Does the San Antonio Conservation Society approve work on historic buildings?

No.  The Society is not a government entity but a private, non-profit membership organization.  We regularly advocate for the conservation of buildings, landscapes and cultural heritage.  We also offer awards and grants for preservation projects once a year. The City of San Antonio issues work permits. The City’s Office of Historic Preservation reviews and approves projects located in historic districts.

How Do I Find Out When My House was Built?

Can’t we use BCAD?

Many homeowners ask us if the building date found on bcad.org is accurate. For historic homes, sometimes the date listed is from an addition or repair and not the actual date of construction.  You can use city directories, found in our library, to find the approximate construction date of a building.


How do I use the City Directories?

Start with the directory for the earliest year you know the building existed.  Look up the building’s address in that directory and confirm the address. Then, check the directory for the previous year for that same address. Keep working your way backward until you find the first year the building isn’t listed in the directory. You may want to go back one more year, just to rule out a misprint. You can assume the first year the building doesn’t appear, after you have checked backwards, is the year of construction. The names of the building’s occupants, which appear alongside the address in the directories, may also be of interest.


What else might help?

We also have a collection of Sanborn fire insurance maps in our Library. Sanborn maps show your street and its buildings in plan as developed over time. For other building research sources, check the City’s Office of Historic Preservation tips here.

Where do I find original building plans and photos?

Original plans and photos are very difficult to find.  Plans reviewed at the time of construction generally no longer exist.  The records of some major San Antonio architects are located in the Alexander Archives at the University of Texas in Austin, or the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library.  The City Clerk maintains records of city projects.  Our Library has a collection of building plans, historic photos, and Sanborn fire insurance maps.  See our Research Tips.

Where can I find help funding my preservation project?

The financial aid available to help with your project depends on many different factors, such as whether your property is income-producing and whether it is a local, state, or federal landmark. We offer competitive building grants once a year, with applications accepted from August through September. Check out our Help For Your House page for our grant information and information on assistance offered by the City, the State of Texas, and help from Federal Historic Tax Credits.

How do I find a contractor with historic preservation experience for my project?

Scott’s Historic Home Improvement Contractors List is a free site that provides information about various types of contractors used by local owners of historic homes. The list is sorted by type of contractor and reviews are provided by actual customers. You can also check our Help For Your House Page for additional services offered by the City of San Antonio and for federal standards and technical briefs.

How do you get a San Antonio Conservation Society plaque on your building?

Every two years we honor building preservation projects in and around San Antonio.  The plaque you have seen means that the building won a Conservation Society award in the past.  We have given out these awards for more than half a century!

Do you approve the Texas Historical Markers?

No.  Those are produced by the Texas Historical Commission, a state agency, which has a handy application guide.  There is an application process for buildings that meet certain criteria of significance.  We do not approve or disapprove state or city landmarks, although we may support them during public hearings.

How does historic designation affect my property?

The City of San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation has a helpful guide to historic designation found here.  We support historic designation because it connects us to history, enhances the community, helps maintain property values and can offer significant tax incentives to owners who rehabilitate their property.

Is preserving a building more expensive than building new?

Generally, no.  Rehabilitating a historic building takes advantage of existing building materials and structural systems, although labor costs can be higher.  Many rehabilitation projects run into “surprises” as work progresses and more of the building is revealed, so rehabilitation projects may take longer to complete.  For commercial properties, preservation sometimes has a harder time getting financing than new construction.

If your house is a landmark, do you have to restore it to its original design?

No.  Every building changes over time, and you are never required to “bring something back” that does not exist anymore.

Should historic buildings be museums?

No!  Only a minuscule number of historic buildings should ever become museums.  We save historic buildings because of their history, their beauty, their irreplaceable craftsmanship, and their embodied energy.  99% of preservation is adapting historic buildings to modern use.

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