Alazan-Apache Courts

By: Donald L. Zelman

Type: General Entry

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: September 29, 2020

The Alazan-Apache Courts is a public housing project built between 1939 and 1942 on San Antonio's predominantly Mexican-American West Side. It was still operating in the early 1990s. During the 1930s more than 100,000 Mexican Americans lived in San Antonio, many of them in little more than shacks with tin roofs, dirt floors, and scrap-material walls. These dwellings had no indoor plumbing, and sanitation was primitive. In 1937, during the Great Depression, the United States Housing Authority was established. San Antonio began its own San Antonio Housing Authority on June 17, 1937. Among the five SAHA commissioners the one most responsible for promoting the Alazan-Apache project was the Italian-born Father Carmelo Tranchese, pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. In September 1937 the USHA agreed to fund the San Antonio housing program. Five projects were scheduled: Alazan and Apache Courts for Mexican Americans, Lincoln Heights and Wheatley Courts for Blacks, and Victoria Courts for Whites. Many of the nearly 500 landlords who had to be bought out, however, demanded compensation beyond that allocated. Angered, the USHA administrator ordered the projects stopped in early March 1939. Eleanor Roosevelt intervened, and work began on the Alazan project in July with the demolition of the 929 substandard structures that occupied the site.

Alazan opened some of its units in August 1940 and the rest by early 1941. The project cost nearly $4 million. In less than a year the smaller, adjacent Apache Courts was scheduled for completion at a cost of $1,116,000. The USHA requirement that union labor be used for construction prevented local Mexican Americans from working on the project and added to its cost. The total cost of the five housing projects was over $10 million. The federal government loaned 90 percent of the necessary funding, while the required 10-percent local contribution was raised through a bond drive. All debts were repaid though rents. By the end of 1942 the 2,554 single-family units in all five projects were open for nearly 10,000 tenants, including 4,994 tenants in the 1,180 single-family dwellings in the Alazan-Apache projects. The carefully constructed buildings contained multiple single-family dwellings, which ranged from three to 6½ rooms each, including private bathrooms and kitchens. All were equipped with modern appliances. On-site services included library facilities, health clinics, and social, recreational, and educational programs. The cost of the utilities and services was included in the tenants' rent, which ranged from $8.75 to $14.00 a month. Eligibility for the housing was determined by minimum and maximum annual salary limits, which varied depending on family size. United States citizenship was required by the SAHA as one way of reducing the number of applicants, who far outnumbered the units available. The occupants of the Alazan-Apache Courts formed a tenants' association to maintain the project, and their courts were judged by some observers to be "the best maintained housing project in the United States." The success of the projects led to demands for more. Tranchese headed the cause. Lack of funding, however, and the developing World War II made the effort unproductive, and public housing development in San Antonio ceased until the 1950s.

Lyndon Gayle Knippa, San Antonio, Texas, during the Depression, 1933–1936 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1971). Robert Garland Landolt, The Mexican American Workers of San Antonio, Texas (New York: Arno Press, 1976). Selden Menefee and Orin C. Cassmore, The Pecan Shellers of San Antonio (Washington: GPO, 1940). Carmelo A. Tranchese Papers, Microfilm Collection, St. Mary's University Library. Donald L. Zelman, "Alazan-Apache Courts," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 87 (October 1983).

  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Donald L. Zelman, “Alazan-Apache Courts,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994
September 29, 2020

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