Times they are a changin’ at Villa Finale

IMG_1026This October, 2013 will mark the third anniversary of Villa Finale opening its doors to the public.  As a new site, we are still looking at better ways we can serve the general public and the community.  We began opening the grounds at the beginning of the year and this has turned out to be very well-received as the site is now more inviting.  Also, during the last couple of years, we discovered that many people wanted to see Villa Finale but had either very little time or were confused about the location of the Visitor Center to buy admissions (the Visitor Center is located four blocks from Villa Finale).  In order to be accessible to more people, we are proud to announce the following changes to Villa Finale’s operations effective April 2, 2013.

Villa Finale will now be offering self-guided tours (first floor only) Wednesday – Saturday from 11:00am – 2:00pm.  Our popular guided tours will continue to be offered on Tuesday at 1:00pm and 2:30pm, and Wednesday – Saturday at 10:00am and 2:30pm.

Admission prices
Guided tour admissions will remain the same: $10.00 general, $7.50 for seniors, students and military.  Self-guided tours (first floor only) will be $7.50 general admission and $5.00 for seniors, students and military.  There will also be an option to upgrade from a self-guided tour to a full guided tour of the entire house.  Members of Villa Finale and / or the National Trust will continue to receive free tour admission.

Carriage House, ca. 2008. Parking available on King William and Sheridan Streets.

Carriage House, ca. 2008. Parking available on King William and Sheridan Streets.

Admissions and Museum Shop
The sale of admissions will be MOVED from its current location at the Visitor Center (122 Madison) to the Carriage House located on the grounds of Villa Finale at 401 King William Street (we will no longer be selling tour admissions at the Visitor Center).  Some of our most popular merchandise will also be sold from the Carriage House with some merchandise still available for sale at the Visitor Center.  (The Museum Shop is currently having a 40% off moving sale so don’t miss it!)

Business Hours
The following are the business hours for all areas of Villa Finale: grounds, Carriage House (admissions and Museum Shop) and the Visitor Center at 122 Madison.

  • Grounds: Tuesday, 12:00pm – 4:00pm; Wednesday – Saturday, 9:30am – 4:00pm
  • Carriage House (admissions and Museum Shop): Tuesday, 12:00pm – 4:00pm, Wednesday – Saturday, 9:30am – 4:00pm
  • Visitor Center (at 122 Madison): Tuesday, 12:00pm – 4:00pm; Wednesday – Friday, 9:30am – 4:00pm.  The Visitor Center will be CLOSED on Saturdays.

Please note: all areas of Villa Finale are subject to closures for maintenance or special events on select dates and major holidays.

Parking for Villa Finale
Guests are welcome to park along King William Street or Sheridan Avenue.  The site can be accessed during regular business hours from the front gate on King William or the driveway gate off of Sheridan.

And of course, we are always looking for volunteers, especially with the addition of self-guided tours.  There is minimal training involved (click here for volunteering information).

This is an exciting time of positive change at Villa Finale!  Make sure you stop by and visit if you haven’t already.  And for those of you who work downtown don’t forget, we welcome you to enjoy your brown bag lunch on the grounds of Villa Finale.

Thank you, San Antonio for your continued support!


The holidays are now in full swing in San Antonio.  The Riverwalk is all lit up, the houses in King William are decked out, and so much more!  There are also other “little” traditions around the city … literally!  Last year we highlighted the gingerbread house at the Guenther House Restaurant which is located just a short walk from our Visitor Center – well, it is such a work of art that we decided to write about it again this year.  The gingerbread masterpiece, which is a replica of the Guenther House itself, goes up just after Thankgiving after 150 hours of “sweet” work.  The 90 pounds of edible goodness include: Peanut Butter Logs, royal icing, Skittles, spearmint leaves, Apple O’s, Starbursts, Smarties, Chicklets, Rock Candy, marshmallows, piping gel, Vienna Cookies, yogurt pretzels, sour green ropes, gum drops, fruit stripe gum, Lego’s Candy, Mother’s Cookies, candy canes, gumballs, pretzels, gelatin sheets, Silver Dragees, and Twizzlers Ribbon – whew!  Congratulations to the folks at Guenther House for another job well done! 

The Fairmount Hotel less than a mile away from King William also has their own “little” holiday tradition.  As guests drive up to valet parking they are greeted with fun holiday decorations, including this adorable little chapel.  If you’re into miniatures like some of us, or are just a kid at heart, you will really appreciate this adorable building.  If you visit, take a peek inside the chapel – it’s as cute as the exterior.  And of course, make sure to see the rest of this beautiful historic hotel … and say hello to Luke, The Fairmount’s famous Hotel Dog Concierge!

The last stop on our “little” holiday journey is our own Villa Finale Visitor Center.  We have started our own holiday tradition by exhibiting the Mathis Rockport Doll House for the holidays.  The Doll House, a replica of the Mathis family home in Rockport, Texas, was built for Agnes Mathis Bain, sister of Walter Mathis, by the Rockport Art Association as a gesture of gratitude for her generous donations.  Completed in 1981, the Rockport Doll House is 1/12 scale, measures approximately 5′ x 6′, has working lights, period furnishings, and is meticulously recreated down to the wall paper – a true work of art!  Being a lover of doll houses myself, I know I would be through the roof if I were ever to have one of these under my Christmas tree! 

