Where I Live: The McAllister Family Home in Terrell Hills

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The McAllister family house in Terrell Hills.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The McAllister family house in Terrell Hills.

I live in a 107-year-old house on Terrell Road that was built by Dr. Frederick Terrell, who founded Terrell Hills. Terrell’s family lived here for 38 years; my family has owned it for 68.

In 1950, my parents bought it from Terrell’s daughter Sarah Terrell Engelke, who with her husband, Albert, had reared her children in it. They took an acre off the east side of the yard and built themselves a smaller house, and our brood moved into the big house. We adored the Engelkes, and they became like grandparents to us kids.

The Terrell Hills neighborhood in San Antonio is shaded in blue.

Courtesy / Google Maps

The municipality of Terrell Hills is shaded in blue.

I was 5 years old when we moved in, and I’m still here 68 years later (you do the math). It is a fabulous old house, graceful and spacious. When my father, Walter McAllister Jr., died in 1988, people would say to my mother, longtime San Antonio philanthropist Edith McAllister, “Now Edith, when are you going to move out of that big old house?” Mother would say, “Big? It’s not big enough!” She was acquisitive and had acres of clothes, and as we all left home she moved into our closets. I told her, “Mother, you raised a family of six in this house and now I can barely wedge myself into a closet in my old room when I come home for visits.” It didn’t faze her.

Taddy McAllister stands by the window of her childhood bedroom.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Taddy McAllister stands by a window in her childhood bedroom.

Because Mother entertained so much, both socially and institutionally, there are few people in San Antonio who haven’t been in the house at some time or another. It opens its arms from the moment one steps through its door. Between our large family and all our friends, dogs, and cats, it has probably sheltered more life and activity than the average dwelling. We tore around it like a playground when we were kids, yet it held up and became more and more beautiful as Mother made her domestic improvements.

Now I live in it by myself, unlonely and unafraid because it is home. I don’t want to be anywhere else. Cats loll about, friends and family come by, my housekeeper of 41 years and I confer, and I spend much of my time at my desk, working for the San Antonio Symphony. It is my cause, my love, and my chief worry. I love my city and the resources it affords me, and I get around. Yet as I am embraced by the warmth of my old house, the land that surrounds it, the friends I see almost everywhere I go, the love and camaraderie I give and receive, always in the back of my mind I’m thinking of my Symphony. That is my life, held within the walls of my old house and my old city.

15 thoughts on “Where I Live: The McAllister Family Home in Terrell Hills

  1. I loved this heartfelt and poignant article. I especially loved the last sentence in the piece. You can hear and feel the music as it eminates from the house.

  2. Taddy,
    What a warm and wonderful evocation of a real home. And I salute your devotion to the symphony. I hope it inspires more folks to support a San Antonio treasure.

    • Mother accepted Bill Sinkin’s admonishment to us all to “go solar.” For a little old Establishment lady to succumb to the encouragement of a pinko liberal like Bill warmed the cockles of my heart.

  3. Thank you, Taddy, for sharing your warm reflections on your beautiful family home, and for your family’s great examples of community leadership, philanthropy and hospitality. Yes, your house truly does open its arms to you as soon as you walk through the door—as did your gracious and indefatigable mother, Edith, and as do you, now, in your own ways, with your own charm, wit and grace.

  4. Taddy you’ve captured your family homestead like some rare anthropod snagged momentarily under the net. Beguiling and eloquent.

  5. Taddy…I especially enjoyed your comment that you live in the great house, “unlonely and unafraid because it is home.” Your tributes to a remarkable mother and your passion for the symphony bring me closer to you as a friend. I appreciate what you do for all of us as you carry on a great McAlliister tradition.

  6. Thank you for sharing dear Taddy. Edith’s annual holiday party in December was a date to look forward to on our calendar. It was lovely to read the story about your home and growing up there. I only wish it had been a longer piece. Keep writing stories-as you have some wonderful ones to tell.

  7. So thankful the San Antonio Symphony has such a wonderful mother to care about sustainability. Thank you!

  8. Taddy, As always you are a fine writer telling a story in such a way as to bring back many memories for folks who have visited your home and for others that hold dear the memories of your parents and your family’s varied contributions to our entire large San Antonio community. Thank you for the many hours you work on behalf of our symphony.

  9. I love your story and passion. Having served with you on the Symphony Board, I know your passion for the symphony and connecting that to your beautiful home’s history was endearing. I was not aware of your family’s history with the house and enjoyed learning about it through your articulate and charming prose. Thanks for sharing your story. And…I did the math…..you look great!

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