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Alamo Heights City


Alamo Heights City Hall is located at 6116 Broadway, Alamo Heights, TX 78209; phone: 210-822-3331.

Beginnings [1]

The development history of the City of Alamo Heights began in earnest around 1890. Poet Hiram McLane, whose family had bought property in 1861, sold his house and 1400 acres of ranch property to the Chamberlain Investment Company. This Denver-based company, through its local agents, Charles W. Ogden, R.H. Russell and J.W. Ballantyne Patterson, planned a suburban development called Alamo Heights. First, the company turned the old Anderson-McLane ranch house into a new hotel, calling it "The Argyle." (Patterson was a Scotsman, and the bluffs surrounding the old ranch house reminded him of home, Scotland's Argyleshire). Then, the company laid out generous lots around the hotel for fine home sites.

Next, it employed a Denver engineer to lay out broad roads that followed the natural contours of the heights, allowing for natural drainage and graceful curving drives. Then, the company built a private waterworks, utilizing a large spring that also retained the Head of the San Antonio River area with its own lake, for public use. Last, the great trees were left beside the roads or even in the middle of the curving drives.

Unfortunately for the Denver-based developers, however, nobody came and built houses, as all the "fashionable" people in 1890 still lived south of Commerce Street and all the graveled roads stopped at Josephine Street. Struggling, the company planned to put in its own "rapid" transit (street cars pulled by mules) and negotiated with the City of San Antonio to build a street to Alamo Heights (River Road, now Broadway). However, between 1891 and 1893 only twelve homes were built.

Finally in 1909, many properties were acquired by Clifton George, Sr. of Oklahoma, who was to become Alamo Heights' principal developer. George did whatever it took to sell lots in Alamo Heights, such as donating land for worthy causes, including land for the establishment of the Texas Military Institute in Alamo Heights (1911-1989). George also built twenty houses himself in Alamo Heights, named streets after previous developers and for his wife (Mary D), and moved his family into the former country club. He also planned "pocket parks" of green space and created smaller lots for smaller houses.

By 1921, Alamo Heights was finally robustly developing throughout its city limits. Its scattered, intermittent development insured a mix of various incomes and age groups as well as a variety of architectural styles, which is still a significant feature of its character today.

Then, after the news that the City of San Antonio needed to build and fund a 1.6 million dollar dam across the Olmos Basin (after the disastrous 1921 flood of downtown San Antonio) and sought additional property tax revenues for funding through the annexation of outlying suburban areas, Alamo Heights began to consider its incorporation as an independent municipality. A meeting was hastily assembled on June 4, 1922 at the Alamo Heights School and, as a result, Bexar County Judge McCloskey was petitioned to establish a city government under the laws of the State of Texas. Convinced that the City of San Antonio would triple their property taxes if annexed into the City, the residents ratified this move to incorporate 289 to 8 in an election held at the Argyle Hotel. Alamo Heights became a municipality on June 20, 1922. Despite not having a city charter, yet, citizens elected Argyle owner Robert O'Grady as Mayor, as well as five aldermen and a town marshal.

In the ensuing years, the City of Alamo Heights passed needed bond elections to pave all its streets by 1928, to purchase the public water system from its developers, and to provide fire, police and emergency services for good value, while retiring debt. These were not small accomplishments for a town of less than 8,000 completely surrounded by the City of San Antonio. Alamo Heights continues to attract residents and visitors, alike, through its unique blend of history, sense of community and character, which all trace their origins back to a familiar source: the blue springs that comprise the headwaters of the San Antonio River.

  1. Looking Ahead: Planning the Future of Alamo Heights, City of Alamo Heights Comprehensive Plan, May, 2009, www.alamoheightstx.gov, accessed July, 2011.
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