King William Street (originally “Kaiserwilhelm Strasse") in San Antonio had so many German immigrants that it was called “Sauerkraut Bend.” The “sauerkraut” nickname is often said to date to the 1870s or even the 1840s, but is most often cited in print from the 1940s.
The King William District became the first historic neighborhood district in Texas in 1967. A marker exists with the “Sauerkraut Bend” nickname printed on it.
San Antonio Conservation Society
KING WILLIAM AREA
Walking Tour History and Map
The King William District occupies land that was once irrigated farm land belonging to the Mission San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo. When the mission was secularized in 1793, the lands were divided among the resident Indian families from the mission or sold at public auction.
The area call the King William Neighborhood of today was subdivided into lots in the 1860s and laid out with the present streets. It was about this time that a great many Germans who had immigrated to Texas in the 1840s began to settle in this area and it became known as “Sauerkraut Bend” to the rest of San Antonio.
It developed into an idyllic neighborhood of large, impressive houses shaded by enormous pecan and cypress trees. The main entry street into the area was given the name King Wilhelm in honor of King Wilhelm I, King of Prussia in the 1870s. During World War I, when America was at war with Germany, the name was changed to Pershing Avenue. A few years after the war was over the original name was restored, but this time it was given the English version of the name, King William, and it has remained so since.
In 1967 the King William District was designated the first Historic Neighborhood District in Texas.
Site of the Guenther House restaurant and flour mill
Handbook of Texas Online
KING WILLIAM HISTORIC DISTRICT. The King William Historic District is just south of the central business district of San Antonio. It comprises parts of some twenty-two blocks with seventy-nine historic structures, most dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. The district, bounded roughly by Barbe Street on the south and the San Antonio River on the west, was originally part of the labor de abajo, or lower labor, assigned to the San Antonio de Valero Mission. After the mission was secularized in 1793, its lower farmland was divided into equal tracts for the fourteen Indian families in the vicinity. This area became the southern part of the historic district. The most famous part of the historic district is an area between Alamo Street and the San Antonio River. Between 1853 and 1859 streets were laid out, including King William Street, the district’s major thoroughfare, which is said to have been named by Ernst Hermann Altgelt in honor of Wilhelm I, King of Prussia. The area was annexed by the city of San Antonio. The rest of the historic district developed after the King William area. There were a few houses on Cedar, Alamo, and the south sides of both St. Mary’s (Garden) and Pereida streets in 1873. Gradually development moved south, and by 1902 Adams, Wickes, and Guenther streets reached as far as Barbe Street. Over the next several decades the King William area became the residential heart of the city’s thriving German community. During the decades after the Civil War, many of the city’s German business elite built houses there, among them the Groos, Joske, Kalteyer, and Steves families. Prominent non-German residents included family names like Chabot, Van Derlip, Oge, James, Norton, and Blondin. The earliest surviving structures in the historic district from the 1860s and 1870s are simple one-story buildings with thick masonry walls, shutters, and porches. Later structures feature various Victorian high styles, including Second Empire, Romanesque Revival, and Italianate. The area also features the works of many of San Antonio’s best late-nineteenth-century architects, among them Alfred Giles and James Riely Gordon.
During World War I, when anti-German sentiment ran high, King William Street was renamed Pershing Avenue, but the name was changed back after the war. The original German families began moving out of the area during the 1920s, and after World War IIqv many of the houses fell into disrepair. Many of them were divided into apartments because of the housing shortage. San Antonio city officials, recognizing the unique historical and architectural significance of the King William neighborhood, designated it a historic district in 1968, and in 1972 the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Since that time, many of the houses have been restored. The King William Association, a private nonprofit organization made up of residents and others dedicated to the preservation of the architectural heritage of the area, organizes tours and coordinates conservation efforts. Beginning around 1986 some restored homes were converted into bed and breakfasts; this trend has not been disruptive, but is not encouraged by the King William Association.
5 May 1940, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 9D, col. 5:
Lieut. and Mrs. David Burchinall have now joined the ranks of Sauerkraut Bend and are rearranging their furniture in their roomy duplex.
by John Gunther
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
The chief street in the German section, once called Kaiserwilhelm Strasse, is now King William Street; but it is still nicknamed Sauerkraut Bend, and still maintains a good Kaffee Klatch atmosphere.
University researchers are trying to record state’s unique, and dying, German language
Web Posted: 01/30/2005 12:00 AM CST
San Antonio Express-News
In San Antonio, so many prominent Germans lived along the San Antonio River near C.H. Guenther’s flour mill in the 1880s that pundits dubbed the area “Sauerkraut Bend.” The city passed an English-only law to prevent the German-speaking members of local government from holding meetings that many constituents couldn’t translate.
Kansas City (MO) Star (April 1, 2008)
San Antonio has plenty to offer beyond typical tourist fare
By EDWARD M. EVELD
The Kansas City Star
Now I was primed for a trip to “Sauerkraut Bend,” a nickname for the King William Historic District just southwest of downtown where busy German immigrants settled and built a fancy “Meet Me in St. Louis Meets Mary Poppins” kind of neighborhood.
It’s a beaut. If your head spins for things architectural, take a look at some impressive homes decked out with iron crestings, mansard roofs, fancy scrollwork, Ionic columns, porticos, friezes, belvederes, balustrades, you name it.
I first stopped at the biggest landmark here, the Pioneer Flour Mills tower. The mill goes back to 1859, and the cool turreted tower, really a 20-story grain elevator, to 1923. A fellow named Carl Guenther built his mill and family home here on a bend of the San Antonio River.
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Friday, April 11, 2008 • Permalink