Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Raising the House in San Antonio, 1949

Raising the House in San Antonio, 1949

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 04, 2010

Most of us contribute to the Church welfare system these days through our fast offerings. A few readers might live in areas that still occasionally produce commodities for the system (my ward, for instance, sends half a dozen people every month or so to slice and wrap bread at the bakery on Welfare Square for distribution through the Bishop’s Storehouse). Many of us are old enough to have worked on church farms or in other stake welfare projects (I never worked there, but the Missouri stake of my high school days produced and packaged gelatin for the Storehouse).

In older times, from the 1930s until so many of the projects were sold in the 1970s and ‘80s, every ward and stake had some active project to contribute to the entire system. Even if your unit wasn’t involved in raising beef or strawberries, sewing aprons or overalls, or manufacturing soap or shoe polish – and sometimes even if it was so engaged – you raised money in whatever ways you could to contribute cash to the system and to capitalize the production of commodities. I’ve seen Church News stories about wards chipping concrete off used bricks, dismantling unwanted buildings, and turning aged orchards into firewood to raise means to care for brothers and sisters in need.

In 1949, the San Antonio, Texas branch was in search of such projects to meet their allotment to the welfare system. Their branch president, Roland C. Bremer, came up with an idea. He was a contractor building subdivisions to meet the insatiable demand for post-war housing for veterans and their burgeoning families – if the brethren of the branch would donate their labor to build one house, he would donate all profit from the sale of that house to the welfare fund.

The branch lost no time. The Saturday morning following this suggestion, the men showed up at the job site and went to work with a will. By 11 a.m. – 11 a.m.! – they had laid the subflooring and raised the frame and had run out of work to do before the skilled laborers had had time to work on the plumbing and wiring. In order to keep them busy, President Bremer assigned them to work on other houses in the subdivision, crediting their hours on those houses as work toward the welfare house.

At noon, the sisters of the Relief Society showed up with a hot meal for the workmen. With all the women and children on-site, the place felt more like a picnic than a work site, and they began to draw attention from other work crews around the subdivision.

The first to notice was a crew of Hispanic workmen doing cement work. They asked what was going on, and when the project was explained and translated, the men – non-Mormons all – looked at each other and decided they wanted to help, too. When their supervisor came back from lunch, the cement workers told him they wanted to donate their own wages for that day to the Mormon project. After they had convinced their astonished supervisor that they were serious, the man agreed, and matched their donation from his own pocket.

When the electricians – non-Mormon – came to wire the house and learned about the special nature of the project, they, too, decided to donate their time. Like the cement contractor, the electrical company owner decided to donate all materials used in the house.

Keeping track of the hours of so many workmen and the unexpected donations of other crews was a larger than usual task. But what was the bookkeeper to do? He kicked in his full salary for the project.

Then sometime during the course of the three weeks of Saturday labor it took to complete the house, the carpentry subcontractor – non-Mormon – who was directing the Mormon work crew endorsed his own check to the project.

Then the salesman – non-Mormon – who had found a buyer (a veteran and his young family) for the house on the first day the priesthood quorums began nailing up the two-by-fours, kicked in his full commission.

Then the branch priesthood members decided they couldn’t accept all the outside contributions without returning the favor, so they extended their efforts by helping to restore the town’s Spanish -American recreation hall which had recently been nearly destroyed by fire.

The goodwill generated and the connections made through the entire project are incalculable, of course. But in the end, the branch contributed some $2,200 (in 1949 dollars – the whole house was sold for $7,300 in those “real” dollars) to the Church welfare system, which would stand as a credit to their branch until its members needed to draw on the system for the support of any of its own.

The address of the priesthood welfare house was recorded as 227 Bradford Avenue, University Park, San Antonio – in case there are any Keepa readers in the neighborhood who want to drive by and tell us whether the house still stands.



  1. What a terrific story! It was just as good the second time through as the first, although I’ll confess that I just skimmed the repeat. : )

    Comment by Mark B. — November 4, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  2. What the –? The anomalies of WordPress are legion. Thanks, and I’ve deleted the repeat.

