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Landa Library 75th Anniversary: The Home

Building Details

Hannah Landa Memorial Branch Library - 1940s

Building Facts

Address - 233 Bushnell

Construction Completed - 1928

Designer - Ernest B. Hayes

Architect - Robert B. Kelly of Kellwood Co.

Contractor - C.D. Carlisle

Ornamental Iron Work - Gramer's Iron Works


From San Antonio's Monte Vista by Donald Everett:

Shook Avenue, Laurel Heights Place, and Bushnell Place are essentially products of the 1920s. Most homes were individually designed for a specific owner, not built by speculative developers. Those on Bushnell, "popularly known as Millionaire's Row," are the most imposing.

First Floor

Foyer

Take a breath! Look around and soak in the sights. When the Landas lived here, this room would have been used for receiving their guests. Welcome to our home!

The heavy wooden door (to the right of the entrance) is original to the home.

Stand in the middle of the room and look up. Mrs. Hannah Landa had this painting done before they moved in to the home in 1929. The chandelier belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Landa.

 

Landa Foyer Fresco on Ceiling

 

Fresco: the art of painting on freshly spread moist plaster with water-based pigments. This allows the colors to penetrate the plaster and become fixed as the painting dries. The most well-known example is Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel.

Under your feet you will find original black and white marble tile.

 

Black and White Marble Tile Flooring

 

Imagine what it would have been like to visit as a guest of the Landas and arrive to see this entryway! Mrs. Landa designed her home to the max. Throughout the space, you will continue to find small details that you didn't see before. There is tile that lines the floors of the first floor, as well as the tops of the columns along the wall. There is yet another pattern of tile that lines the grand staircase.

Look ahead from the front door to the front desk. You will see gorgeous, intricate gold-leaf gates. While used as their home, these gates separated the foyer from the art gallery (details below).

 

Goldleaf Foyer Gates

 

Lastly in this room, you will find portraits of the Mr. and Mrs. Landa.

 

Portrait of Mrs. Hannah Landa

 

Portrait of Mr. Harry Landa


Meeting Room

To the left of the front door (while the door is to your back), you will find what would have been Mr. and Mrs. Landa's dining room. There are numerous details to discover in this room.

The fireplace has the Landa family crest carved into it.

 

Fireplace in Dining Room

 

Landa Family Crest - Fireplace

 

The exposed wood beams are hand-painted. The chandelier is original to the home.

 

Meeting Room Ceiling

 

There is a swinging, solid wood door that connects the dining room to the kitchen. The Landas kept two kitchens. One of the kitchens was kept kosher, since Mrs. Landa was Jewish.

All of the paintings and statues are part of Mr. and Mrs. Landa's art collection.

 

Bronze Statue - The Wrestlers


Children's Area

Leaving the meeting room/dining room, walk to the opposite side of the building through the foyer. This is the Children's Area. Before becoming a space for children's materials, this room would have been used as a parlor.

Parlor: a room used primarily for conversation or the reception of guests. Allows for guests to meet in more privacy and comfort than they can find in the main area. Also situated somewhat near the front door, so that guests don't have to travel through rooms to get to the dining room.

Unique features in this room include the high ceilings, Mediterranean/Spanish-style arches, the French doors, the marble fireplace, and the marble bench. The Landas had the marble for these pieces transported from Rome.

 

Original Marble Bench

 

Marble Fireplace


Tween Space

Make your way to the next room ahead (with the fireplace to your right). This is the Tween Space. You won't be able to miss the exquisite blue and orange tile flooring. This original tile was discovered in perfect condition during the 2017 renovation. Prior to that 75% of the floor was covered in standard office carpet.

 

Blue and Orange Tile

 

This room would have been used as a sitting room for the Landas. The room receives a lot of natural light, but is tucked away from the main part of the first floor. It wouldn't necessarily have been a room for entertaining like the dining room or parlor.

Sitting room: designed for comfort. A quiet respite where guests could talk, relax, and become grounded again. A medium between the parlor and a living room.


