Monday, October 31, 2011


What can one say about Alamo Heights, the urban enclave where my friend Sarah lives and where I am living until I figure out what to do with my life?

Alamo Heights is a slice of the past surrounded by the San Antonio Metropolitan area.  It's right next door to another enclave, Olmos Park, where I used to live twenty years ago:
Alamo Heights - Bigger in Google Than It Really Is

Alamo Heights has lots of old and beautiful houses.  We are in the "Cottage District" where houses are often small, dating from the 1920's.  But many of them are being turned into McMansions to occupy virtually every square foot on their lot:

A McMansion in Alamo Heights - formerly a cottage
Not the house where I'm living
Olmos Park is where the "old" money is.  Needless to say, we were not among that elite group.  We probably had the smallest and cheapest house in Olmos Park.  McMansion-itis  has struck Olmos Park too, as you can see in the "Old" and "New" photos of our old house:

What our old house in Olmos Park used to look like -a comfy, homey cottage
What our old house looks like now.
There's actually room for about three more gables -
don't know why the speculator didn't go ahead and put them in.
On the market for $850,000 - and no garage.

Here are a few things I've learned about Alamo Heights in the week or so I've been here:
  • People still wave at each other.  This is an old Texas tradition, part of my childhood, where strangers passing each other smile and wave.  And I thought Panamá was the only place left that did that.  It actually brought tears to my eyes when I first was the recipient of a wave this last week while walking the dogs around the neighborhood.
  • People don't lock their houses or cars.  There has been a spate of about four thefts of laptop computers left in unlocked cars.  (DUH!)
  • Neighbors speak to each other and are friendly and made it a point to tell me my barking dogs wouldn't bother them.  (This is in stark contrast to Baltimore.)
  • The only commercial area in central Alamo Heights is on Broadway, and many of the shops look exactly the same as they did fifty years ago.
  • But there is a huge new upscale shopping center - Alamo Quarry Market - built on the site of the old Alamo Cement works:
Quarry Market - Consumerism within walking distance
  • And another large strip center nearby contains a huge supermarket, more restaurants, etc.
  • Alamo Heights is still pretty much white  - very white (95.3% according to the 2010 Census).

Alamo Heights is the dream to which many American families and communities aspire.  But right next door, in Olmos Basin where Olmos Creek meanders, the sex offenders still hang out just as they have been doing for years.  These are often prominent, upstanding people who become very embarrassed to see their pictures in the newspaper after their arrest.

And there is a raw sewage leak somewhere and garbage piling up in Olmos Creek, that neither the City of San Antonio or Alamo Heights wants to take responsibility for.

Maybe the American Dream is a bit tarnished here.  But you'd never know it from the housewives driving their Mercedes SUVs back and forth from the hair salon.

Alamo Heights lives on in the minds of its residents as the quaint village it always was.  It's a rather strange reality here.

But, to be totally honest, I love it.


1 comment:

  1. Clarification:
    The sex offenders are NOT from Alamo Heights. ;-)