Working the Site

The first step of stabilizing the structure has been done!  It doesn’t look like it though – just looks like we made a huge mess.


Working from the ground up, as would seem logical, we started with what’s occurring below grade and with good input from our structural engineer, the SACS and others with experience, we determined that moisture, rain run-off and tree roots were causing more foundation settlement issues than is desirable for the house.

Sometime after 1950 a good amount of concrete was poured on the site as a way to lessen the issues with rain and mud sheet flows coming from the hillside on the east.  It must’ve worked pretty well for a while, but 60 years later we found that the concrete driveway pad and sidewalks trapped a lot of the rain and mud flows keeping the building base moist and perfect for, you guessed it, trees and shrubs!  And mildew and movement.


 I figured that the house originally didn’t have these concrete pads near the foundation as there was probably no horse-less buggy to accommodate.   It’s a funny thing to note that the house was built in the year that one of the first gas powered horse-less buggy chugged down a rural road in Germany:  1886.

But that doesn’t mean that concrete wasn’t available when the Crockett Street house was built.  An 1886 San Antonio City Directory shows that H.H. Alvord was manufacturing “artificial stone” for use in sidewalks, curbing and doorsteps among other uses.

artificial stone

The industrious Mr. Alvord, listed in the 1887-88 City Directory in a new category called, “Architects and  Superintendents” along with local notable architects Alfred Giles and Wahrenberger + Beckmann, was in the business of providing custom “building stone” which by the 1880’s was a newly economical material sweeping the building industry.   Most likely the product was modular or was available as units rather than as the poured product we know now.  If you find odd, super heavy blocks and bricks of concrete in unusual dimensions, and especially if they have unusual patterns or textures embossed on the surface, they could be pretty old.  Unlike today’s poured and cast concrete products, the older units are incredibly hard and durable – no wonder they’ve survived for so long!

The poured concrete pads and sidewalks as the Crockett Street house are pretty heavy duty but didn’t appear until after the 1950’s.  Our landscape guy did a great job demolishing the pads and creating positive drainage away from the house.  He cut the pieces in large, blocky chunks so that we can use them for dry-stack, planting bed and retaining walls that will better control that pesky rain and mud flow from the east side of the hill.