The Dashiell House, one of the last remaining structures of an early neighborhood on San Antonio’s West Side, has burned down following a fire late Wednesday night, ending a years-long debate on whether it should be recognized as a historic landmark.

Once the fire is completely out at the scene, city officials are planning for the building to be demolished, San Antonio Fire Department Public Information Officer Woody Woodward said.

“The building is going to be a total loss,” he added.

When officials arrived at the burning building following an 11 p.m. call, the structure was “fully involved,” Woodward said, so firefighters had to work to extinguish the fire from the outside as the building started to collapse. 

Woodward would not speculate on the cause of the fire. There are no active utilities at the building, which has been vacant for years. 

“But we do know that this building was known for having a lot of homeless activity,” he said. “Due to the extent of the damage, they will not be able to officially determine a cause, but obviously, it is suspicious because it was abandoned, boarded up with no utilities to it.”

There were no injuries reported as of Thursday morning. 

San Antonio firefighters remain on the scene to suppress hot spots in a structure fire at 503 Urban Loop on Thursday.
San Antonio firefighters remain on the scene to suppress hot spots in a structure fire at 503 Urban Loop on Thursday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

The building, known to be a run-down and vacant former brothel-turned-orphanage on San Antonio’s West Side, was recommended to be declared a historic landmark by the Historic and Design Review Commission in September 2021.

In 2020, an investment group managed by the Bill Miller Bar-B-Q chain had bought the quarter-acre property from the child welfare nonprofit Boys Town. They sought to remove the structure’s landmark status to demolish it and make way for an eight-story apartment building, which would house 200 units and a street-level retail center. 

The Dashiell House, however, had never actually been deemed historic, due to a 30-year-old clerical error that had grouped the structure with a nearby historic Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church complex, according to documents uncovered by the Office of Historic Preservation. 

Conservation advocates pushed for the historic designation in order to halt demolition last year, saying that they believed the building met five of the criteria for historic recognition, the first being that it is “a rare remnant of Laredito, the near-Westside Mexican American community.”

Kathy Rhoads, president of the Conservation Society of San Antonio, said Thursday the structure was San Antonio’s “visual link to an important history” and the only reminder of the city’s Red Light District as well as one of only a handful of historic buildings remaining in Laredito.

“It is profoundly sad that one of the city’s last landmarks of Laredito has been burned,” she said in a statement. “This history includes the only reminder of the city’s Red Light District as well as a century of community care under the Carmelite Sister and Father Flanagan’s Boys Town.”

Rhoads praised all of the conservationists’ efforts to obtain the landmark at the property last summer, despite the outcome of Wednesday’s fire.

“The long and significant history of this site and the people who worked there for the betterment of the Laredito community must be remembered,” she wrote. 

Reporter Shari Biediger contributed to this report.

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.