It was a natural decision to host the annual State of the Preservation Address at the Spanish Governor’s Palace, a National Historic Landmark and the only remaining aristocratic 18th-century Spanish Colonial town house in Texas.
Attendees gathered in the building’s courtyard, laden with greenery and blooming flowers, and – though the focus of the day was historic preservation – they spoke of the future of San Antonio. The sun shone down through gaps in the tree branches, as they discussed the inter-related nature of economic development, historic preservation, and the people who are moving the city forward.
May is National Preservation Month, and the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) is linking people to their past by hosting events and activities throughout the month. This year, the theme “People and Places” celebrates the people who have created a lasting history, instead of only focusing on the tactile structures that remain.
OHP Director Shanon Miller stood in front of about 50 attendees and spoke of the people that cater to the preservation of San Antonio, a city steeped in history, culture, and architecture.
Miller pointed to a study published by Don Rypkema earlier this year titled, “Historic Preservation: Essential to the Economy and Quality of Life in San Antonio.” The study, commissioned by the OHP, focuses on the way historic preservation advances almost all the SA2020 goals for San Antonio. The study found that historic neighborhoods outperform the city as a whole in criteria such as walkability, transit scores, proximity to parks, and bikeability; they are magnets for small businesses, startups, and firms employing knowledge workers; and the construction of historic districts have represented an investment of $1.4 billion over the past ten years and generated an average of 1,860 jobs and $100 million in salaries each year.
Miller added that historical neighborhoods are diverse in race, ethnicity, age, income, and family structure. Councilmember Alan E. Warrick II (D2) said preservation doesn’t just protect places and structures, it protects the people and cultures in the communities.
“A key ingredient to preserving those cultures is preserving the history of our heritage,” he said. “With (the theme) ‘people and places’ we understand that the people will always be changing, but we need to use preservation to make sure that the places don’t change.”
Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) said preservation is not about resisting change, instead it’s about making smart decisions today that will support economic development for neighborhood stabilization and revitalization.
“As an architect, historic preservation projects are something I am very interested in,” he said. “Rehabilitation and renovations of historic buildings and homes are a key element in revitalizing historic neighborhoods.”
He said the historical small buildings and homes play a valuable role in the development of sustainable cities.
“There are dynamic neighborhoods that can accommodate new construction and still maintain their fundamental character. Historic districts embody smart growth and they offer diverse housing choices that attract younger residents,” he said. “Historic preservation here in San Antonio is the physical manifestation of the history, economy, quality of life, and the future of one of the nation’s fastest growing cities.”
Councilmember Shirley Gonzales (D5) lives in a home that was built in the ’20s, she said she’s aware of the upkeep it takes to keep an older home standing. She said it’s important to maintain historic neighborhoods so that the community members can remain in their homes.
“So we are trying to do all kinds of creative things to keep people in their homes, and to be able to maintain those historic homes that are really a difficult challenge not just to build but to finance,” she said.
The OHP chose the term “con safos” (written as C/S) which has many meanings, such as “to be treated with respect,” “not to be disturbed,” “the last word,” “always and forever,” and many more, to be the phrase that will connect people to places throughout the month by using the hashtag #ConSafoSanAntonio. OHP encourages community members to find the places in San Antonio that hold special meaning – anything from grandma’s house to the tree where piñatas were hung for birthday celebrations – and post a photo using #ConSafoSanAntonio.
Get out and make history during preservation month. Here’s a list of events:
Events & Activities
May 2: The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center is hosting the cultural celebration, Paseo por el Westside from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rinconcito de Esperanza.
May 8: During the Amazing Preservation Race teams of four will participate in a scavenger hunt using smartphones to solve clues regarding our city’s history from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Register here.
May 14: Festival of the Arts: Celebrating our Cultural Heritage is an art showcase and oral history recording of New Frontiers Charter School students from 5 to 7 p.m.
May 16: The Amazing Preservation Race for Kids is an architectural scavenger hunt in King William for elementary-aged students at 9 a.m.
May 19: Hit the streets in St. Paul’s Square at 5:30 for the Preservation Month Block Party to explore the neighborhood’s authentic architecture.
May 29: Texas Historic Tax Credit Workshop is hosting a workshop to teach community members on how to use tax credits to their advantage from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
*Featured/top image: Three young women participate in the #ConSafoSanAntonio challenge, standing inside of Garcia’s Original Mexican Food. Courtesy Photo.