Where I Live: Monticello Park

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More
Mario Vazquez stands in front of his home in Monticello Park.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Mario Vazquez stands in front of his home in Monticello Park.

After living in a small house in the Lavaca neighborhood for three years, I began the search for a larger house where I could entertain. I love older homes and knew I could buy more square footage outside of downtown, so when I found a historical home on Mary Louise Drive in Monticello Park in 2014, I didn’t hesitate.

The Monticello Park neighborhood in San Antonio is shaded in blue.

Courtesy / Google Maps

The Monticello Park neighborhood in San Antonio is shaded in blue.

The neighborhood was born in the late 1920s when a group of developers transformed a dairy farm into “one of the most desirable neighborhoods in San Antonio,” according to the City of San Antonio’s website. Among them were H.C. Thorman, the real estate mogul who developed much of Olmos Park, and N. Straus Nayfach, who designed the downtown Alameda Theater. Their and others’ contributions resulted in a range of architectural styles, including Art Moderne, Spanish Eclectic, and Tudor Revival.

I wanted the home on Mary Louise Drive, as it’s the street to live on in the historic district. The street is wide, allowing for plenty of parking for hosting social events, and the utility poles are in the alley, thus showcasing the beautiful lawns and historical homes. Former mayors Lila Cockrell, Phil Hardberger, and Ed Garza all lived in the area at one point.

Monticello Park features wide streets with a lot of parking.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Monticello Park features wide streets with a lot of parking.

I had never lived in a neighborhood where people slow down to admire the homes, so at first, I wondered why cars would constantly stop in front of my house before moving on. A neighbor eventually confirmed that this was common in the area, and I quickly developed a sense of pride to live in a neighborhood where people pause to appreciate the eclectic architecture. Likewise, owners take pride in keeping gardens and curb appeal updated.

I have been pleasantly surprised by how peaceful, quiet, and generally safe this inner-city neighborhood is. The neighbors are a mix of older, original owners and hip, young professionals who enjoy the close proximity to downtown. I also love the area’s artistic vibe: Situated within the Art Deco District, Monticello Park residents are a hop and skip away from Woodlawn Theatre, a community theater that produces fantastic plays. I love to invite friends over for cocktails at my house and then walk the four blocks to catch a production. The area even has its own Fiesta event every year called Deco Fiesta.

The house lends itself well to entertaining. Having taken classical piano lessons for 14 years, I bought my professional grand piano when I moved into the house to entertain and bring in concert pianists for home salon concerts. Scott Cuellar, gold medalist of the 2016 San Antonio International Piano Competition (now the Gurwitz Competition), stayed at my home during the piano competition. Last November I hosted Italian Pianist Flavio Villani, who lives in New Zealand, while he was in town for a performance at the Mexican Cultural Institute. My passion for classical music in this city runs deep – I served on the San Antonio Symphony’s board of directors for more than six years.

Mario Vazquez plays his piano in his home.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Mario Vazquez plays his piano in his home.

I’m two blocks away from H-E-B, and several longtime favorite restaurants such as Tip Top Café and Jacala Mexican Restaurant also are within walking distance – the former has been in business since my home was built in the 1930s. Various trade schools and pizza joints contribute to the feel of a self-contained “mini-city.”

Uber or Lyft drivers rarely take more than five minutes to arrive, and trips downtown have always been around $9 each way – in fact, even a round trip is usually cheaper than parking downtown. Monticello Park also tends to be a popular location for short-term rentals due to its charm and proximity to downtown. Most houses in the neighborhood have either garage apartments or separate guesthouses, which once served as maids quarters but today host friends or visitors.

Courtesy / Mario Vazquez

A newspaper clipping from Nov. 8, 1932, reports on the $16,000 sale of the home Mario Vazquez bought in 2014.

Most people shopping for a home explore a variety of neighborhoods and houses that fit their specifics in terms of bedrooms, school districts, and other amenities. I deliberately chose to live on Mary Louise Drive in Monticello Park because I knew this neighborhood offered the lifestyle I sought: The neighborhood is near downtown and historic, the house had been restored, and I craved the excitement of the Art Deco District. I first made an offer on a house on another block on Mary Louise Drive in 2013, but another bidder beat me to it, so I had to wait a year before another home of my liking came on the market. This time, my offer was accepted. The previous owner even left pictures and articles from the 1930s and an article that came out a few years ago showcasing my home.

A headline from Nov. 8, 1932, reads: “Rock Residence On Mary Louise Brings $16,000.” Value has since increased quite a bit.

28 thoughts on “Where I Live: Monticello Park

  1. Good read. I live in Jefferson. Just a quick note. MP has the highest amount of Hispanic voter turnout in local elections, averaging around 23-28%.

    • Thank you. Those stats are great to hear, especially for someone who advocates strongly for more participation in our elections process.

  2. I live a few blocks away and my husband and I are guilty of stopping on Mary Louise to admire the homes there. We love your neighborhood and aspire to live there ourselves one day!

