Overview of Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio: Monticello Park, Deco District & Jefferson Village

Roaming around San Antonio you are bound to run through one if not two historic neighborhoods. San Antonio is old, so what do you expect? King William District is by far the most well-known but there are others like the Monticello Park that are worth a drive-by. It’s surrounded by local neighborhoods like the Deco District and Jefferson Village filled with yummy places to eat, cool stores to shop, and hop, skip, and jump away from Woodlawn Lake.

Monticello Park Historic District

It all started with Thomas Jefferson High School. Built in the Spanish-Moorish style, it was one of the first “million” dollar projects in San Antonio during the 1930s. The proposal and construction of the school caused a backlash because of the lavish price tag and design (it was the depression, y’all). But it did create downstream economic impacts (TJ High History).

Once the school was built, the surrounding barren land became hot real estate for residential homes. Especially since the housing inventory around Woodlawn Lake was diminishing. Named after Jefferson’s own Monticello, the residential subdivision was immediately popular.

True to its era (and namesake?), there were building AND “racial” restrictions. Yeah, it means exactly what you think it means. It was a sign of the times and was included in some of the advertising for the development. 

Images of newspaper clippings of Nayfach homes in Monticello Park Historic District.

style and design

As you weave in and out of what is designated as the Monticello Park Historic District, you’ll notice that there’s not any architectural style that is dominant across the entire neighborhood. It’s a mish-mash of many different architectural styles from Italian Renaissance Revival, Tudor Revival, and Art Moderne.

However, one prominent architect made the rounds and left a solid mark. Mr. N. Straus Nayfach designed approximately 40 homes in the district. Known for designing the Alameda Theater and Temple Beth-El in San Antonio, Nayfach held the ‘favorite-architect-in-San Antonio’ title throughout this period. 

Deco District on Fredericksburg

Along Fredericksburg from I-10 to Hildebrand (maybe a bit further), you’ll get a series of buildings in the stylistic design of Art Deco. St. Mary’s student, Edgar Reynald, completed a great history and discussion on the district and its development in the early 2000s here. He provides a great comparison between Miami and our little district on the power of preservation and community.

Reynald also mentions the importance of Fredericksburg Road as part of the historic  ‘Old Spanish (Automotive) Trail,’ which is a whole other interesting tidbit of history that I may get lost in. But not now! Instead, I’ll highlight my favorite areas along this stretch of road.

Of course, you have the Woodlawn Theater (now known as the Wonder Theater) built in 1945 as a movie theater for the neighborhood. You can experience local productions of Broadway shows with your very own local actors making it happen. But if musical theater isn’t your thing there is definitely shopping and food to explore. 

the shops

My faves are Hello Tallulah’s vintage clothing shop and Panaderia Jimenez. As a lover of all things classic, Hello Tallulah’s beautifully curated collection of clothing from the 40s to the 70s can make your head spin with: “Ooo, what’s that?” Or you’ll say “OMG that’s gorgeous!” Or just have extended gasps of air. And shop owner Kristina is lovely and helpful with an extensive knowledge of vintage design and couture.

Photos of local business on Fredericksburg Road Deco Distrct

As for Panaderia Jimenez, all I can say is YUM. They have the classic Mexican sweet breads you know and love combined with full barista experience to get your fancy caffeine fix in. There are also kolaches, breakfast pies, and also serve lunch when the time comes around. The neighborhood shop creates the best homey vibe so it feels like you’re dropping in on family for a quick hello and a bite to eat before you continue with your day.

Of course while you’re there, check out Black Potion, Dulce Sueños Coffee Lounge, Deco Pizzeria, Elotitos, and the Starlighter. Designated to be the arts district of the city, it continues to attract artists, poets, and performers for all the community to enjoy.

Jefferson Village

West of TJ High along Donaldson Avenue you’ll have Jefferson Village. This commercial district is right in the middle of the Jefferson neighborhood providing its folks what they need from a Dollar Store, beauty and barber shop, event space, and even boxing and ZUMBA classes! Noted as the “newest and most modern shopping center” when built in 1948, it brought in a Hom-Ond grocery and a Sommers Drug Store along with a bakery, jewelry store, and shoe repair shop.

I’m bummed out that the current village took out the sweet display marque that was at the inner corner of the shopping center. But the building itself hasn’t changed much with its low lines and atomic looking poles lining its walkway.

Photos of Jefferson Village Shopping Center in 2023 and 1948 Newspaper Ad.


UPDATE: Across the street, if you don’t already know (seriously, how do you not know), you HAD Jefferson Bodega. The husband and wife team were bringing in the pop-culture vibe holding Hello Kitty or Anime pop-ups at any time, with quite a delicious array of goodies and snacks. Unfortunately, after five years they’ve decided to close shop. Possibly another victim of the current economic times and inflation? It’s quite a bummer since it was the bright beacon drawing locals across San Antonio to a forgotten neighborhood.

My other favorite that has since closed was Raven Rock Antiques and Vintage Market. There was quite a selection of artifacts, oddities, and curios to keep you lost in nostalgia and inspiration for hours. But alas, it bit the dust along with it’s cool variety of mid-century pieces, vintage art and ceramics. For those that lived in the neighborhood, you may remember that corner of the shopping center as a Fox Co. Photo back in 1951.

Two photos: One of 1951 ad of Fox Photo Co. and 2023 Photo of building at Donaldson Ave.

Still here!

At the very end of the commercial block, the neighborhood floral shop Floral Elegance keeps its community and city looking and smelling pretty. A go-to shop for events big and small that require a unique and creative vision for arrangements.

Next door you’ll find Dibbles Hobbies shop has kept locals busy (for over 50 years!), and you can grab some caffeine at the Koffee Kup just before you walk over to La Mana Boutique for it’s selection of guayaberas and the Mexican embroidered blouses we love so much. But if you’re hungry, you an always get your pancake fix at Pancake Joe’s or a good ol’ enchilada plate at Chile, Tomate, y Cebolla.

Two Photos: Top photo of Floral Elegance business building; Bottom photo of shopping center and businesses on Donaldson Ave.

So if you’re looking for a low-key relaxing weekend to support your local shops, check out this local neighborhood round-up. It’s getting harder and harder for small business to stay open so be steward for your community and let them know you care!

What’s your favorite part of this area in San Antonio?

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *