Tax Credit Program Highlight: Burns Building

San Antonio, Bexar County



Individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Historic Use


Current Use


Date Certified

February 12, 2019


Also certified for federal tax credits.

Project Contact

TADA Architects


The Burns Building, built in 1918 by the Sanguinet, Staats, and Boelhauwe architecture firm on behalf of the Hugh Burns estate, famously housed the Washer Brothers mercantile store from 1919 through 1932. The construction was timely, as many San Antonio clothing merchants relocated the city’s main retail center from Commerce and Alamo plaza to Houston Street. The Burns Building’s “shadow box” windows at the first floor were considered a novelty for their concave design, which proprietor Nat Washer described as “a kaleidoscope of fashion…” After Washer Brothers closed during the Depression, the Burns Building housed a variety of clothing and retail stores, including J.C. Penney, until 1985. Interestingly, the top floor of the building was not part of the original design, and was added on in the 1950s for additional storage space.

Rehabilitation Project

The Burns sat abandoned for 12 years until purchased for rehabilitation into office spaces. Much of the interior of the building had been remodeled in the 1980s or 1990s, and this rehabilitation stripped away a number of these later partitions and finishes to create a clean slate for the new office use. New systems and services were installed throughout the interior, and the original wood floors were refinished. A secondary lobby was created at the rear of the building to access the office suites above, with bounding partitions that were designed to be compatible with the historic millwork features without copying them. The main retail space at the first level had not yet secured a tenant at the time the project was completed, but the reuse of the upper floors as office space has already breathed new life into the Burns Building.

Photo Gallery

Click on any image to view the photo gallery.

  • The original curved storefront at the main entrance was retained as part of this project. The ground-floor retail space was mothballed and is still awaiting a new tenant.