The "Gilded Age" in San Antonio (1890–1930) produced several opulent suburbs-Government Hill, West End, Alamo Heights, Tobin Hill, Laurel Heights, and Monte Vista. The last surviving neighborhood of this era, known since 1975 as the Monte Vista Historic District, is bounded by San Pedro, Hildebrand, Stadium Drive, and McCullough from Huisache south to Ashby. The Monte Vista district is one of the few remaining neighborhoods in Texas built for the most part in the prosperous years 1890–1930, which has not been ravaged by demolition, fires, and landlords. British, New England, and Denver capital produced this residential building era, and the Laurel Heights story begins with Jay Adams, a Denver promoter. Even as Adams urged would-be site owners-"Take the San Pedro cars and do not stop until you get to the end of the line"-financier E. B. Chandler and Texas jurist Leroy G. Denman had already built magnificent homes on rock foundations in French Place. Leading architects Alfred Giles and Harvey Young provided community leaders T. H. Franklin, Mrs. E. A. Stribling, Frank C. Davis, Floyd McGown, G. Bedell Moore, Alfred S. Gage, Michael Goggan, and David St. Clair Combs homes of distinction in the neighborhood by 1910. The artists Julian and Eleanor R. Onderdonk also grew up there in a modest framed cottage that their grandfather built in 1882.
Belknap Place, named for the founder of the first successful streetcar system, featured grand homes including that of Adams. Architect James Riely Gordon, who shortly thereafter designed the Romanesque Bexar County Courthouse, drew the plans for this singular four-story residence, which yet attracts visiting architects. At the corner of Belknap and French stands one of the finest examples of Atlee B. Ayres's architecture. Of strong symmetrical composition and handsome brick detailing, this eclectic residence and carriage house built for cotton broker Roy Hearne was the property of oilman Sam Kone from 1922 to 1980.
F. Maury Maverick resided at 127 West Woodlawn at the time of his death. He coined the term "gobbledy-gook" and deserves credit for the restoration of La Villita and the establishment of the river walk in this city. The most distinctive residential structure of the pre-World War I era in San Antonio was the Renaissance Revival mansion designed by architect H. A. Reuter for cattle baron Herbert L. Kokernot at 114 East Kings Highway. Built in 1913, it later served for many years as the Archbishop's Palace. Kokernot engaged Houston architect Russell Brown to design the home at 115 East Lynwood in 1927. Subsequently it became the home of the late mayor J. Edwin Kuykendall and of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Van Steenberg. Mrs. Van Steenberg was the first president of the Monte Vista Historical Association.
Monte Vista, north of Elsmere, represented primarily the efforts of architect-builders Frost Carvel and Robert McGarraugh. Perhaps the most magnificent homes on Bushnell Avenue included those of Charles A. Schreiner (occupied until 1981 by William L. Moody III) and oilman Marrs McLean. Block residents have included the late mayor Walter McAllister, albeit in a more contemporary home. The eight-story Bushnell Apartments, designed by architect Robert Kelly, housed distinguished San Antonio citizens for half a century. Across the street philanthropist Harry Landa moved into his palatial Mediterranean home in 1929. Another mansion across the way on the corner of Shook and Oakmont Court was that of the Julius Seligman family.
The neighborhood was threatened by commercial intrusion and deterioration in 1973, and the Monte Vista Historical Association was formed. More than 1,600 adult residents signed petitions that led to its designation by the San Antonio City Council as a historic district on July 17, 1975. The charter from the state set forth the association's purposes: "to encourage the preservation of the distinctive heritage of the Monte Vista area; to keep the physical identity of this late nineteenth-early twentieth century district intact; to educate the public, especially the youth, with the knowledge of our inherited neighborhood values which contribute to a wholesome urban environment."