    But now I don’t know whether you really liked the story, Mark, or really liked the electronic stutter. I’m going to pretend that you really did like the account, better than anything else you’ve read yet this morning at least. Yeah.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 4, 2010 @ 9:26 am

  3. Who needs a Keepaninny in San Antonio when Google’s already there?

    Also, the Consumer price index indicates that

    What cost $2200 in 1949 would cost $19587.34 in 2009.

    Which puts the $7,300 home price at 65,000 in today’s dollars. Take a peek at the Google photo and decide for yourself if that’s a fair price…

    Comment by Clark — November 4, 2010 @ 9:31 am

  4. Lest there be any confusion, I did like this story!

    Comment by Mark B. — November 4, 2010 @ 10:00 am

  5. I’m so 15 years ago — Google Maps *still* doesn’t occur to me! Thanks for the tip.

    Well, it may have been expensive for its day, but with the national housing shortage so acute I’ll bet the family of Leo M. Claypool, its first owners, were nothing short of delighted to have it.

    Whew! Thanks for that, Mark. My lower lip will stop trembling.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 4, 2010 @ 10:17 am

  6. What a great story! That’s not just building a house, but building Zion.

    Comment by Stephen Taylor — November 4, 2010 @ 11:10 am

  7. Zillow lists a value in the ballpark that Clark mentions. The assessed value is $74,400 for this 1,368 sq ft 2 bedroom, 1 bath home on .14 acres, built in 1949. Similar homes in the area are listing in the $50,000s and $60,000s.

    What can be said about it? It looks like standard construction for the time, in a working-class neighborhood, with 8 ft ceilings and a fairly low angle on the roof. I suppose they don’t have to worry about snow in San Antonio! But unlike most of the surrounding homes, it has the added detail of a bay window in the living room. If that is original, it means that they did something to make it just that much nicer. How lovely.

    And on the topic of the post, I had the chance this past week to see a community, including mostly members of the church but also neighbors of other faiths, rally to the aid of my sister’s family when they lost their eleven year old in an accident. It is almost impossible to describe how sad it has been, but it has been beautiful to see all the acts of kindness and love and service. Thank you, Ardis, for linking to my brother’s post. Your link, and the candles and flowers and toys and cards that people left at the accident site, and the mint brownies that the ward members made for the family dinner after the funeral because they were Allison’s favorite dessert, and the Relief Society sisters who came to help clean up so the family could get to the viewing without having to worry about cleaning up the dinner dishes, and all the many other acts of service added up, much like the efforts of the electricians and the bookkeeper and the salesman and all the other people who helped build 227 Bradford Avenue.

    Comment by Researcher — November 4, 2010 @ 11:13 am

  8. Wow, seeing the house in Google maps was awesome. I didn’t even know you could see a house like that.

    Comment by Aaron Brooks — November 4, 2010 @ 11:28 am

  9. My experience with Google maps is that the exact street address can be off by a few houses/properties. And you might actually be looking at the opposite side of the road than you think, IE, Google Maps may be confused as to which side of the street is even addresses and which side is odd.

    I suppose Google and their street-view trucks could be synched into the actual official property maps where the location of property lines is verified by GPS, but that is not the case in all street-views.

    Where the online map information is not “hard synched” with official property maps, Google and other online maps use a formula to interpolate addresses between known street intersections.

    I have no evidence that the indicated house (the one with the bay window and carport ) is not actually 227 Bradford. Though, the Bing (Microsoft) Maps view at Zillow (quoted by Researcher) indicates the same property as does Google, ie, the one with the carport and bay window.


    Comment by Bookslinger — November 7, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

  10. I’ll go by as soon as I get a chance.I’m probably going to use this in a lesson for EQ at some point.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 9, 2010 @ 7:36 am

  11. That would tickle me no end, Matt, that you had found a way to make a local story local again. If you use it, no matter when, I hope you’ll tell us about it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 9, 2010 @ 7:58 am

  12. My wife went by, left a copy of this post and took 3 pics of the outside. Most of the outside has been redone, but she did leave our number asking if we could come by and take some interior shots. That is why my wife is awesome.

    Shoot me an email and I’ll send the pictures.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 9, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

  13. Matt’s Wife’s husband is awesome, too. Email on its way.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 9, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

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