Designated as a City of San Antonio Historic Landmark in 1988, the Dietzmann House, located at 511 Dallas Street, sat vacant for 20 years prior to the beginning of its restoration in 2011. Due to its landmark status, the house could neither be torn down nor removed from the site. On the contrary, all modifications to the building had to be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Office and the Historic Design and Review Commission. Although the house was without electricity, plumbing and mechanical systems, it was in surprisingly good, sound condition. The vacant 1880’s residence went through a 2-year renovation to become an eye clinic. The original building maintained its historic character while an addition that ties in cohesively within the historic context was added to accommodate the spatial needs of a state of the art eye clinic.
Careful consideration was given to the restoration and new addition. An existing, non-original addition at the rear of the house had to be removed. Certain requirements dictated that the new addition be set back from the original structure in order to maintain the historic integrity of the residence. The architect used historic photos showing a building that sat alongside the home to conceive the design for the addition. The design for the addition was undertaken in a way that, “if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired,” as stipulated by the Historic Design and Review Commission. The architect met the requirements predetermined by the HDRC of ensuring that the window placement, roof pitch and siding of the addition were compatible with the existing structure.
MAINSTREET Architects Inc.
The restoration of the main residence commanded careful attention to original detail. The exterior required restoration to the front porch, two hipped dormers at the center front and side of the main roof, wood trim, 4/4 wood windows, wood doors, and the removal of asbestos and vinyl siding. The wood steps and floor were replaced on the front three-bay porch, while the decorative brackets and turned balusters were able to be restored. A new standing seam metal roof was installed on the entire project, tying the new and existing buildings together. The interior of the building had been modified in a way that was not in keeping with original materials and configuration. The non-original modifications, however, were easily removed without irreparable harm to the original structure.
The Historic Design and Review Commission commended the owner for “choosing to rehabilitate this currently vacant historic landmark building. The proposed plan will restore the historic appearance of the existing landmark structure. Construction of an addition will allow the building to take on a new use and once again contribute to the vitality of the River North area.” The Dietzmann House is located next to another renovated historic structure used as an eye clinic. Cross parking and joint access agreements were executed in order to resolve spatial requirements, which included the preservation of two heritage trees, one that the addition had to be configured around.
The Dietzmann House is a good example of a frame plains cottage, and through a careful and thorough rehabilitation, every detail of the house was restored in a manner that was as good, or better than the original. Looking at the property today, no one would suspect that the residence had sat vacant for 20 years.
SAN ANTONIO EYE CENTER (DIETZMANN HOUSE)
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
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