Why a historic Tobin Hill home could become a wine and cheese bar and inn

A stately Tobin Hill house built in 1913 has been saved from demolition, deemed eligible for historic landmark designation and could be turned into a wine and cheese bar and inn.

It’s a turnaround from a year ago, when the Archdiocese of San Antonio submitted a request to raze the two-story house at 312 W. Courtland Place, long the Catholic student center of San Antonio College.

The Tobin Hill Community Association, the Conservation Society of San Antonio, and other conservationists fought to save it. The association filed a request last fall for a review of the house’s historical significance.

Examination revealed that the house was built for Russell Meriwether “RM” Hughes and Lillian Allan Hughes, who moved to San Antonio from Louisville and operated a manufacturing business.

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His daughter Russell Meriwether Hughes became known as “La Meri” and was a performer, writer and ethnic dance teacher, according to research conducted by city staff. The house is also “an outstanding example of the Prairie style” of architecture for which Mason Maury, who designed the house, was known.

Besides the Hughes family, it has had only two other previous owners: Ozelle Thomson and George Thomson and the Archdiocese, according to the Tobin Hill Community Association. But under state law, if a property is owned by a religious organization, a municipality can only designate it as a historic landmark if the organization agrees.

After learning the house was going to be demolished, Chef Andrew Weissman and May Chu, who Weissman said runs a design and build business in New York City, bought it this summer.

They plan to preserve it. Weissman said he envisions a “neighborhood living space” for neighbors with wine, cheese, charcuterie and other fare on the first floor and perhaps a small inn on the second floor.

The Hughes House sits across from the historic Koehler House, which local developer Weston Urban plans to turn into a restaurant, hotel and entertainment venue.

From ExpressNews.com: Weston Urban plans to turn Tobin Hill’s historic Koehler House into a restaurant and entertainment venue

To be eligible for landmark designation, a property must meet at least three of the 16 criteria set by the city. City staff eventually agreed with conservationists that the house met five criteria.

The city’s history and design review panel backed a finding of historical significance on Wednesday.

“The current owner has expressed admiration for the architecture and the stated preservation of the Hughes House. But what about what might happen in 10 or 20 years?” said Frederica Kushner of the Tobin Hill Community Association. A finding of significance is not a historical designation, but it provides historical documentation and is official recognition of the building’s historical significance.”

A new application would be required for historic designation. Weissman said he and May wanted to get a designation, but were figuring out whether to do so before or after they finished sprucing up the house.

The archdiocese declined to comment.

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