Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
My husband and I spent much of early 1978 driving outside of Loop 1604 looking for acreage to build our home. Our wish list was short – a serene escape from city life, yet close proximity to town.
When we stopped at a “For Sale” sign in the Northwood Hills subdivision off Bulverde Road, I questioned my husband’s enthusiasm for the overgrown lot filled with scrub brush, oaks, and cedars that somehow had penetrated a 1.5 acre limestone slab. But, even as a city girl, it didn’t take long for me to succumb to nature’s idyllic beauty and the rhythmic moos of dairy cows across the road. I envision raising a family here.
This little spot of heaven was outside of the city limits and came with challenges. There was no city water, sewer, or garbage pickup at the time. The closest grocery store was 11 miles away and we both worked in town. It just meant that I would have to get a bit better at planning any expeditions into civilization and do my best to ensure no one needed emergency medical care.
In the ensuing years, we designed a house to fit our needs and had it constructed by our dear friend and custom builder Michael Dawson. We quickly filled our home two by two: two adults, two daughters and two dogs. Neighbors in the subdivision occupied homes on acreage tracts, many with children that would make playdates fun for our little ones.
The City of San Antonio eventually extended utilities, existing roads were paved, neighboring Encino Park was developed, along with the construction of new North East ISD schools, and conveniences began popping up within a short distance from our home.
Because we were so isolated in the beginning, our neighbors cultivated a special bond. Even as more residential and commercial development surrounded our enclave, the desire to maintain as much community spirit as possible continued.
There is an annual neighborhood Patriotic Parade and Picnic in celebration of Independence Day, prior to the Christmas holidays Santa rides down each street throwing candy to children from the Bexar/Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department truck, and twice each year we gather for community news and socializing through Northwood Hills Improvement Club meetings.
Neighbors get to know one another on evening strolls, sometimes passing by as they exercise a calf for FFA or take a sunset ride on horseback. We’ve redirected cattle home after a brief escape through a broken fence and have seen llamas that have made a quick escape from their pens down the street. It’s certainly entertaining when feathered visitors make our yard a regular stop. Looking out our home office window, we regularly greet a black and white chicken that stops by to forage for dinner.
Over the last 41 years much has changed. The footprint of our home has expanded. We’ve added both a studio and workshop on the property to give space to hobbies and interests, built a wisteria-covered dining pergola to entertain friends and family, established multiple gardens that provide water features, food, and shade for wildlife, and cultivated an olive orchard that provides an annual crop of Spanish Arbequina olives that is pressed for oil to share with those who help us harvest each September.
Our little area of paradise is in the heart of the city’s northern expansion. Every amenity is now available in swelling numbers – shopping, dining, golf, and luxury resorts are springing up daily. Some of the very best medical care is less than 10 minutes away in the medical center at Stone Oak.
The widening and repaving of Bulverde Road to a six-lane divided thoroughfare is a marked change from the two-lane road that once was gravel just beyond our subdivision. Yet, Northwood Hills’ neighbors still acknowledge one another with a friendly Texas “howdy.” Highway 281 North is another story, and it can be quite daunting for those who rarely traverse this far north. But, for us “locals,” it’s simply another sign of growth that will provide better access once completed.
What has remained the same over the four-plus decades here is the feeling of sanctuary on this parcel of land we share with deer, foxes, rabbits, spiny lizards, and geckos. There are multiple birding areas with feeders and branches for nesting. Our own nest is empty now, but a treehouse that takes on life as a pirate ship’s helm has been added for our granddaughter’s visits. From here, we fish in the dry creek bed and imagine new and exciting adventures from this special place we call home.