PORTRAITS FROM RIVER ROAD: KINDERVATER
There is a gorgeous home on the corner of E. Woodlawn and River Road (758 E. Woodlawn) owned by the same family since 1961 and presided over by one of San Antonio’s leading ventilatore di opera, Carolyn “Ditty” Kindervater. Situated on a small rise above the San Antonio River low-water crossing, this particular locale has seen centuries of prehistoric, Native American and pioneer-era activity alongside its imposing setting.
Carolyn “Ditty” Kindervater
The home was constructed in 1929 by Mr. Ellis F. Albaugh (who originally built the house directly across the street at 505 River Road and the house next door, 748 Woodlawn, as well as the Reed/Chatillon home at 615 River Road.) Mrs. Albaugh’s sister lived at 748 Woodlawn and the Albaugh’s themselves originally resided at 505 River Road before moving into the “Kindervater home” soon after its construction. The three Albaugh sons, Ellis Jr., Harry and Rubin, all grew up in the spacious home at 758 Woodlawn. (A side note: Mr. Albaugh was a prominent San Antonio architect in the early 20th century. He partnered with Henry J. Steinbomer, and together with real estate developer Joe J. Nix they proposed in 1928 to build one of the nation’s first “motoryard accessed” shopping centers called the “French Market and Spanish Market.” French Market was to be built on Fredericksburg Road incorporating “random use of stone and wood, turreted towers, and half-timbering creating a setting reflective of a French village directly out of Normandy or Brittany.” Spanish Market, to be constructed on the southside, was to reflect “popular images of rural villages of Spain with its long arcades, tile roofs, and stucco multi-sided towers.” Although neither was ever built, both served as models for the design and construction of Highland Park Shopping Village in Dallas, one of the country’s first “auto/shopping malls”.)
Having resided in the River Road neighborhood for over fifty years, Ditty Kindervater and her late husband Harvey Kindervater, raised their two sons, Jay and Jim, in the big house on Woodlawn as well. Harvey, an accountant by profession, played drums and recorded numerous albums with the Jim Cullum Sr. “Happy Jazz Band.” Ditty worked for years with the Joske’s Travel Agency, “Travel Advisors” (owned and operated by former River Road resident, Ann Walker) before starting her own boutique agency, “Opera Tours”, affiliated with the San Antonio Opera. Currently she serves on the Board of the San Antonio Opera and is one of our city’s most passionate opera devotees.
Originally the Kindervaters resided at 121 Magnolia Ave. in the River Road neighborhood and as Ditty relates, “I kept my eye on that big house above the low-water crossing for many years, telling my husband, ‘One day we’re going to live there’!” Sure enough, her wish came true when Harvey arrived home one afternoon and announced he’d just made an offer to Rubin Albaugh to purchase the house from his late Father’s estate.
I was fascinated to learn that when 758 Woodlawn and 505 River Road were being constructed in the late twenties, River Road didn’t even exist. All properties extended completely down to the River’s edge – River Road itself being put in sometime during the early thirties.
Back then Native American families could be seen occasionally camping out alongside the banks of their ancestral lands on the upper San Antonio River. One of them, allegedly a Chief, walked up from his campsite on the River one day and offered to buy Mr. Albaugh Sr’s. newly constructed home at 505 River Road. Mr. Albaugh told him it wasn’t for sale, but the Chief was insistent, offering him cash on the spot. Finally, Mr. Albaugh pointed to the lot across the street (the present Kindervater home) and said, “If you’ll wait for me to build my new home over there I’ll sell you this one when it’s done.” And he did! (Although Mrs. Kindervater could not recall the name of the Indian family that moved into 505 River Road, she did remember them having a daughter named Marguerite. Anyone knowing more about this story please drop me a line.)
Asked about what the biggest difference she’s seen in River Road through the years, Ditty replied, “When we first moved here, there didn’t seem to be any children around. Gradually, through the years younger families have moved in, but to me that seems to be the most noticeable difference – more children. Also, there were no street lights back then! It was pitch black at night. You couldn’t see any lights coming from Broadway. It felt like you were really way out in the country. My boys would camp out on the lawn in the summertime; we never locked the house, all the doors and windows were open. But now, as they say, times change. We still get offers every so often from total strangers walking up and wanting to buy our house. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else though. This is our home and we know how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful and unique area.”
Bill Sibley January 16, 2009