My husband and I have lived and traveled to many cities across the United States, Mexico and Europe, which has profoundly shaped our needs and wants in a neighborhood. The shortlist includes walkability, community, nature, history and a little bit of soul.

When Trent and I first started dating long distance, I lived in Houston and he was living in the lovely Shavano Park neighborhood in North Central San Antonio. It was located near numerous parks, shopping centers and grocery stores, but we were unable to leave the house without a car. After spending hours driving to see each other, it was the last thing we wanted to do. We slowly explored different parts of town, often with a gentle nudge of “maybe one day.” 

After three years of dating and driving back and forth, he finally convinced me to move to San Antonio (and change my name to Houston), but it was under one condition — that we would find a walkable part of town where we can experience our neighborhood and community without the stresses of driving. 

In hindsight, fate was drawing us to the King William neighborhood all along. The first time I visited San Antonio, we ate at Rosario’s, followed by a long walk on the river. The first time I met Trent’s friends was at Feast (now Up Scale). Our favorite Fiesta event was the King William Fair. Even our wedding was at the Guenther House. As we got serious about where we might want to settle, it became increasingly certain that it had to be King William. 

Finding a home in King William was a bit of a challenge, even before the pandemic. There were not many homes on the market, or they didn’t fit our criteria — or our budget. We were fortunate to find a hidden gem that had been on the market for over a year, largely due to a dysfunctional layout. After many consultations with architects and contractors, we found a way to make use of the space and undertook the huge six-month renovation. And as the neighborhood always tends to do, it turned our real estate agent, Elizabeth Lutz of King William Realty, into one of our closest friends and neighbors. 

King William was Texas’ first residential historic district. It was originally settled in the mid to late 1800s by German immigrants. They built grand homes in Victorian, Greek Revival, and Italianate styles. Our home in Baja King William — the nickname comes from the district’s expansion in 1984 to include the area between South Alamo and South St. Mary’s Streets — is a Folk Victorian cottage, which was a popular, more affordable style of the era. It is a simplified version of Queen Anne style, which developed once mass-produced decorative pieces available for shipping via the expanding railroad system. 

Rali and Trent Houston are fond of taking walks through the King William neighborhood looking at the historic homes and sharing renovation stories with their neighbors.
Rali and Trent Houston are fond of taking walks through their King William neighborhood, looking at the historic homes and sharing renovation stories with their neighbors. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Unfortunately, by the early 1900s, wealthy residents began to settle in other areas in the city, and by the 1930s, the neighborhood began to decline. Many homes were turned into apartments, or left in disrepair. It wasn’t until the 1960s that it began to attract attention for preservation and revitalization.

Our neighbors are one of the best parts of living here. There are artists and musicians, as well as physicians and entrepreneurs — all with a bit of a nonconformist side. Everyone is a bit eclectic and has a hunger for something more unique, just like the details of our homes. It’s a microcosm of people committed to the spirit, purpose and history of this neighborhood. It’s a true community. Our three closest neighbors have known each other for 40 years and still check on each other when their car hasn’t moved for a while. 

Living in this neighborhood inevitably comes with a love for old homes. We’ve all had to deal with settling foundations, rot wood, windows that don’t open, not enough bathrooms and virtually zero closet space. Yet what keeps us here is the wood paneling, scrollwork, transom windows and wide porches. These old homes have a soul, a je ne sais quois, that binds us in a way no newly built home ever could. 

Rali and Trent Houston continue to make cosmetic and structural modifications to their 130 year old historic home in King William.
Rali and Trent Houston continue to make cosmetic and structural modifications to their 130-year-old historic home in King William. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

There is camaraderie in being an old house owner. Anyone we talk to is usually working on a project; the joke around the neighborhood is that by the time you’re finished renovating, you have to start redoing things from the beginning. It’s not unusual to see a dumpster, pile of lumber or a string of work vans. Many homes aren’t perfect, and the yards aren’t perfectly manicured, but there’s a constant impetus towards improvement and preservation.

King William has proven to be the picturesque walkable haven that we hoped for. I rarely drive outside of work — when we’re not hosting, we have plenty of bars and restaurants to meet friends at. Our favorites include The Jewel at 1102, Francis Bogside and Bar Loretta. We have access to the River Walk, which was recently featured as one of the 10 parks that transformed America on PBS. We actually prefer to go south, down the Mission Reach section by bike; only a couple of miles away, it feels like you’re out in the wilderness. It’s also a pathway for migrating birds, giving us a front-row seat to a variety of species. Oftentimes, we simply walk, either stopping to chat with neighbors or zooming in on corbels or spindles we may have previously missed. We don’t have children yet but imagine throwing them in a stroller, or perhaps a golf cart, to enjoy our neighborhood together.