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  • Writer's pictureMichael T. Berger, MBA

San Antonio Historic District - What?

It is important as resident of an Inside410 home, to know what is a Historic District is and how the city defines them...We will cover in future versions of this world-famous blog what neighborhoods hold this designation and we will have in-depth reviews about each.

A historic district, according to the City of San Antonio’s Unified Development Code, is "an area, urban or rural, defined as an historic district by city council, state, or federal authority and which may contain within definable geographic boundaries one or more buildings, objects, sites or structures designated as exceptional or significant historic landmarks or clusters, as defined herein, including their accessory buildings, fences and other appurtenances, and natural resources having historical, architectural, archaeological, and cultural significance, and which may have within its boundaries other buildings, objects, sites, or structures, that, while not of such historical, architectural, archaeological or cultural significance as to be designated landmarks, nevertheless contribute to the overall visual setting of or characteristics of the landmark or landmarks located within the district."

San Antonio currently has 29 different locally designated historic districts, ranging in size from the Leon Springs Historic District (3 parcels) to the Mission Historic District, which extends for approximately seven (7) miles on the city’s south side. Not to be confused with National Register Historic Districts, of which San Antonio has 19, local historic districts are adopted by ordinance at City Council and include legal enforcement of compliance with adopted development codes that are specific to historic properties. Find out more about the advantages of historic designation (PDF).

Historic district eligibility is determined by the sixteen (16) criteria for evaluation as specified in the Unified Development Code. These criteria are based on the four National Register criteria for eligibility including association with significant events, association with significant people, architectural significance, or ability to convey information about history or prehistory (archaeological sites). Areas recommended eligible for historic district designation must meet at least three (3) of the criteria. The full list of eligibility criteria for historic districts is as follows:

Sec. 35-607. - Designation Criteria for Historic Districts and Landmarks.


Process for Considering Designation of Historic Districts and Landmarks. Historic districts and landmarks shall be evaluated for designation using the criteria listed in subsection (b) and the criteria applied to evaluate properties for inclusion in the National Register. In order to be eligible for historic landmark designation, properties shall meet at least three (3) of the criteria listed. Historic districts shall consist of at least two (2) or more structures within a legally defined boundary that meet at least three (3) of the criteria. Additionally, all designated landmarks and districts shall demonstrate clear delineation of the legal boundaries of such designated resources.


Criteria For Evaluation.

1. Its value as a visible or archeological reminder of the cultural heritage of the community, or national event;

2. Its location as a site of a significant local, county, state, or national event;

3. Its identification with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the development of the community, county, state, or nation;

4. Its identification as the work of a master builder, designer, architect, or landscape architect whose individual work has influenced the development of the community, county, state, or nation;

5. Its embodiment of distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style valuable for the study of a period, type, method of construction, or use of indigenous materials;

6. Its historical, architectural or cultural character as a particularly fine or unique example of a utilitarian structure, including, but not limited to, bridges, acequias, gas stations, transportation shelters, or other commercial structures;

7. Its unique location or singular physical characteristics that make it an established or familiar visual feature;

8. Its historical, architectural, or cultural integrity of location, design, materials, and workmanship;

9. Its character as a geographically definable area possessing a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of historically, architecturally or culturally significant sites, buildings, objects or structures united by past events or aesthetically by plan or physical development;

10. Its character as an established and geographically definable neighborhood, united by culture, architectural style or physical plan and development;

11. It is distinctive in character, interest or value; strongly exemplifies the cultural, economic, social, ethnic or historical heritage of San Antonio, Texas or the United States;

12. It is an important example of a particular architectural type or specimen;

13. It bears an important and significant relationship to other distinctive structures, sites, or areas, either as an important collection of properties or architectural style or craftsmanship with few intrusions, or by contributing to the overall character of the area according to the plan based on architectural, historic or cultural motif;

14. It possesses significant archeological value that has produced or is likely to produce data affecting theories of historic or prehistoric interest;

15. It represents a resource, whether natural or man-made, which greatly contributes to the character or image of a defined neighborhood or community area; or

16. It is designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark or State Archeological Landmark, or is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Properties eligible for designation include those listed below:

1. Buildings or places which have come to represent a part of San Antonio's cultural heritage for at least twenty-five (25) years;

2. Architectural curiosities, one-of-a-kind buildings and notable examples of architectural styles and periods or methods of construction, particularly local or regional types and buildings by internationally known architects or master builders and important works by minor ones;

3. Properties that are part of a cluster which provide a specific representation of an architectural or historic era or event;

4. Parks, plazas, bridges, streets, walkways, acequias, vistas and objects that have special cultural, historic or architectural significance, including studios of artists, writers or musicians during years of significant activity;

5. Institutions that provide evidence of the cultural history of San Antonio (churches, universities, art centers, theaters and entertainment halls) as well as stores, businesses and other properties that provide a physical record of the experience of particular ethnic groups;

6. Markets and commercial structures or blocks which are important to the cultural life of San Antonio and groups of buildings, structures and/or sites representative of, or associated with particular social, ethnic or economic groups during a particular period;

7. Archaeological sites of cultural importance to local people or social or ethnic groups, such as locations of important events in their history, historic or prehistoric cemeteries, battlefields or shrines;

8. Buildings that physically and spatially comprise a specific historical or architectural environment or clusters of historically, architecturally, or culturally related buildings that represent the standards and tastes of a specific segment of a community or neighborhood;

9. Unrelated structures that represent a historical or cultural progression or various styles and functions, or cohesive townscapes or streetscapes that possess an identity of place;

10. Objects such as fountains, clocks, markers, sculpture, bridges, and acequias which are important to the historical and cultural life of the city and related to a specific location; or

11. Walkways, setbacks, open grass or landscaped areas along the San Antonio River, including special vistas associated throughout city development patterns in and near plazas, parks and riverbanks.

(Ord. No. 98697 § 6) (Ord. No. 2010-06-24-0616, § 2, 6-24-10)

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