Westside San Antonio groups seek historic title for destroyed brothel site

Westside nonprofit and historical groups are once again pushing to protect an old building downtown that was once a brothel and orphanage after a two-alarm fire forced the owner to demolish the old building.

The three groups, Westside Preservation Alliance, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, and the Conservation Society of San Antonio, have submitted the now barren property at 503 Urban Loop, San Antonio, TX 78204, for historic designation consideration. The group first did this in August 2021 to save a two-story building on the property from demolition. 

The first round of historic designation approval occurred in September 2021. But in February, a two-alarm fire destroyed most of the back of the building and it was demolished by the owner shortly afterward. That owner is a company where Bill Miller Bar-B-Q heir Dougals Miller is copartner. He planned on building an eight-story mixed-use tower.

San Antonio firefighters at the scene of a historical building fire at 503 Urban Loop in February. The building, once a brothel run by the famous madam, Fannie Porter, caught fire overnight and was a complete loss.

San Antonio firefighters at the scene of a historical building fire at 503 Urban Loop in February. The building, once a brothel run by the famous madam, Fannie Porter, caught fire overnight and was a complete loss.

Jerry Lara /San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio firefighters said at the time that the fire may have been caused by a person who was houseless trying to stay warm. Either way, the building is now gone. 

Miller has yet to return to the Historic and Design Review Commission with any new or updated plans for the site, but committee members recommend denying historic designation, according to agenda documents. Instead HDRC recommends the donating of any materials and newly discovered artifacts to a local archeological group, and funding for research and a permanent exhibit at the Museo del Westside. 

The two-story building sat empty for years up until the day of the fire.

The two-story building sat empty for years up until the day of the fire.

Google Street View

The two-story property was built in 1883 and was home to prominent San Antonio figure Fannie Porter, and then infamous gang known as the Wild Bunch. It served as a brothel until 1912. That’s when Rev. J. W. Shaw, the bishop of the San Antonio diocese at the time, bought the property, and then sold it to the Carmelite Sisters of the Carmel of Divine Heart of Jesus in 1918. 

The Carmelite Sisters until they sold the property to Father Flanagan’s Boys Home of San Antonio in 1990, later known as Boys Town. 

HDRC is set to consider the historic designation on Wednesday, August 3. 

Original News Source Link