Ellis Alley Enclave and the Samuel and Lillian Sutton Home

TX_SanAntonio_EllisAlley_byJohnTroy_2018_001.jpg
San Antonio, TX
United States
Ellis Alley Enclave and the Samuel and Lillian Sutton Home

Landscape Information

Located in San Antonio’s historic East Side community, this 0.7-acre enclave comprises six buildings that were part of the first African American settlement in San Antonio after Emancipation. In the late 1860s, the land began to be developed by its owners, Dr. Anthony Dignowity and Sam Maverick, who by 1879 had subdivided it into 25-foot-wide lots and sold them exclusively to African Americans. Expanses of lawn are planted with live oaks, while historic lamp posts front each property. To the south of the enclave is a large, abstract, redpainted steel sculpture surrounded by circular planting beds. Located inside the brick wall enclosing the back porch of the property at 214 Chestnut Street is the 2003 painted tile mural, "Founding Mothers," created by Jacqui Dorsey, which depicts three matriarchs of the city’s African American community. The construction of Interstate Highway 37 in the late 1970s disrupted vehicular connections to downtown and accelerated the removal of African American businesses and residences. The buildings were purchased by VIA Metropolitan Transit in the late 1990s and, in partnership with the San Antonio Conservation Society, were refurbished to house small businesses, non-profit organizations, and city-service buildings.

Another nearby site important to the East Side’s African American heritage is the Samuel and Lillian Sutton home. Built in 1896, the single-story, ranch-style house gave shelter to prominent African Americans who were barred from downtown hotels in the era of segregation, prior to 1965. The list of those who stayed there includes Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Thurgood Marshall.