Koehler greenhouse: then and now

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The greenhouse on the west side of the grounds of the Koehler Cultural Center, 310 W. Ashby  Photo by Riley Stephens

The greenhouse on the west side of the grounds of the Koehler Cultural Center, 310 W. Ashby Photo by Riley Stephens

Multiple repair projects have been deferred because of lack of funding.

By CRISTINA CARREON

sac-ranger@alamo.edu 

The Otto Koehler estate at 310 W. Ashby Place was donated to this college in 1973.

To the west of the house known today as Koehler Cultural Center is a greenhouse, a beautiful architectural structure, even in ruination.

Today, the structure has multiple broken panes, the glass is cloudy from weather and time but there are two trees visible from outside.

“The house was completed in 1902,” said Louis Kreusel, a project manager on the team working on the Koehler greenhouse’s design.

The eclectic Victorian house was constructed on a one-block site on the hill at Belknap and Ashby Places by 19th century architect Carl Von Seutter.

Von Seutter constructed the house to give Otto Koehler a view of his own factory, the City Brewery, later renamed Pearl Brewery, according to the Pearl Brewery website.

According to Koehler property’s website, for more than 40 years, the house has been maintained by the college and is now a cultural center, used for college receptions and meetings or rented for weddings and other gatherings.

The carriage house of the Koehler estate is used by the college’s art students for ceramics.

The Ranger reported in fall 2009 that the college’s biology department was considering the Koehler greenhouse as extra lab space.

In 2011, The Ranger reported that St. Philip’s College was considering repairing the greenhouse as a student construction project, but both projects failed because of lack of funding.

John Strybos, associate vice chancellor of facilities operation and construction management, said the greenhouse is a deferred project and there are no plans for it.

“With the building permit, renovations, and safety hazard inspections, a ballpark estimate for the cost would be approximately $100,000,” Strybos said. “The greenhouse has health hazards like asbestos contamination and lead-laced paint.”

Kreusel said the wood on the structure is rotted and needs to be replaced.

“The original frame of the structure was a ‘T’ or ‘L’ shape,” Strybos said. “Today it is a straight structure. Not all materials used on the greenhouse are over 100 years old.”

“The greenhouse is a historic structure that cannot be renovated without approval by the city’s design review board,” Strybos said. “The project has been deferred for years because of budget constraints, and would need approval of the Alamo Colleges and the Monte Vista Historical Association to be renovated.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would need to approve construction because of the health hazards. Strybos said, “Donations can be made to San Antonio College or the Alamo Colleges Foundation as a restricted gift toward greenhouse renovation.”

To view the Koehler Cultural Center’s history page, visit www.alamo.edu/mainwide.aspx?id=5193.

For information on Pearl Brewery history, visit http://atpearl.com/about/history/.

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