Casa Navarro State Historic Site has taken the first step to become a National Historic Landmark.
Jerry Geyer, a member of the board of the Friends of Casa Navarro, said the proposal for landmark status made it through a review committee in Washington, D.C. on Monday, May 9.
“A few years ago, the Texas Historical Commission sponsored an application to have Casa Navarro State Historic Site designated as a National Historic Landmark,” Geyer said.
That application contained a study, a collection of applicable historic information, and endorsements from various sources.
“The review committee made their recommendation and forwarded it to the National Landmark Advisory Board,” he said. “The board will meet in the fall and we hope that they will grant the approval.”
National Historic Landmarks are designated by the Secretary of the Interior only if they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. There are more than 2,500 such places with this historic distinction across the nation, including 46 in Texas and seven in San Antonio.
The limestone, caliche, and adobe structures at Casa Navarro were built before 1855 but were almost lost in the 1960s. The 200 block of Laredo Street was the center of a ten-square block area that was razed for urban renewal.
“A number of government buildings were erected on the site of Laredito (Little Laredo) and now we see those buildings being replaced as downtown is revitalized,” Geyer said.
The Police Department headquarters on Nueva Street was demolished several years back. The Bexar County annex building behind Casa Navarro is also slated for demolition. A new federal courthouse is slated for construction across the street. The City and County are considering selling the Central Texas Detention Facility and other properties near Casa Navarro as part of a package redevelopment deal. Its proximity to the coming San Pedro Creek Improvements Project makes it prime real estate.
Fortunately for national history, the San Antonio Conservation Society purchased Casa Navarro in 1960 and saved it from demolition. It became a Texas State Historic Landmark in 1962 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The Conservation Society restored the property and deeded it to State of Texas in 1975.
In 2008, the grounds were transferred from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission. Although the preservation of Casa Navarro is assured, approval by the National Landmark Advisory Board has other implications.
Geyer said such designation would be the highest level of national recognition the site can hope to attain. “It would help us continue to preserve the site and the area around Casa Navarro,” he said.
Geyer is also co-chair of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project Subcommittee, so designation of Casa Navarro as a National Landmark holds a special interest to him.
“The site is very close to the San Pedro Creek,” he said. “Navarro’s land went from Laredo Street to the creek and we hope to see some linkage. Designation of National Landmark status will afford us two sites along the San Pedro Creek (the other being the Spanish Governor’s Palace) which greatly enhances that part of downtown.”
According to Geyer, Patricia Henry, an administrator in the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., said the package passed through the Review Committee “with flying colors.”
“She was impressed in the history, the condition, and the respect given to Casa Navarro,” he said.
Top image: The courtyard of Casa Navarro exemplifies the architecture common in the fine homes of San Antonio during the mid-19th century. Photo by Kay Richter.