Where I Live: Monticello Heights

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By Madelyn Garner

After my divorce, I decided that I needed to get back to my roots, otherwise known as “inside Loop 410.” Something inside me yearned to settle down in an older neighborhood, preferably close to downtown. I spent many weekends driving through neighborhoods near San Antonio College, Fort Sam Houston and Brackenridge Zoo. When I happened upon Woodlawn Lake, I realized my search was over. I was determined to find a house as close to the lake as possible.

During the house hunt, I was struck by the number of great little houses that had been “renovated.”  I guess the owners were hoping to increase the home’s value, but I saw these renovations as a negative.  To my horror, I discovered many “renovations” involved replacing hardwood floors with tile.  I remember whining to my realtor one day, “Gina, why do these people gut perfectly good houses and add all this tile and stainless steel junk?”  I’m sure my response was not typical of most home buyers, but I was looking for a quaint little home with squeaky hardwood floors and ’50s style tiled bathrooms, a “grandma” house.  The dream of living near Woodlawn Lake didn’t quite work out the way I hoped, but what I found was just as ideal.

Woodlawn Lake

Nestled between Balcones Heights and Woodlawn Lake is Monticello Heights, a shady, quiet neighborhood that winds through a slice of San Antonio south of Wonderland of The Americas Mall and north of The Deco District, between Fredericksburg and Babcock.  I’ve only been here two years, but in that time, my neighbors have become a part of my extended family.   If I’m in my front yard for any length of time, there’s a good chance that one of my neighbors is going to stop by for a chat.

Most of the houses were built in the late 1940s and early 1950s, have pier and beam foundations, hardwood floors (the squeaky kind!), great “old-fashioned” mail slots and functioning alleys.  The thought of backing up to an alley scared me a little at first, but it wasn’t long until I began to appreciate the incredible convenience of alley trash pick-up.

Within two days of moving in, three neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves.  During my six years in suburbia, I can count on both hands the number of conversations I had with my neighbors.  Don’t get me wrong: I lived in a very nice neighborhood alongside some very nice people, but how well can you get to know your neighbors at the annual Pampered Chef party?

Margie’s House.

My neighbor, Ramon, is an avid deer hunter.  While walking to a live Nativity performance at the end of the street last Christmas, I noticed something hanging in Ramon’s driveway.  He called out to me, and as I got closer, I realized it was a deer he shot earlier that day.  Pointing at the deer, he said “Hey Maddie, here’s your Christmas tamales!”  What a treat.

Another neighbor, Margie, grows grapefruit, lemon and orange trees in her backyard.  Last year she had a bumper crop, and I was the fortunate recipient of her incredible bounty. I returned the favor with pecan pies made with pecans from my pecan trees.  The holidays are like an old-fashioned church cookie swap on my street, with a little bit of cultural diversity thrown in.

My street is also guarded by a big, burly basset hound named Fred, who trots along the roof of his house, announcing his presence and alerting everyone to the occasional stray cat.  The first time I saw Fred on the roof, I was stunned. I walked to Fred’s house to properly introduce myself and as I stood on the porch talking with his owner, Fred peered at me from above.  From that angle, his big ears dangled like two leather straps around his face.  James, his owner, said that Fred loved getting on the roof and to his knowledge had only fallen once.

Fred guarding the neighborhood.

The best kept secret about this area is Woodlawn Lake.  The lake is lined with tall, stately cypress trees, surrounded by a walking track and picnic benches.  In the center of the lake sits a lighthouse that is decorated at Christmas with a bright, red and green wreath.  The ducks and swans are as plentiful as the joggers and aren’t shy when it comes to sizing up who on the track might have a little food to throw their way.  Old and young alike enjoy relaxing on the banks of the lake while navigating their motorized sailboats.

The Woodlawn Lake Theater

A few blocks from Woodlawn Lake is Jefferson High School.  Built in 1931, the school was the third public high school built in San Antonio and features gorgeous Spanish architecture.  The school was featured in a newsreel by Paramount Pictures in 1938 as the nation’s most modern school.

Worth the wait
Finding my roots took a little effort, but the journey along the way re-connected me to a part of the city I have come to treasure.  Whether it’s an invigorating walk around the lake, or just enjoying time with my neighbors, the inexplicable tug that compelled me to relocate to this area of San Antonio has been rewarded with a sense of belonging… a sense of community. Driving home from work each day, I know I’m home once I’m inside Loop 410.

Madelyn Garner is a graduate of UTSA, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.  At UTSA, she was a regulator contributor at the university’s student-led newspaper, The Paisano.  She works as a financial fraud investigator at USAA.   In her spare time, she enjoys blogging about San Antonio, gardening and spending time with friends.  Connect with her on Twitter or her blog, S.A. Scenes.

8 thoughts on “Where I Live: Monticello Heights

    • How cool that you have a rooftop canine too! Every few months, Fred’s owner gets calls from the city about complaints they get from people who are calling to report animal cruelty. So Fred has to lay low for a while.

  1. We live in Woodlawn Terrace just to the west of Monticello Park and wanted an older house too. We too love the feel and our goal is to maintain the home with the best quality available to match the old “built like a tank” and beautiful simplicity of that era. We even found new old stock towel bars from 50’s on ebay. The older homes of this area have beautiful cedar frames, more individualistic styles than many contemporary homes, and bigger rooms and yards. I try to look into the future and imagine this house having a long lifespan beyond it’s paid mortgage… I really couldn’t imagine what contemporarily built neighborhoods will look like in 30 years and wanted to participate in preserving the solid beauty found in many neighborhoods inside loop 410. And it’s great not to have to drive forever to get groceries, find a post office or a breakfast taco!

  2. Meg, I couldn’t agree with you more. My home inspector described my house as extremely solid. It’s smaller than the big box houses lining 1604, but it’s cozy and has tons of character. Many of the houses in this area have pier and beam foundations, can shift if too much water builds up under the house. This is something I noticed in many houses close to the lake. But, I found out that repairing a pier and beam foundation is usually much less expensive than repairing slab foundations. Thanks for tip about EBay. Never thought about looking there for 50s fixtures.

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