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History, comforts of home coexist at JBSA-Randolph housing

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | June 11, 2018


The Taj Mahal and the main chapel are rightly regarded as historic treasures at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, but they are only two of the structures that are part of the JBSA location’s rich architectural tradition.

The Randolph Field Historic District, which features 350 buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, includes a housing sector that rose from wide open spaces formerly devoted to farming in the early years of the Great Depression.

Today, some 1,250 residents – the families of officers and NCOs – occupy 173 one- and two-story houses and 144 two-story duplexes that look much as they did when Randolph Field was in its infancy, thanks to their historic designation and the stewardship of base leadership through the years and Hunt Military Communities, which has managed the units under privatization for more than a decade.

The housing units are protected by U.S. Department of Interior historic preservation guidelines, which stipulate the exterior facades must retain their original appearance and many interior features cannot be altered, but residents are still able to add the personal touches that make a house a home.

“There are limitations to what residents can do because of historic preservation guidelines, but if they take the proper steps, they can make the homes their own,” said Diane Butler, JBSA-Randolph Housing Element chief.

The programmatic agreement between the JBSA locations and the Department of the Interior that requires compliance with historic preservation guidelines defines the “character-defining features” that distinguish the historic buildings at the locations, evoking a bygone era.

At JBSA-Randolph, the character-defining exterior features of housing units include gabled, hipped and pent roofs, mostly with red clay tile and decorative brackets; arched front porches and rear loggias; stucco exterior walls; decorative iron at porches and windows; and appropriately detailed entry doors.

Some of the interior features are staircases with decorative iron railings, arched openings between rooms, built-in butler’s pantries, decorative fireplaces, hardwood floors, tiled floors at some porches, telephone niches, decorative hardware such as door knobs and hinges, and tiled floors, walls and shower closets in bathrooms.

A trifold that is presented to residents when they first arrive lists projects they should avoid so their homes’ historic character is protected. These include hammering nails into hardwood floors, painting over stained wood or wrought iron, removing original hardware such as door knobs and hinges, replacing any fixtures or hardware, constructing walls and attaching items such as television antennas and satellite dishes to exterior walls or the roof.

Although carpeting replaced some hardwood floors in the past – before preservation guidelines were in effect – efforts are made to restore the original hardwood when possible, Butler said.

There are many things residents can do in their homes on base, but there is a process they must follow.

“We let residents know that if there are any changes, they have to have permission,” said Keri Estrada, Hunt Military Communities community manager. “For the most part, they fill out an alteration agreement.”

The alteration agreement must be completed and submitted prior to any work being done, Estrada said.

“Pretty much anything they are going to change – such as painting walls a different color, adding a fence or installing a ceiling fan – requires a form,” she said.

Painting walls a different color is permitted, as long as residents return them to the original colors, cream or beige, when they depart, Estrada said. Ceiling fans are also allowed as long as their style does not deviate from the homes’ historic character.

Personal touches such as paintings on the wall, prominently displayed photographs and furniture reflect residents’ tastes and allow them to express themselves in a number of ways.

“It’s all in the way they decorate the home,” said Audra Froom, Hunt Military Communities community director. “We try to encourage people to take ownership.”

A Facebook page, “Home Sweet Home Randolph,” is a forum for housing residents to display their interior design flourishes, she said.

In addition, the management company strives to make residents feel welcome and comfortable, Froom said.

“We make sure the homes are 100 percent ready and clean when people first walk in,” she said. “Curb appeal is also an emphasis.”

JBSA’s cultural resources managers and the State Historic Preservation Office – the Texas Historical Commission – play major roles in ensuring preservation guidelines are followed.

Osmar Alaniz, JBSA cultural resources manager, said one of his tasks is to review work orders and submit them to the THC.

“We act as if we’re an extension of the SHPO,” he said. “The goal is to have 100 percent clearance that the law is being complied with.”

Most requests do not require the SHPO’s consent, only those that deviate from preservation guidelines, Alaniz said.

One example is the replacement of single-pane windows with energy-efficient double-pane windows in JBSA-Randolph’s single-family residences, a project that will be duplicated for duplexes in the next few years.

Living in homes that are approaching the century mark isn’t for everyone, Butler said, but many residents appreciate the historic character of their homes.Estrada said she and her family have lived happily on base for eight years.

“We have quite a few residents who enjoy the history,” she said. “My family and I love living on base.”