History to Present Day

History

Dignowity Hill is located on San Antonio's Eastside, less than a mile from downtown San Antonio. It was the first exclusive residential area in San Antonio, preceding King William and Laurel Heights. Due to its high elevation, proximity to downtown, the size of the lots, and lack of water, which required residents to construct large water collecting systems, Dignowity Hill began as an upper-class residential area. Settled as estates with one house per block in the 1850s on an 80-foot hill overlooking downtown San Antonio. Found on the National Historic Registry of Neighborhoods, it is named for Dr. Anthony Michael Dignowity, a Czechoslovakian immigrant who was a public official, medical doctor, and abolitionist. Dr. Dignowity immigrated to the US in 1831. He came to San Antonio from Nachez, Mississippi with a group of volunteers for the Mexican War. Dr. Dignowity built his home, often called Harmony House, on a hillside with a fine view of downtown San Antonio. He sold plots of the surrounding land with its fine breezes to his various well-heeled friends. Noted San Antonio families such as the Friedrichs, Elmendorfs, Lockwoods, and Otts built homes in this area. The homes were typically two story, constructed of limestone and brick, and reflected the best designs of their time. Mr. Dignowity died in 1875, his house, Harmony House, was torn down in and replaced with Dignowity Park in 1926.

The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1877 began another phase in the development of the Dignowity Hill neighborhood. In1890, an iron works factory and the streetcar service trolley line along Burnet Street arrived to the area, while sewer and water became available by 1903. By 1914, the neighborhood was surrounded by industry on the north and west, commerce on the south and modest homes on the east. The area began to transform in the 1920s, as wealthy families moved to newer housing areas, thus, leading to the subdivision of estate lots for the construction of newer, smaller houses. By 1930, most of the large original homes had been destroyed and replaced with small Folk Victorian style houses and Craftsman Bungalows.

Present Day

The current boundaries of Dignowity Hill Neighborhood are:

North Boundary - Sherman Street
South Boundary - Commerce Street (excluding St. Paul Square)
East Boundary - North New Braunfels Ave. between Sherman and Houston Streets / St. James between Houston Street and Commerce
West Boundary - IH 37

A slightly smaller section of the neighborhood, radiating from its namesake park, has been designated a historic district by the City of San Antonio. The district was established to preserve the unique cultural and historic character of the area. The historic district bounded by Sherman Street on the north, Commerce Street and Paso Hondo on the south, Palmetto Street on the east, and Cherry Street on the west.

Visit our Places page to find out more about the features within the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood.