Despite its relatively close proximity to the Mexico border, many of San Antonio’s most notable buildings were influenced by European designs, especially those designed and built around the turn of the 20th century. Today, the city is filled with interesting buildings and private homes, ranging from modern masterpieces constructed almost entirely from glass to gorgeous examples of Art Deco, Classic Revival, and Victorian architecture, featuring intricate design details. There are also quite a few buildings that feature unique, futuristic designs, as well as a distinctly Mexican design complete with bold color choices.
If you live in San Antonio or are planning to visit the Alamo City in the near future, here are 10 of the most interesting buildings in San Antonio that you should make an effort to see.
1. John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse
Originally constructed to serve as the Confluence Theater for the 1968 World’s Fair, the John H. Wood Federal Courthouse was later retrofitted to act as one of the country’s busiest federal courthouses. The exterior of the drum shaped building was intended to give it a futuristic, space-age design and is covered in travertine panels and marble quarried from New Mexico that have not held up well over the decades. Originally designed by Marmon & Mok’s, the future of the building is currently in jeopardy.
2. 2900 Scattered Oaks, San Antonio, Texas 78232
Built in 1968 by famous designer Isaac Maxwell, this 4,266 sq. ft. private residence includes 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms spread over a single story. The most unique architectural features of this property, particularly for the time period it was built in, are the wall of glass windows that overlook the backyard and the stacked rock fireplace that has copper undertones. The house sold in October 2016 for $559,033, according to public record.
3. David J. and May Bock Woodward Mansion
Designed and built by Atlee Ayers in 1904 – 1905 for a local businessman who was struggling to find the perfect birthday gift for his wife, the Woodward Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. The 2 ½ story, 9,000 sq. ft. home was designed in a Classic revival style and constructed primarily from brick and stucco. It includes four Corinthian columns situated across the front of the huge semi-circular porch that provide support for the curved flat-roofed portico above.
4. Lucile Halsell Conservatory
Designed by Emilio Ambasz and opened to the public in 1988, the Lucile Halsell Conservatory is well known in the architectural community for its futuristic glass design. When entering the building, visitors are sent underground through a tunnel, so that each room is sunken underground despite having glass ceilings that soar as much as 65 ft. up into the air. To ensure the building’s clean design all mechanical rooms and offices were built entirely underground, allowing only the glass roofs to protrude above the earth’s surface. Essentially, it is a building made almost entirely of glass.
5. 24209 Scenic Loop Rd., San Antonio, TX 78255
Another private residence, this 3,199 sq. ft. home was built in 1938 using an unknown architect’s design, though the original family still owns it. The one-level home (with no steps) was constructed using an entirely stone exterior and includes huge windows that overlook the 28 acres of land it sits on. Though the outside has remained almost completely untouched, the home’s interior has been remodeled extensively over the years and includes an updated kitchen and bathrooms.
6. Lambermont, also known as Terrell Castle
Designed by architect Alfred Giles, who was instructed to base his design on French chateaus and Belgium-style castles, Lambermont was built in 1894 for the family of Edwin Holland Terrell who served as Ambassador to Belgium. The result was a 12,000 sq. ft. “castle for his bride” that was constructed almost entirely from stone and included open verandas and galleried porches embellished with limestone balustrades and large beams. On a side note, although the home looks like it could be used as a set for fairy tales, it is said to be one of the most haunted spots in San Antonio.
7. San Antonio Public Library Main Branch
Completed in 1995, San Antonio’s Main Branch was designed by renowned Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. Often referred to as “Big Red,” the 6-story building is easily recognized thanks to its “Mexican Modernist” design and striking enchilada red color and bright yellow atrium. Legorreta incorporated a variety of geometric shapes into the design, as well as plenty of outdoor terraces and balconies. Inside, the Fiesta Tower is a colorful site worth seeing.
8. Sacred Heart Conventual Chapel
What started as the dream of Mother Florence Walter more than 28 years before construction finished became a reality when architect Leo Dielmann and contractor A. Fuessel finally completed Sacred Heart Conventual Chapel in 1921. The English Gothic style chapel reaches 193 ft. at its spires’ peak and includes stained glass windows imported from Germany, as well as Italian marble alters. Often compared to the Cinderella’s Castle at Disney Land, the chapel sits next to a lake on the campus of Our Lady of the Lake University.
9. Koehler Cultural Center
Designed and built by architect Carl von Seutter in 1901 – 1902 as the home of Otto Koehler, the Koehler Cultural Center is the quintessential Victorian showplace and is believed to have been inspired by the castles situated along Europe’s Rhine River. Spanning 12,655 sq. ft., the home was made from stone and features a variety of Renaissance elements as ornamentation, such as sculptured garland, polygonal turrets, and rounded bays. The home and its surrounding property was gifted to San Antonio College after the death of Koehler.
10. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower
Designed by Henry J. McGill and constructed during the Great Depression (1929 – 1931) in an Art Deco style, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower is another example of exquisite architecture in San Antonio. The exterior is primarily made of copper and stone and features golden domes, two towers (one is adorned with a crucifix and reaches 116 ft., while the other reaches 72 ft. and is topped with a bronzed statue of St. Therese, for who the shrine is named). Below the crucifix, the Seven Last Words have been carved directly into the stone.