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  • Michael T. Berger, MBA

History Engaged: Arsenal

As part of our on going series of engaging history, we are excited to bring you the story of the Historic Arsenal District south of downtown. Bringing the information from the San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation, each of the historic areas and neighborhoods are going to be explored over the next couple of years.

The United States Arsenal in San Antonio, established in 1859, includes six main buildings: an office building, commanding officer's quarters, servants' quarters, a stable, a magazine building and a storehouse. These buildings are located on grounds bounded by South Flores Street on the west, East Arsenal Street on the south, the San Antonio River on the east, and private property on the north. South Main Street cuts the arsenal site almost in half with the commanding officer's quarters, servants' quarters, office building and storehouse located west of Main Street. The remaining buildings are located on the eastern half of the arsenal grounds. In 1985, H. E. Butt Grocery Company (H.E.B.) bought ten acres of the Arsenal complex, rehabilitated the existing buildings, and moved their corporate headquarters to San Antonio from Corpus Christi, Texas. New limestone buildings have been constructed to meet the corporation’s needs while complementing the historic character of the remaining arsenal buildings.

The Office Building, begun in 1858 and finished in 1860, was the first building in the Arsenal and one of the first permanent United States government buildings in Texas. The simple rectangular structure of local limestone masonry features a corbelled, gable roof and is located next to the commanding officer’s quarters facing west toward Flores Street. The original limestone at the Arsenal is believed to have come from a quarry where Brackenridge Park is now located.

The Magazine was the second building constructed on the grounds. The walls had only been erected to the height of the spring line of the barrel vault by the beginning of the Civil War. Notable features of the limestone masonry structure are the barrel vault construction characteristic of early arsenal buildings.

The home of Dr. James M. Devine served as the original Commanding Officer's Quarters for the Arsenal during its first twenty-four years of existence. The home was replaced (ca. 1883) by the present structure. The existing house is characteristic of 1880s residential architecture in San Antonio with Italianate details and design.

The Servants' Quarters, just behind the Commanding Officer's Quarters, was also part of the Devine homestead. This building housed Devine's house servants and possibly served as a detached kitchen. It continued to be used as servants’ quarters after its occupation by the army in. It is a simple rectangular structure of limestone masonry with a low pitched metal-clad hipped roof and casement windows.

The stable is a rectangular shaped masonry structure with a gable roof. That was constructed ca. 1873. The interior was altered with wood partitions that delineate where animal stalls were once located. It is situated on the northeast corner of the Arsenal site.

The storehouse, built in 1883, was the first permanent store house added to the Depot complex. It is a two-story, rectangular, masonry structure with a metal-clad hipped roof located next to Arsenal Street.

You can view a map of the Arsenal Historic District here.​

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