  3. I grew up on North Drive, blocks from beautiful, historic Thomas Jefferson High School. Thank you Mario for such a great article, he is correct about the nature of the neighborhood, it is “peaceful, quiet and generally safe.”

  4. More dairy farm conversion? I live close in the newer (1962) Sunshine Estates that was once the Sunshine Dairy Farm. The highlight for me that many in newer neighborhoods don’t think about is access to the highways. I’m on I-10 in 4 min or 410 in 3 min. That translates to downtown in 12 min and airport in 10. Older homes w/in 410 rock! My other place is in Southtown for access to downtown entertainment.

  5. A great read, Mario. I grew up in Monticello Park next door to Dr. Ronnie Sanders (reader above). The neighborhood remains a treasure — and Mary Louie Drive, breathtaking. Thanks for stirring warm memories.

  6. At one point Mario and I overlapped on the Symphony board and he was a terrific thinker and problem solver. I liked him, and now I admire him even more for this fine piece about “Where He Lives.” We have emailed a little bit about our nests and how attached to them we are. But Mario, I’d happily leave Terrell Hills and come over to a musicale on Mary Louise!

    • Taddy, thanks for your kind words. Indeed we both share a passion for the San Antonio Symphony and open our homes to promote music. I like how The Rivard Report created this segment that tells so many wonderful stories of where we live from such a personal perspective. Many thanks for your comments and others who have given input to Monticello Park.

    • I would recommend you check with a realtor as there is a wide range given the bungalows and cottages mixed in with larger estates so I do not think an average price necessarily fits Monticello Park.

  7. Hi, Mario, We warmly welcome you to Monticello Park and invite you to visit, if you haven’t been here yet, Bihl Haus Arts. Bihl Haus Arts is also walking distance from your home, along with the other arts nonprofit organizations on Fred Road, including Classic Theatre, NYA and Centro Cultural Aztlan, and just south of the I10 overpass, Jump-Start Performance Co. You could literally attend a different arts event every single weekend throughout the year in our vibrant cultural district and never see the same thing twice! The area is also home to about 1000 visual artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, designers and creators of all kinds. We’re so glad you’ve joined our creative community!

  8. A wonderful read about a neighborhood that will always be near and dear to my heart. We lived on Furr Drive for 10+ years in the 70 & 80’s, and enjoyed all the benefits you noted. In addition, my kids were able to live a 1950’s style life of walking, riding their bikes to Woodlawn Elementary School, visiting friends and going to the neighborhood stores for a soda. One of the highlights of a late summer and early autumn afternoons was watching & hearing the Jefferson High School Band parade up and down the streets adjacent to the playing fields at the school. A GREAT neighborhood!

  9. During Fiesta as the Jefferson HS band practices, they march down Mary Louise Dr toward my house then to Vollum and to Furr to return to campus and it’s another annual ritual I enjoy seeing from my front lawn. We forgot to mention the beauty of Jefferson HS that has appeared in several movies.

  10. Thank you for expressing sentiments that many of your neighbors share. I too am a resident of Monticello Park. I am grateful to have been here going on 20 years. I love my home, my hood, and the people who live and work in this area. While my street, Club Drive is not as wide as Mary Louise, I can still manage to get visitors!

  11. What a wonderful tribute to this special neighborhood. I’m a Realtor living in lower Monte Vista and once had a darling young couple list their MP home for visions of a larger property elsewhere. Before the ink dried, they realized how much they love their neighborhood and extraordinary Spanish Mediterranean home and decided instead to renovate the kitchen and stay put! This is a great reminder to suggest MP to my buyer clients.

  12. Hello Mario, you are everywhere ! I really enjoyed your story of a home well loved and am glad that you are doing so well in the neighborhood.

    • Dear Jim, you are my greatest mentor, a former boss who taught me much of my legal skills, and among the most respected lawyers in town. Thus, hearings from you made me smile. I love my community hence my ubiquitous spotting, haha. Thanks for the comments and I will be in touch.

  13. Great part of San Antonio, but let’s not forget it’s one of the most gentrified areas in the city. Between property tax hikes, due to historical designation, real estate ‘flippers’ and rising rents, the neighborhood is losing much of what made it diverse and humble.

    • Totally agree with you that it’s a great part of San Antonio to live and many agree with you here as well. Thanks for your input.

  14. Hello neighbor! As the president of the Monticello Park Neighborhood Association, you have done a wonderful job describing this wonderful slice of San Antonio that we proudly call home. We are grateful for the youthful energy that is returning to MP as well as the wisdom of the honored elders who make up the fabric of our community! I pinch myself sometimes when I walk our neighborhood and I see the love and care and incredible craftsmanship of our historic homes. We’re lucky people, aren’t we? Thanks again for making the choice to move to MP and sharing your thoughts with the larger community

  15. Thank you. You represent the association well and further affirm how many of us feel. Off the record, I have received many emails and calls from former residents who tell many great stories from the old days. MP is simply a great place to live….and entertain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *