Los Angeles Heights

The Los Angeles Heights (dark blue) Neighborhood has undergone boundary changes, like all of the neighborhoods on this tour, since its founding before World War I. An article in the San Antonio Light and Gazette, dated March 10, 1910, defined its eastern boundary at Blanco Road. The addition boasted 3600 lots – 30 homes were already under construction – at the “very low price of $200 each…Los Angeles Heights will have Cement Walks, Graded Streets, Parks, Churches, Schools, Electric Cars, etc.” Greater Los Angeles Heights split in two – Los Angeles Heights and North Los Angeles Heights – in the 1960s with the construction of I-10. Today, the Los Angeles Heights neighborhood is bounded by I-10 on the northeast, Vance Jackson on the west, Fredericksburg Road on the southwest, and Hildebrand Avenue on the south.

As Paula Allen points out in an Express News article, dated October 8, 1995, Los Angeles Heights flourished, as did other suburbs, “during the prosperous 20s, when the rise in personal automobiles and improved public transportation connected these communities to San Antonio proper. As more families moved to the suburbs, schools were built to keep up with the burgeoning population’s needs.”

Two of the most architecturally significant public structures in this area are school buildings. The first is the school at 1915 W. Olmos Drive. Built in 1915 by the prominent Adams and Adams architectural firm, it originally housed grades 1 to 8 of the now defunct Los Angeles Heights School District. The structure became Los Angeles Heights High School in 1924 when it was enlarged by four classrooms to accommodate grades 1 to 12. With the construction in 1929 of the new Thomas Edison High School, the building was converted back into an elementary school and renamed Benjamin Franklin. In design, the structure blends the arched openings and brickwork supporting thick cornices adapted from Italian and Islamic sources. The building suffered several unremarkable additions over the years. A bond passed in 1997 provided for the remodeling and expansion of the structure, which eventually included the careful preservation and reuse of the original 1915 building. Construction, which included the addition of architecturally cohesive wings, was completed in 2004.

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Benjamin Franklin Elementary School at 1915 Olmos Drive. Photo by Eric Lane.

The second, the former Thomas Edison High School at 2101 Edison Drive, now the Greenleaf Whittier Academy, was built in 1929 by noted architect Harvey P. Smith. This brick structure has been remodeled several times since, but its central section retains original elements, as described in an SAISD document, of Zigzag Moderne, the first phase of Art Deco Style. “With its superb cornice of chevrons and panels of stylized flowers, sunrises, and fountains,” and strong verticality emphasized by slender three-story piers capped by cast stone ornaments that project above the roof, it is perhaps the best extant example of the Zigzag style in San Antonio.

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Greanleaf Whittier Academy at 2101 Edison Drive. Photo by Eric Lane.

An excellent example of late Streamline Moderne, the final phase of Art Deco Style, is found in the commercial shopping center at 2716 Fredericksburg Road. Designed by Shoop and Roberts Architects and originally anchored by Handy Andy No. 7, the complex, which held its grand opening on July 10, 1951, now houses the Plaza del Rey Ballroom and Bingo. With its low profile, long sleek horizontal lines, neon sign, common construction materials (cement and glass), and car-oriented site plan, it is typical of suburban design of the early 1950s. As car ownership continued on the rise, cities no longer had to revolve around a central downtown and could spread out to the suburbs, where business hubs like this one interspersed with residential neighborhoods.

Plaze del Rey Ballroom & Bingo

Plaze del Rey Ballroom & Bingo. Photo by Eric Lane.

Los Angeles Heights Artists