Our friend Matt had told us about the explosive growth of San Antonio, how it was projected to double again in size within the decade, and how the wealthy were retreating to its north edge. He said there were areas where rich lived cheek-by-jowl with poor, which might make for a meaningful visual contrast in our new gilded age. We took a ride.
As a symbol of concentrated power and white flight, the community called The Dominion would be hard to beat. It sits sovereign on 1,500 acres of heavily forested hills, within view of the highway, encircled by fortress walls. There are only three gates, and a small army to guard them. Trees obscure most of the houses, but red-tiled roofs rise above the greenery in places, giving it the look of a Caribbean enclave. George Strait, Tommy Lee Jones, and some of the San Antonio Spurs have owned houses there.
(All this means something different than it would in Beverly Hills, SoHo, or Aspen. Zillow lists houses in The Dominion for as little as half a million dollars, and nothing for more than six million. Property values also seem to have plummeted of late, by $100,000 or more in some cases.)
The land was once owned by the last president of the Republic of Texas, the company says, and then by the family of Adolph Toepperwein, known for his world-record exhibition shooting as a PR man for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. He and his wife, Plinky, who worked for a gunpowder company and was also a shooter, were on the road for decades as The Fabulous Topperweins [sic]. In Texas this counts as crown land, royal domain.
The Dominion’s promoters speak of its “gracious master-planned country club community...built by San Antonio’s most prominent architects and builders...abundant green belts and man-made lakes...classically styled hand-carved bridge...the Clubhouse on the left with its Italian Renaissance architecture complete with a roof-line of distinctive domes and gold-leafed cupolas...championship 18 hole, 260 acre golf course....”
“This entrance sets the mood for a celebration of life,” they say. To perpetuate the celebration, The Dominion’s “safe family environment is made possible by two 24 hour and one 12 hour manned and gated security stations which are further enhanced by professional guards conducting round-the-clock mobile patrols. Fire and EMS protection is provided by the city and located directly across the Interstate from the entrance.”
“Share man’s passion for living,” they say. “You can have it all at The Dominion.” (Everything, perhaps, except top-form civil society and good public schools.)
Inevitably, like pop-up storms around a supercell, other gated communities for the lesser-rich and the merely upper-middle class have sprung up around The Dominion. Most of their gates have only keypads.
The entire area is booming, with two new malls, restaurants, medical facilities, and luxury car dealerships.