The Original “Heart of San Antonio,” La Villita, Spanish for “little town,” is the original settlement of “Old San Antonio”, the original Mexican San Antonio. Located on the south bank of the San Antonio River, La Villita was San Antonio’s first neighborhood. It was originally a settlement of primitive huts for the Spanish soldiers stationed at the Mission San Antonio Valero (the Alamo). It now occupies one square block in the heart of downtown San Antonio.
Today, La Villita is an active arts and crafts community amidst beautifully landscaped grounds and historic buildings. Architectural styles range from simple adobe structures to early Victorian and natural cut limestone buildings. The Village is a National Register historic district. Inside the shops of La Villita, you’ll find artists and craftsmen, shops and restaurants. Located between an old military garrison to the south and the Alamo to the north, La Villita was the site of revolutionary activity during the Texas war for independence against Mexico. In 1836, La Villita was the site of General Santa Ana’s cannon line in the Battle of the Alamo and a map from early that year showed the village to be of considerable size.
Tradition maintains that General Martin Perfecto de Cos, a brother-in-law of Mexico’s President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, surrendered to the Texan commander, General Edward Burleson, after the five-day Siege of Bexar in December 1835 at the Villita Street building today called the Cos House. The San Antonio Water Works bought the Cos House in 1905, and in 1917 the Texas Historical Landmarks Association placed a commemorative marker on the building.
Today, the Cos House is used for small weddings, dinners or receptions.
The character of the La Villita neighborhood changed again in the early 20th century. Longtime residents lived side by side with new businesses and institutions. In 1895, the city’s first Episcopal Church for African-Americans, St. Philip’s, was organized and located in the old German Methodist Episcopal Church building on Villita Street. St. Philip’s opened a vocational day school in 1898, and in 1902 Artemisia Bowden, a young African-American educator, became principal of the St. Philip’s Parochial Day School, later known as St. Philip’s Normal, Grammar, and Industrial School. The school expanded at this location until 1917, when it moved to the city’s east side. The St. Philip’s property was sold in 1922, and the Central Spiritualist congregation began meeting there.
Visit the La Villta website