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KSAT gets rare look inside historic Zizelmann House

Deep within Government Canyon, historic site is in need additional restoration

SAN ANTONIO – Nestled well inside Government Canyon Natural Area, a drive to the Zizelmann House is like going back in time.

"This is not just another historic structure,” said Government Canyon Park Ranger John Koepke. “This has a unique quality in that its situation is much like it was when it was originally built back in the 1880s. It’s not surrounded by development. It’s not adjacent to a shopping center."

At more than 130 years old, the house is a sturdy specimen of German architecture. Some of the 18-inch walls are beginning to crumble, but overall, the 1,100 square foot structure, which features a loft and basement, has weathered time well. Inside, graffiti, some dating back to the 1940s, shows that the house has been visited by many through the years. It’s also a house that remains shrouded in mystery.    

"That's part of the excitement, frankly, is that there's still a lot to be discovered here,” said Koepke. 

The Zizelmanns owned a bakery in downtown San Antonio. However, why the couple would build a house 20 miles outside of town is unknown.  It is one of many questions about the structure. 

"Who really did live in the house? Those are just some of the mysteries,” said Koepke.

Before all questions are answered, Texas Parks and Wildlife, who own the property, continues to work to shore up the aging house. Parts of the exterior have been restored, while the interior is in need of more work. The Edwards Aquifer has pitched in as well, in a dual effort to protect a nearby natural spring. The property sits on a conservation easement ran by the EAA. 

Currently, the Zizelmann House is closed off to the public via a large barbwire fence. Vandalism and safety issues prevent the general public from exploring the site, but the restoration project is intended to open it for everyone to enjoy. 

It will be an uphill battle to finish restoration due to budgetary restraints, according to Koepke. Still, there are high hopes for the Zizelmann House going forward. 

"I think the sky's the limit,” said Koepke on moving forward. “It’s going to come down to money. It’s going come down to creativity."


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