Story of the Guenther House
In 1848, a twenty-three-year-old apprentice millwright boarded Europe bound for America. His name was Carl Hilmar Guenther.
Hilmar traveled through the Midwest before embarking down the Mississippi River to Louisiana and, ultimately, Texas. During this time, he was involved in a variety of work experiences including lumbering, farming and flour milling.
In America, Guenther had found that “You seize the opportunity that presents itself.” Three years after his arrival, with the financial help from his parents, he did just that, building a flour mill seventy-five miles northwest of San Antonio on the Live Oak Creek in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Business flourished and Hilmar expanded and improved his mill over the next several years. But in 1858, drought so depleted the crops that he had little grain to grind and little water to drive the wheel. So, Guenther decided to close the mill and relocate his business on the more powerful San Antonio River. He purchased seven and three quarter acres of land just below the center of the city. In 1860, after the mill was erected, Guenther began to build a home for his family.
Stones were quarried from an area near what is now the San Antonio Zoo for a single-story residence. The mortar joining these stones was made from rocks gathered downstream. The roof was made of metal sheets. Here, Hilmar and his wife, Henrietta Dorothea Pape, set up a home and raised seven children.
The mill prospered. Guenther replaced millstones with steel rolls to grind grain. Waterwheels gave way to electricity as a source of power. Building expansions took place over the years and Guenther’s Mill was renamed Pioneer Flour Mills in 1898.
In 1902 Erhard Guenther, Hilmar’s youngest son, became president of Pioneer Flour Mills. He also undertook a major remodeling of the family home. The changes that he made gave The Guenther House the look it has today.
The original metal roof was replaced by a green tile. Two stories and a side verandah were added. Today, the only portion of the original structure that is visible from the outside is the one-story stone section that faces the river. As extensive as the exterior changes were, it was on the inside of The Guenther House that Erhard Guenther left his mark most dramatically.
If you’d like to know more about the history of the Guenther House, take a look at our online tour.
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San Antonio River Mill Store
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