Sandra Cisneros fought for her “periwinkle purple” house on Guenther Street in San Antonio. Back in 1997, shortly after she bought the place, she became embroiled in a legal fight with the San Antonio Historic and Design Review Commission, who opposed the idea of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient and House On Mango Street author painting her house an unapproved color. Cisneros was challenged to prove that her preferred shade of purple was “historically appropriate.”
The case attracted a fair amount of attention, and Cisneros made her case, writing that:
One day I painted my house tejano colors; the next day, my house is in all the news, cars swarming by, families having their photos taken in front of my purple casita as if it were the Alamo. The neighbors put up an iced-tea stand and made 10 dollars!
All this happened because I chose to live where I do. I live in San Antonio because I’m not a minority here. I live in the King William neighborhood because I love old houses. Since my neighborhood is historic, certain code restrictions apply. Any house alteration plans must be approved by the Historic Design and Review Committee. This is to preserve the neighborhood’s historic character, and that’s fine by me.
Because I thought I had permission, I gave the go-ahead to have my house painted colors I considered regional — but as it turns out, they hadn’t been approved. However, I was given the chance to prove them historically appropriate. So I did my research, and what I found is this: We don’t exist.
My history is made up of a community whose homes were so poor and unimportant as to be considered unworthy of historic preservation. No famous architect designed the houses of the tejanos, and there are no books in the San Antonio Conservation Society library about houses of the working-class community, no photos romanticizing their poverty, no ladies’ auxiliary working toward preserving their presence. Their homes are gone; their history is invisible. The few historic homes that survived have access cut off by freeways because city planners did not judge them important.
The two sides eventually compromised—Cisneros made some updates to the paint job, and the color was allowed to stand. (She later painted it a pinkish color.)
Nearly twenty years after that fight, however, Cisneros has moved on from her place on Guenther Street—the San Antonio Express-News reports that she sold the house, which was initially listed at $995,000, for $800,000:
The sale of the home at 735 Guenther St. closed Dec. 23, Phyllis Browning real estate agent Ann Van Pelt confirmed Wednesday. […]
The home sits in the historic King William district along the redeveloped portion of the San Antonio River known as the Eagleland segment, between downtown and the Mission Reach. When Van Pelt began marketing the house two months ago, it was listed at $995,000. The Victorian-era house sold for $800,000, according to a source with access to MLS listings. […]
The property includes the 1,536-square-foot house — with its three bedrooms and one full bath — and a three-story addition in the back with views of downtown, which Cisneros built in 2006 as her studio.
The new buyer is unknown—as are any plans that he or she might have for the famous property. Meanwhile, if you want a glimpse inside one of San Antonio’s more iconic homes, real estate service Zillow has a slideshow of images of the colorful (inside and out) house that, until very recently, belonged to Cisneros.
(image via Zillow)