The majestic homes on a tree-lined street in Monte Vista are the private residences of the top brass at Trinity University and usually open only to students and staff for occasional events.
This Saturday, four of those houses and the university’s distinctive chapel will be featured stops in the Monte Vista Historical Association’s Home Tour, an event that coincides with Trinity University’s 150th-anniversary celebrations.
The homes are among many in the Monte Vista Historic District, one of the largest historic districts in the United States. Located north of downtown San Antonio, Monte Vista was designated a local historic district in 1975 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
Trinity’s 125-acre campus, built on the site of an abandoned quarry, is located just east of the Monte Vista Historic District. Like Monte Vista, the campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that honors the architectural work of renowned San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford, who designed most of the university’s midcentury modern buildings.
Over the years, the university has purchased and maintained several residential properties along Oakmont Court, a picturesque residential street in Monte Vista. The homes are residences for senior university administrators, including university President Danny Anderson, and serve as event venues for the university community.
A home tour collaboration between the Monte Vista Historical Association and Trinity would have been unthinkable at the beginning of the decade as the two establishments squabbled over the use of the four houses and potential zoning.
In 2012, the association opposed Trinity’s use of four homes on Oakmont Court as academic offices, including the one at 138 which is included in the tour, for fear that potential zoning changes would lead to the university’s further encroachment into the historic neighborhood.
However, the two sides reached a concession and Trinity agreed not to seek zoning changes for 22 1/2 years on any properties it owns or acquires in the future in the historic district.
Trinity in February kicked off a year’s worth of events celebrating its 150th anniversary. As part of that celebration, the university collaborated with the Monte Vista Historical Association to open its homes for this year’s tour, the group’s 25th such event, which is held every other year.
“It’s been a wonderful series of gifts from different trustees or supporters over the years who have helped create the opportunity [for Trinity],” Anderson said. “Each house has a different and unique story about how it came to be part of the university.”
Providing housing for campus leaders helps retain top talent in those jobs, he said.
One of the four homes on the tour map is Anderson’s residence.
The Minter House, 150 Oakmont Court, is a Spanish revival-style home with an interior courtyard and fountain. It was built in 1929 and Trinity purchased the home in 1970 to house university presidents and their families.
Distinctive interior features of the home include decorative concrete and ceramic tiles, notably in the entryway, first-floor study, dining room, courtyard, and on the staircase.
Other homes on the tour include:
- 130 Oakmont Court — A two-story colonial stucco home featuring a decorative cornice and recessed front entrance also has a curved walnut staircase and walnut paneling. The residence was built in 1928.
- 138 Oakmont Court — An Italian revival in native stone, this house was built in 1929 and contains decorative fired clay and concrete tile floors with elaborately carved crown molding along the ceilings.
- 139 Oakmont Court — This mid-century modern brick and glass residence, designed by O’Neil Ford, was built in 1950 for Sam Bell Steves, mayor of San Antonio at the time. The residence features a modern and flexible floor plan designed for frequent entertaining and French doors that open onto spacious patios and porches. After Steves’ term in office ended, Trinity acquired the home, and it became the primary residence for the university president during that period, James Laurie, and his wife Dorothy.
- Margarite B. Parker Chapel — Designed by O’Neil Ford, the chapel is distinguished by its soaring interior arches, stained glass windows, and wood-carved doors and details by Lynn Ford, O’Neil’s brother. Italian Romanesque in spirit, with sheer brick walls and an overhanging copper roof, Parker Chapel was dedicated in 1966 and is located at the center of campus, adjacent the Murchison Memorial Tower.
“This is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the exceptional architecture and history of this neighborhood and to experience history up close and in person,” stated Amanda Holmes, co-chairwoman of the Home Tour.
The tour is Saturday, Nov. 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets purchased in advance for the 2019 Home Tour are $30, and on the day of the event cost $35. For more information, visit the Monte Vista Historical Association website.