Government Hill is one of six San Antonio suburbs that developed during the “Gilded Age” of the city’s history, from 1890 to 1930. The neighborhood features fine examples of turn-of-the-century architecture. The one and two-story commercial structures along North New Braunfels Avenue effectively served as the area’s main street.
The history of the Government Hill is integrally linked to that of Fort Sam Houston. Following Texas’ annexation in 1845, various offers of land for a military post had been made to the U.S. Government from both the City of San Antonio and by private citizens, but the land offered was often low-lying and unhealthful. In 1807, a suitable donation of approximately 40 acres was made and accepted. The donated land was owned by St. Mary’s College, Southern School, and Thomas J. Devine. The tract was located “at the place where the Government corral is at present,” being the western portion of the lots known as lot numbers 1, 2, and 3 in Range 1, District 2 of the city tract. This site became known unofficially as Government Hill.
Due to a disagreement over the exact location of the first donation, the city made a second donation of approximately 40 acres. This property was purchased from A.M. Dignowity as well as the estate of H. Polley. In 1875, the city made a third donation, bringing the total amount of donated land to approximately 93 acres.
Construction of Fort Sam Houston began in 1876, and with the construction of living quarters for more of the army personnel, residential development in Government Hill began. The area grew at a prolific rate during the World War I era, and by 1918 Fort Sam Houston included 193 acres. While many of the early landmarks are gone, a group of residents and property owners has worked diligently with the Office of Historic Preservation to have the area designated as a historic district and we are now celebrating that success!
Notes courtesy of Florence Alcoser & Office of Historic Preservation.