San Antonio: Demolition Bid on Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid Rest Stop Proposed for 8-Story Building
Feature Illustration: An architect submitted this rendering solely for the purpose of getting conceptual approval of the massing of a proposed eight-story residential tower at 503 Urban Loop in downtown San Antonio.
by Adolfo Pesquera
San Antonio (Bexar County) — A former 19th century brothel house known to have been a rest stop for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is being proposed for demolition to make room for an eight-story building.
Jonathan Card, a local architect, has a request pending before the Historic and Design Review Commission to raze the historic Dashiell House at 503 Urban Loop. The HDRC must consider the request Wednesday, however, the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) is opposed.
The HDRC is being asked to approve the demolition, and to give conceptual approval as to the “general massing” of the new tower.
The Dashiell House and associated additions of what was a Carmelite Sisters day care. Image: Google Streets.
An analysis of the requests by OHP staff concluded that the owner had not provided sufficient information to justify an economic hardship. Staff further recommended that if the commission finds the economic hardship reasonable, the developer should provide additional information for conceptual review of the replacement structure.
The owner was identified as DPMiller Investments LLC. This is a San Antonio-based couple, Douglas W. Miller II and Paula J. Miller.
The proposed replacement structure is a residential tower with an on-site parking structure and approximately 200 units.
The existing downtown structure has a storied history and any proposal for its demolition will likely stir heated debate. The oldest portion of Dashiell House was built in 1883 by Aurelia W. Dashiell. Spanish Eclectic additions were built in stages in the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s for the Carmelite Sisters Day Nursery.
From 1897-1901, Fannie Porter operated a brothel and hosted members of the Wild Bunch, including Butch Cassidy and Harry Longabaugh (Sundance Kid). The brothel was one of many in San Antonio’s red light district, which operated from the 1880s to 1941 when Dwight D. Eisenhower closed it during his command for Fort Sam Houston.
Rev. J.W. Shaw, Bishop of the Diocese of San Antonio, acquired the Dashiell House property in 1913 and the Carmelite Sisters opened an orphanage and day care center there the following year. In 1990, the sisters sold to Father Flanagan’s Boys Home of San Antonio. That organization sold it to DPMiller Investments LLC on April 20, 2020.
Card, in his assessment, claims that too much of the original structure is missing to consider it architecturally significant of its era.
The Dashiell House in the 1880s and today, according to Jonathan Card.
“The only remaining features from the brother days is a staircase and roof structure with modern metal roofing. That is it. What is left of the Dashiell House is so hidden and so minimal, it is hard to believe that it ‘represents San Antonio’s red light district’ in any meaningful way,” Card wrote.
The developer hired Lawson Jesse of Troy M. Jesse Construction Inc. to prepare an estimate cost to restore the landmark building, Card said. To reconstruct a shell space suitable for lease, Jesse estimated a cost of over $2.25 million (over $600/SF). The estimate did not take into consideration the enormous escalation in the price of wood.
“We cannot expect a reasonable return on the reconstructed building when you include the cost of acquisition and reconstruction,” Card stated.
Card noted that land values in the Central Business District require dense multi-story developments that cannot be services with surface parking lots. The minimum footprint required for the construction of a structured parking garage (120 feet by 230 feet) conflicts with all buildings on site.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.