Sunday, March 8, 2015

History of the Irish Flats

Just a block from the Alamo, is an area known as the Irish Flats. The residential community was home to both Irish and German immigrants who came to the area between 1830 and 1860. The area they choose to settle was flat bottomland, bounded on the south by the Alamo Plaza and Houston streets; on the north by 10th Street; on the west by Avenue C (Broadway); and on the east by the ancient Acequia Madre (IH37).

Irish Flat houses are considered unique, combining features of homes the immigrants left in Ireland, as well as German and Spanish influences, giving the neighborhood a quaint, old world  look. With narrow front porches, low rooflines and thatch roofs, the style identifies the Irish Flat house as the "only indigenous architectural style to have its origins in San Antonio.” (S. A. Express-News.2/3/99.)

Legend has it that home building was a community effort using what might be termed as soft stone, quarried near Mission Conception on the south end of San Antonio. The completion of the home called for a Cèilidh (kay-lee), a Gaelic celebration featuring music and dance.

In the 1850’s, faith communities grew in and around the neighborhood, as evidenced by St. Mary’s Catholic Church; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and First Presbyterian Church.

As the Irish prospered, in the late 19th century, families ventured north to the Government Hill neighborhood, north of Austin St. and west of the newly established Ft. Sam Houston (1870). Commercial expansion along Broadway, along with the departure of the residents led to the disappearance of many of the structures,  Only a few examples of Irish Flat houses remain today. 

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