Jenny Hay, outreach manager at the San Antonio Conservation Society, joined me on a recent morning stroll in and around downtown to take a look at “Windows To Our Future,” #WTOF. We were inspired by preservation advocate Vince Michael’s upcoming visit to San Antonio on Nov. 7 as well as Buffalo’s Young Preservationists‘ “Heart Bomb” campaign. (See our #WTOF photos below.)
#WTOF represents the place making, community building, and economic development happening in historic spaces in the greater downtown area, demonstrating the vital role of preservation in the future of San Antonio. Michael, the executive director of the Global Heritage Fund, has been quoted as saying:
Historic preservation is at heart not a set of rules or regulations but a process of planning whereby a community determines what elements of its past it wants to bring into its future.
On Friday, Nov. 7, Michael will visit San Antonio for a full day of conversations about preservation’s role in our community and economy with Centro San Antonio, the City’s Office of Historic Preservation, and Conservation Society events.
The events include:
- 11: 30 a.m. – Centro San Antonio‘s Urban Renaissance Luncheon at The St. Anthony Hotel, 205 E. Houston St. Purchase tickets to the luncheon here: http://conta.cc/10lc6rR.
LOOP Members, young professionals, Geekdom members, and students, can purchase half priced tickets here: http://conta.cc/1nsKpb2
- 3-5 p.m. – Office of Historic Preservation presents: “Why and How to Preserve Wood Windows” with Vince Michael & Victor Salas at Brooks City Base Building 150, 2510 Kennedy Circle. Tickets are $25 per person, $10 for students.
- 5-7 p.m. Reception & Conversation with Vince Michael at Brooks City Base Building 150, 2510 Kennedy Circle. This event is free and open to the public.
At the luncheon, Vince Michael will explain the reasons we want to save buildings, landscapes, sites, and structures, as well as the mechanisms that have evolved at the local, national, and international levels to facilitate that process. He will go into further detail on preservation as a proven community economic development strategy that has proven resilient and sustainable because it builds on the core identity and culture of place.
Centro’s Urban Renaissance Luncheon will also feature the creative minds behind #KeepSAReal.
“Keep SA Real is a movement we created for San Antonio,” the team stated in a press release. “It’s a tool for people to document and call attention to these experiences in easily digestible and consumable chunks. When people have an emotional attachment to something, they protect it.”
Join us for the entire day and in the meantime, enjoy these Windows To Our Future:
The Aztec Theatre boasts a unique Mayan Revival styled interior, reminiscent of exotic-themed theaters popular in the United States during the 1920s. Its Mesoamerican details include carvings, plaques, painted symbols, and other lavish fixtures. The theater fell into decline in the 1970s and 1980s, prompting the San Antonio Conservation Society to prevent its demolition by purchasing the structure in 1988. A $15 million renovation took advantage of the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit in 2010, and today the Aztec is alive again hosting musical acts and revelers in its grand interior.
Ellis Alley is a small enclave of houses and commercial structures, originated as a community of freed slaves beginning in the 1870s. This area anchored a vibrant African American neighborhood for decades; remaining today are several former residences and a two-story structure that served as a funeral parlor and later as a masonic lodge. VIA Metropolitan Transit currently owns the property and has just completed renovations to the Beacon Light Lodge, which is occupied by local nonprofit organization San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside.
Constructed in 1913, the Rand Building was the tallest in San Antonio when it opened its doors as Wolff and Marx Department Store. Threatened with demolition in the early 1980s, the San Antonio Conservation Society stepped in to save the structure, which soon after underwent a nearly $5 million renovation financed in part thanks to the federal historic tax rehabilitation tax credit. (The Conservation Society still holds a conservation easement on the distinctive façade.) Recently purchased by Weston Urban, the Rand Building is the new home of Geekdom, a coworking space and business incubator for “Entrepreneurs, Technologists, Developers, Makers & Creatives.”
The Continental Hotel, built in 1896, played host to many unusual characters perhaps due to its proximity to the red light district. Its renovation in the mid-1980s totaled almost $2 million, preparing the structure for its current tenant, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department. This property is part of the Weston Urban/Frost Bank development proposal sketching out the potential for new downtown residences as well as a nearby high-rise bank tower.
The St. Anthony Hotel, originally built in 1909, has been expanded, remodeled, and renovated several times in its 105 years of existence. By 1941, it claimed to be the “world’s largest completely and continuously air conditioned hotel” which no doubt attracted celebrities such as John Wayne and Gregory Peck to stay in its comfortable environs. The hotel underwent a $21 million facelift in the late 1980s, and is currently undergoing a renovation that will take advantage of the federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits.
Originally called Plaza de las Islas, Main Plaza appeared in the 1730 plan for San Fernando de Bexar as a public space in front of the Cathedral from which the main arteries of the city would flow. Government, commerce, and social activities flourished in this traditional space. Today the historic Plaza is home to art and performances and provides a central space uniting the Cathedral, Courthouse, and San Antonio River.
The Carver Center began its life as the “Colored Branch” of the San Antonio Library & Auditorium, a history still inscribed above the doors on its northern façade. The iconic Art Deco structure was built in 1929 with Egyptial Revival details still visible on the parapets. Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington both performed in the Auditorium. Today the building serves as the Carver Community Cultural Center, whose mission is celebrate the diverse cultures of our world, nation and community, with emphasis on its African and African-American heritage, by providing challenging artistic presentations, community outreach activities and educational programs.
It’s hard to miss the Medical Arts Building in the northeastern corner of the Alamo Plaza Historic District; its Gothic terra cotta details, triangular shape, and soaring corner turret draw the eye to the dramatic thirteen-story structure. Gargoyles portraying medical illnesses and ailments original to its construction in the 1920s still adorn its outer walls. After a brief stint as a commercial office building called The Landmark, a $10.2 million renovation project delivered the Emily Morgan Hotel in 1984.
The Alameda Theatre anchors the western portion of the city’s Central Business District, historically dominated by Mexican American commerce. Built in 1949, the Alameda’s capacity of 2,480 supposedly surpasses all other Spanish-language theaters built in the U.S. Currently the building hosts the Henry Ford Academy’s Alameda School for Art & Design, and is undergoing an enormous renovation that will benefit from the federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits.