its space in the old showroom of the Cadillac Lofts downtown and wanted to remain in a historic space in a centralized location.
“We are updating the interiors so that our space is in keeping with the TradeCraft environmental brand look and feel while adding textures, colors and elements that are a modern nod to the original Victorian era home,” Mandigo wrote in an e-mail. “The Gibbs House is so beautiful, as are so many historic homes in Government Hill, and we are terribly fortunate that TradeCraft, as a business, can invest in this property and in this neighborhood while still making the second floor our very own.”
A curving central staircase off the front foyer is probably the original, Fullmer says, and some offices have large windows and 12-foot ceilings. Regrettably, a previous owner installed a drop ceiling with acoustical tile and fluorescent lighting in some spaces, and dingy carpet hides what must be beautiful hardwood floors.
“It’s still a work-in-progress,” Logan said.
“We love it,” said Lissette. “It really is our second home, such a beautiful piece of history. We come to work every morning and can’t believe this is where we get to work. It’s a house that was sort of falling apart, and now it’s a vital part of the community.”