Make sure you visit us at the Visitor Center, take a walk down to the Guenther House, and stop by The Fairmount Hotel.  These little holiday traditions are truly a BIG treat! — Sylvia Hohenshelt

A Grand Opening..albeit damp.

On Wednesday, October 21st, at 5-ish, the Villa Finale Visitor Center opened to the public with a lovely ceremony, fabulous and touching remarks and delicious food and drink provided by gracious donors.  I cannot forget the torrent that occured during the most important bits, but it really didn’t (excuse the cliche) dampen any spirits.

I was awaiting comment on the exhibition A Legacy Assembled, as it was scrutinized by its very first public audience.  My eavesdropping was a success, and I heard that the thing that the audience liked the best was that the objects could be examined in close proximity.   I hope very much that all who are in the area will come and see the exhibtion- in the Visitor Center gallery at 122 Madison Street.  But, if you cannot, I have prepared an on-line version of the exhibition, in which I have provided photos of each object and their interpretive labels.  I hope you enjoy it!

A Legacy Assembled 

–Meg Nowack

The Villa Finale Visitor Center is open!

Last week, at long last, the Villa Finale Visitor Center opened to the public with great fanfare – both natural and manmade!  Nearly 300 friends and neighbors turned out to visit, explore our exhibits, and check out the Museum Shop during our opening celebration.  We began with a very touching dedication ceremony featuring remarks from a niece of Walter Mathis’s, as well as Jim Vaughan, the Vice President of Historic Sites for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Phil Hardberger, the former mayor of San Antonio.  All knew Mr. Mathis and remarked on how proud he would have been to see his dream of a museum beginning to come true.Visitor Center opening 102109 001

Following the ceremony, the guests were treated to wonderful food from the Liberty Bar, beer donated Eugene Simor of Alamo Beer, and an excellent selection of wine generously provided by Charles Butt of HEB.  King William neighbors joined us as part of their quarterly social, and I think many of them were excited to learn more about their neighborhood and see objects they had loaned to us for the exhibits.

You’ll see additional blog entries about the exhibits and shop shortly, but in the meantime, if you’re in the neighborhood, come check them out!  The Visitor Center is located at the corner of Turner and Madison in the King William district, and we’re open from 9:30am – 3:30pm Wednesday-Saturday, and Tuesdays 12:00 – 3:30 pm. 

I also want to thank Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros for all she did to facilitate the event, Richard Thompson of Thompson Landscaping for lending us the gorgeous plants for the event, and Josie Fauerso and Joey Fauerso for the flowers.  And we couldn’t have done it without Esther Pipoly, Jessie Kardys, Josie Fauerso, Betty Murray Halff, Carolene Zehner, and Alice Lynch, who volunteered their time to help with the planning.  In addition to those mentioned above, we also had generous financial support from Dwight Hobart, Frost, and The Howard and Betty Halff Fund. 

It was a fantastic night, but what I think I’ll always remember is this:

Weeks ago, while we were planning the event, we went back and forth on whether to rent a tent.  They’re not cheap, and we hadn’t had any significant rain in South Texas for many many months.  The odds of actually getting rain that day seemed about as good as my winning the lottery – which is pretty impossible since I don’t buy lottery tickets.  But rain here is serious business.  No polite little drizzle making one want to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea.  We’re talking Noah-get-the-ark-because-the-floodwaters-are-rising kind of rain.  So we decided not to take any chances.  Thanks to the generosity of the Steves Foundation, we rented the tent, and are we ever glad we did!

Just as the dedication ceremony was about to get underway, Hurricane Rick decided to  make his appearance.  (Hey, who invited that guy?)  The roar of the rain on the tent was so loud that the guests couldn’t hear the speakers even with microphones, so we had to move everyone into the building for the speeches.  By the time the last speaker finished, we’d received about an inch of rain!   Thankfully the rain slowed after that and it turned into a very pleasant evening for all.

Volunteer Staff: Making it Happen

Orient Me!
This past Saturday marked a new milestone for Villa Finale: our very first Volunteer Orientation!  Current and new Volunteer Staff members attended a morning session in which safety, security, operational policies and the Volunteer Staff Manual were reviewed.  This was also the first time many on the Volunteer Staff had the opportunity to meet one another – and what better way to do that than over coffee and pastries!  If you would like to join our volunteer ranks, go the Get Involved section and click on the blue volunteer application link to download a form.  Congratulations to Villa Finale’s very FIRST volunteer class – we couldn’t do it without you!

first volunteer orientation

Villa Finale's first volunteer class - left to right: Joyce Hotchkiss, Julie Abodeely, Bob Abodeely, Diane Malone, Merribell Parsons, Robb Wasielewski, Rebecca Ingraham, Laura Webb, Aaron Webb