Circulation Area/Front Desk

Round the corner from the sitting room and you will enter the space of the Landa's art gallery. In this room, which now has a raised floor, the Landas kept all of their most valuable and beautiful art pieces. The Landa's art gallery was once described as "one of the finest art collections in the Southwest."

Did you know? The Landas owned an original Ruebens painting.

Fun fact: the skylight is original to the home. The window is different, but the space has been a part of the building since its design in 1928. How many homes have you seen that are 100 years old with a skylight?

 

Skylight

 

Underneath the raised floor, there is more original tile. The tile for the art gallery was chosen so that it didn't take away from the beauty and focus of the art in the space. The tile is brick red hexagonal tile.

 

Art Gallery Tile


Basement

Leaving the art gallery, turn right. The next door you encounter on your right leads to the basement. This area is not public space and is kept locked. The key to this part of the home is a skeleton key! The staircase behind this door leads from the basement to the second floor. This area was used by the Landa's help.

 

Intricate Door Handle

 

Interesting feature of the basement: a second kitchen was located here. We made an educated guess about the location of the second kitchen. There is a floor to ceiling hutch.

Kitchen hutch: a piece of furniture used in the kitchen that features storage and may include shelves, cabinets, drawers, a counter area, or a combination of these features.

Second Floor

Grand Staircase

Make your way back to the foyer and walk up the stairs. There is an elevator around the corner from the circulation area, if you need that. Along the stairs, you will find some stained glass lanterns. They are wired into the wall and cannot be easily removed.

 

Grand Staircase

 

Staircase Lanterns

 

While there are not nearly as many exciting details to see on the second floor, you can think about what it would have been like to live in the house.


The Landing

As you make your way to the top of the stairs, you will see the public computer area. From this area, you can see the skylight through the French doors. You can more easily admire the fresco and marble tile. You can also take in the enormity of the first floor.

It is somewhat easy to imagine Mrs. Hannah Landa welcoming visitors into her home at the rail: "Welcome to our home! Please make yourselves comfortable. Joe will take your coats. I'll be down in a jiff."

*Mrs. Landa probably did not say "jiff."

While the railing to look onto the first floor is on your right, walk up the stairs. The restroom to your immediate left (after the stairs) still contains an original fixture to the home -- a tub! You can find a few other interesting features of this old house here too, including a laundry shute.


Quiet Room

As you move into the next room, which would have been a bedroom, you will see a couple doors:

  • The door marked "Authorized Personnel Only" is the manager's office. It was a closet while the Landas lived in the home. One of the original marble tables is being used as the manager's desk now.
  • The door to the right of the closet leads to a small balcony. The door is locked for security reasons, but the balcony would not fit more than four people comfortably. The balcony is covered and looks directly onto the playground.

Continuing the rounds in this room, you will reach the quiet room. This room was used as a sleeping porch/sun porch. Since the home was built in 1928, the home was not equipped with air conditioning when it was constructed. The sleeping porch allowed for refuge during the summer months.

Sleeping porch: sometimes screened or otherwise enclosed with screened windows, and furnished for sleeping during warmer months.

Exterior

The Terrace

The terrace is located on the east side of the building. While looking at the front door (from the outside), the terrace is located to your right. It is situated such that you can get a really lovely view of the majority of the grounds. The tile flooring is called terrazzo.

Terrace: also called a patio, veranda, colonnaded porch.

This part of the library has been used as a backdrop in almost every photoshoot that has taken place on the grounds. The columns, the tile, the arches, and the stairs all make for a unique outdoor experience. Take a look around and enjoy.

When the library opened in 1947, the marble bench and chairs were positioned on the terrace to help create wonderful reading area.


The Annex

There is a small building that is located on the west side of the building. This is The Annex. When the Landas lived in the home, this is where their servants would have lived. The Annex is currently used as the office space for Monte Vista Historical Association.


The Pavilion

Further west on the property, you will find the Valero Pavilion. The pavilion was added in 2008 as part of the renovation of the grounds. Carlos Cortes designed and built the structure in faux bois style.

Pavilion: a decorative building used as a shelter in a park or large garden.

Faux bois: "false wood"; artistic imitation of wood or wood grains in various media. The items are made of steel and then wrapped in concrete reflecting the appearance of wood.