Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
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 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.
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.
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.
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.