Volunteer Council Formed
Saturday also marked the inaugural meeting of Villa Finale’s Volunteer Council.  This group of six have been active members of the Volunteer Staff for some time – they were chosen in part for their dedication and experience for this very important role.  The Volunteer Council will work closely with the Manager of Public Programs to recruit volunteers, create volunteer projects, mentor, help shape Villa Finale’s volunteer program, and more.  Villa Finale hopes to make the volunteer experience with the organization active and highly worthwhile – and the Volunteer Council will be at the heart of this endeavor.  Thank you Volunteer Council!

first volunteer council 01

From left to right: Merribell Parsons, Robb Wasielewski, Diane Malone, Rebecca Ingraham, Laura Webb, Aaron Webb

Interim Chair:  Merribell Parsons
Co-Chair:  Aaron Webb
Secretary:  Rebecca Ingraham

Volunteer Milestones!
Villa Finale would like to thank the following Volunteer Staff members for their significant milestones … glad to have you part of the team!

Merribell Parsons Merribell Parsons:  One year service milestone, over 200 hours



diane maloneDiane Malone:  Over 100 hours



rebecca 2Rebecca Ingraham:  100 hours

Progress ahoy!

Hello to all!  If you have been keeping tabs on what Villa Finale is doing, then you know that half the staff has moved into our visitor center on the corner of Turner and Madison.  It’s been one month since the move, and those of us in the building are still getting used to the new “pad.”  I wanted to post some pictures of the building’s interior which include or new exhibit cases and office furniture — it’s great having a solid desk after working on a folding table for a week!  Keep checking in with us for more updates.  — Sylvia Hohenshelt

Moving day at last!

Greetings to all!  I’m writing this post from my desk at the Visitor Center … at last.  We’re all still getting used to the new set up – half of our staff will remain at the site and there are still many communication questions to iron out.  However, moving day went pretty well.  We even received most of our new exhibit cases that day.  I could tell you more about how moving day went but why not see for yourself?  Enjoy our lighthearted video!   —   Sylvia Hohenshelt

Packing up is hard to do.

Yes, I’m packing up my office for our big move to the new Visitor Center.  It always amazes me how much junk a person can accumulate in three short years in an office…I truly believe that ketchup and soy sauce packets reproduce exponentially if left alone in drawers.  There is no way I actually put all of those in my desk.  Seriously.   

Anyway, yes, Sylvia and I are moving our offices to the Visitor Center on Monday.  Our new shop manager also starts work on Monday, and  he’s got all sorts of fabulous ideas for our museum shop, so stay tuned for that.  Our exhibit cases will be delivered next week too, and they are gorgeous!  We plan to have the Visitor Center open by the end of the summer, with two exhibits and shop up and running. 

It’s the end of an era leaving the Carriage House, but we’re all excited to have reached a significant milestone in our development.  I can’t thank everyone at Villa Finale enough for everything they’ve done to make it all happen!

–Sandra Smith

Villa Finale Seeking Museum Shop Manager

This position has been filled.

As we’ll be opening our museum shop in the near future, Villa Finale is currently seeking a Museum Shop Manager.  This is a part time position, with the potential to be full time in the future.  The Museum Shop Manager is responsible for the development and management of the Villa Finale Museum Shop, which will serve visitors to Villa Finale as well as visitors to the King William Historic District.  We’re really hoping that our shop will be an exciting and creative place, with lots of information on historic preservation, the history of San Antonio and King William.  The shop will also feature works by local artists, especially those living in the King William neighborhood. 

Come join our staff!  If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know us all already, and know that we’re all committed to making Villa Finale a vibrant part of our community.  If you’re interested in applying, please click here.

–Sandra Smith

The Visitor Center Project…I can see the light! Wow that was a long tunnel.

In my almost two years as Buildings and Grounds Manager here at Villa Finale, the one project that has always been on my table is the Visitor Center. Now that the project is almost complete I wanted to take a moment and reflect.


Madison Street facade while under construction.


Madison Street facade after construction.


Main entrance before construction.


Main entrance after construction.

One of the more fun and challenging aspects of this project was that we do not own the building. We have a long term lease with the gentleman that owns the building. I have truly enjoyed balancing the relationship of making our improvements while being cognizant of the fact that we do not own the building. Our Architectural Firm, FisherHeck Architects, did wonderful job in designing the changes that were made to the building so that everything is in-keeping with and sensitive to the character of the building.

The project team has also made significant efforts to make this building as environmentally sensitive as possible. One of the big ways that we feel we can make an impact on this cause, especially in Texas, is in water conservation. We are proposing to replace the existing ground cover of grass, Asiatic Jasmine, and dirt, with decomposed granite. This will help to retain moisture more efficiently in the hot, dry Texas climate.

Most of all, I am very thankful for all of the assistance and hard work of everyone who has been involved with this project. A special thanks to Eve Errickson, Contracts Manager, and Barbara Campagna, Graham Gund Architect, at National Trust Headquarters in DC. Without these two ladies, this project would not have happened. I have enjoyed every minute of this project and cannot wait for it to be open to and enjoyed by the public.

When is that??? You may ask. Well, the project is not entirely finished yet. We still have to have our computers and phones  to be hooked up. The exhibit cases are in the early stages of being built and then installed…but, we are close. So, stay tuned for further updates.

–Christopher Roddy