Bounded by Durango Boulevard, S. Alamo and Guenther streets, and the San Antonio River, the small neighborhood of King William is San Antonio's most famous residential area, its first designated historic district (1968) and Texas's first National Register Historic District (1972). The streets were laid out in the late 1860s by Ernst Altgelt, a German immigrant attorney, who named the streets after leaders of Germany and the United States. The central street honored Kaiser Wilhelm I, later anglicized to King William. American presidents Madison and Washington are present, as are Civil War figures Beauregard, Johnson, and Sheridan. The district was the first major expansion of the city to the south, following the course of the river. It took most of the nineteenth century for the area to fill and most of the original houses still stand. This is the only part of the city that preserves the relationship of the riverbank and the houses that flank it.
The character of the houses in King William is markedly high style, in strong contrast to the more vernacular residences that made up the bulk of the city's housing stock when Altgelt laid out his streets. This was an elite neighborhood, where some of the more prominent residents built grand houses as a means of showing off their newfound status. In doing so, they adopted local versions of nationally recognized styles, including Italianate, Second Empire, and Richardsonian Romanesque.
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