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St. Peter's Historic District

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1881–1924. Bounded by Washington and Farragut sts., former IG&N rail line, and Juárez Ave.
  • Rosa Vela de Benavides House

The district housed a group of successful immigrants who managed the rail and retail facilities of Laredo. With wide streets and detached houses on landscaped lots, this typically American residential district was initiated in the 1880s with its associated retinue of churches and schools. Comprising an eclectic mix of large houses ranging from Colonial Revival to Prairie Style and Craftsman, St. Peter's remained a prime residential area until the Heights, at the eastern fringes of the city, became the neighborhood of choice for the city's elite in the 1920s.

St. Peter's Catholic Church (1898) at 1500 Matamoros Street, attributed to Heinrich Portscheller, is the namesake for the neighborhood. Built after Portscheller's departure from Roma in 1894, the Gothic Revival church served newly arrived English-speaking Catholics unfamiliar with the Spanish-language services at San Agustín. Heavily altered and stuccoed due to damage from sandblasting, the building began to lose its original features as early as 1905 when a tornado blew off its steeple.

St. Peter's Plaza, at the 1600 block of Matamoros Street, is another Jarvis-era public space featuring some of the best residences in the district. On the south face at 1519 Matamoros Street, the Rosa Vela de Benavides House (1924), designed by Laredo-born brothers and builders Benjamín and Juan Botello, is built of rusticated pink and cream cast-stone blocks. The two-story, flat-roofed, classically detailed house with balustraded parapet recalls a Mexican urban villa of the period, and indicates the commitment of old Laredo families to St. Peter's, despite the ascendancy of the Heights. The Santiago Orfila House (c. 1885) at number 1701 sits on a raised basement, an unusual feature in Laredo, surrounded by an ornate Corinthian porch accessed by an eye-capturing cast-iron spiral staircase. It is part of a set of historic buildings in St. Peter's that were rehabilitated by the Laredo Independent School District to house its administrative offices.

Houston Street, on the plaza's northern side, is still a fashionable thoroughfare that includes a series of well-preserved Colonial Revival houses with a variety of double galleries, as evidenced by the Albert Martin House at 1510 Houston Street (1916) by the Botello brothers. Interrupting the row of houses at 1620 Houston Street, the brick Romanesque Revival Creath Memorial Baptist Church (1901) closed in 1963 and was later renovated by the school district as its boardroom.

To the south of St. Peter's, the twenty-block, densely built Barrio El Cuatro, or Fourth Ward (bounded by the Rio Grande, Farragut Street, former IG&N rail line, and Sta. María Avenue), is associated with families of enlisted men and workers at Fort McIntosh ( LA15), railroad employees, and domestic staff serving the houses of St. Peter's.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Gerald Moorhead et al.
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Data

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Citation

Gerald Moorhead et al., "St. Peter's Historic District", [Laredo, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/TX-01-LA13.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 272-273.

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