About 10 Something Monday riders enjoyed the crisp air of an early December evening synonymous with San Antonio’s mild winters. Our journey started at the Blue Star Arts Complex San Antonio B-cycle station.
The short ride took us through the southern part of the King William Historic District and up into the former Arsenal complex where we meet up with The Commander’s House Supervisor Gloria De La Cruz-Sandoval and Travis Davey, community services supervisor of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, for a tour of the historic grounds and contemporary programming.
The Commander’s House was built in the mid 1800s as part of the U.S Army Arsenal, which was a large facility that stored weapons and ammunition, most of which is now the corporate headquarters for H-E-B. The house itself was used as the residence of the Arsenal’s highest ranking officer.
When you come across The Commander’s House the first thing you’ll notice is the sheer size and beauty of the place. The bricks were extracted from a local quarry, and while the ceiling height accentuates the size of each room, the house doesn’t feel cavernous. The only critique I have of the place is the uninviting, prison-like fence that lines the east side of the property facing S. Main Avenue.
The site has taken on many different responsibilities. During the Civil War the Arsenal was actually occupied by the Confederate Army. It then was used as a French Consulate and the residence of a former mayor. The city purchased the house from the federal government and it now serves as a senior citizen center.
But as the demographics of the downtown area shift to include younger generations, so does Commander’s House programming.
The Commanders House offers many different types of activities and programs. Yearly membership is only $7 for adults 60 years old or older, and $15 for all other adults. Tuesday through Thursday, The Commander’s House partners with H-E-B chefs to serve home-cooked meals for only $3. Just make sure you book your reservations a week in advance. Seats fill up fast.
“For $3 you get appetizers and a home cooked meal, you can’t beat that,” said Sandoval.
Members also enjoy affordable music and art lessons. For $60, you can learn the basics of the guitar, percussions, keyboard, and recorder over 6-8 sessions. The same goes for oil painting, watercolor, pottery and sculpture instruction.
The house also hosts holiday events like the recent Día de los Muertos masquerade and holiday bazaar. You can find a full list of activities here.
City officials hope to offer expanded programming at the Commander’s House that will make it a center for area residents of all ages and not only seniors. Members can come and go as they please, enjoy a cup of coffee, relax on the large porch overlooking downtown San Antonio, hone your arts and crafts skills, and most importantly, socialize with fellow San Antonians.