The front of the Woolworth Building on Alamo Plaza.

Woolworth Building SAVED!

Don’t miss these new videos about the Texas and San Antonio lunch counter sit-ins, starting May 28th.

May 27, 2021 – The Art Newspaper

This international publication covering the art world reports on the Woolworth Building becoming part of the new Alamo Museum.

May 26, 2021 – World Monuments Fund (WMF)

Our partners at WMF had this to say about the decision to reuse the Woolworth Building as part of the new Alamo Museum:

“Great news from San Antonio! World Monuments Fund (WMF) joins the Conservation Society of San Antonio in celebrating the decision to save the San Antonio Woolworth Building and rehabilitate it as part of the future home of the Alamo Museum.

In March 1960, Woolworth’s in San Antonio, Texas made history by peacefully desegregating their lunch counter without resistance. WMF included the site on the 2020 #WorldMonumentsWatch to preserve this legacy. Now we look forward to the opening of the new Alamo Museum as a milestone in enabling audiences to engage with this history and reflect on its relevance today, thanks to the tireless efforts of partners to secure the future of the site.”

Read WMF’s complete statement on their Woolworth blog page.

May 18, 2021 –  Bexar County Commissioners Court

We now have official confirmation that the State of Texas is committed to repurposing the Woolworth Building (and the Crockett Block) as a part of the new Alamo Museum. Today, the Bexar County Commissioners Court backed up their commitment to the museum with a $25M allocation, while the State promised an additional $50M.  What a fitting way to cap Historic Preservation Month!  Read more.

Please visit our Call to Action page to thank the local and state officials who made this opportunity to tell the full  history of Alamo Plaza, including its Civil Rights story, possible.  The Society is especially grateful to its partners in the Coalition for the Woolworth Building, to Judge Nelson Wolff, and to the World Monuments Fund, for their steadfast support and commitment.

The Coalition for the Woolworth Building is a grass-roots advocacy group that formed in 2018. We support the preservation of the Woolworth Building and want to build on its presence in Alamo Plaza to share an integrated history that includes African Americans. Members include: San Antonio Branch NAACP; San Antonio African American Community Archives and Museum; San Antonio for Growth on the East Side; Esperanza Peace and Justice Center; Westside Preservation Alliance; Mexican American Civil Rights Institute; concerned historians, civic leaders, and community members.

March 2021

To mark the 61st anniversary of San Antonio’s peaceful lunch counter integration, the San Antonio branch NAACP led a procession in front of the Woolworth Building on March 16th.

Marchers carried signs honoring the leaders who helped make Civil Rights history at a time when other Southern cities experienced sit-ins and racial strife.

San Antonio’s Woolworth on Alamo Plaza was one of seven local stores that desegregated their lunch counters without sit-ins on March 16, 1960.

See the Express -News article, “‘Doing the right thing’: Coalition observes anniversary of Alamo Plaza civil rights milestone noted by Jackie Robinson.”

The Coalition for the Woolworth Building also created a video chronology:

January 2021

Banner for Places of Color Presentation
Watch recorded of “Places of Color” panel discussion.

The Coalition for the Woolworth Building presented “Places of Color: Preserving San Antonio’s Underrepresented Narratives” as a virtual Dream Week event on January 20th. We focused on Alazán Courts, the 1875 foundation of the St. James AME Church, and the Woolworth Building, a World Monuments Fund 2020 Watch Site. These endangered historic sites physically connect us to overlooked stories in our shared heritage, speaking to the struggle for equity and justice.

We hope this event inspires you to actively support preservation of these sites by contacting public officials.

Photos of preservation supporters

October 2020

Woolworth Building Included in Harvard University Lecture

Everett Fly, MLA spoke on “American Cultural Landscapes: Black Roots and Treasures” for the Frederick Law Olmstead lecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.  He discusses the issue of recognizing Civil Rights and indigenous history on Alamo Plaza at 53:28.

People gathered under Woolworth Building canopy
Participants gathered under Woolworth’s canopy for Everett Fly’s talk about civil rights history on Alamo Plaza.

Everett has received several awards for his ongoing contributions to African American history and to historic preservation, including a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2014 and a San Antonio Power of Preservation Foundation “Champion of Preservation Award” in 2018.  Most recently, he received one of the Conservation Society’s 2020 “Texas Preservation Hero”  awards.  We continue to be most grateful for his participation in the Coalition for the Woolworth Building.

The Waite Report: Alamo Trust consultants find a “strong potential for continued use” of the Woolworth Building

With the release of the Alamo Plaza Existing Buildings Historical Assessment report, we now have confirmation from the experts at John G. Waite Associates, Architects that the Crockett Block, Palace Theater Arcade, and Woolworth Building are structurally sound, retain their historic significance, and are suitable for reuse as a world-class museum!

Highlights from the findings (p.4) include:

  • ‘The Crockett Block, Palace Theater Arcade, and Woolworth Building have a strong potential for continued use for a variety of new public and administrative museum spaces and functions for the Alamo Trust.”
  • “If properly developed, in conjunction with adjacent new construction, all three buildings can act together as an appropriate physical and interpretive connection between the multiple layers of historic context represented by the Alamo and the downtown commercial core of San  Antonio.”
  • “The three buildings on Alamo Plaza can provide the opportunity for a unique twenty-first century museum experience that is innovatively housed within some of San Antonio’s most historically significant commercial architecture of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”

Read more from the San Antonio Report.

Just to set the record straight, we learned from the report that we were mistaken about the location of an Express-News integration photo taken on March 16, 1960.  The photo, which showed African Americans being served in a cafeteria line, had originally been identified by the photographer and by the institution holding it as Woolworth’s.  It turned out to be Kress instead.

However, the photo of integration leader Mary Lillian Andrews sitting at a lunch counter with a friend that appeared in JET magazine (p. 21), has been confirmed by the report (and by Ms. Andrews’ brother) as having been staged at Woolworth’s.  According to the report, Woolworth’s is the only one of the six integrated stores still standing that retains any physical evidence of its eating facilities (see report, p. 82).

September 2020 – World Monuments Fund Re-Emphasizes Support

On August 25, for the first time since World Monuments Fund (WMF) listed the San Antonio Woolworth building on the 2020 Watch, the Alamo Trust published an image relating to their proposed treatment of Alamo Plaza. The WMF responded with a post emphasizing the need to find a solution that preserves the building, while interpreting the site’s diverse history.

Professional Tour Guides Learn About Woolworth’s

The National Standard, the official newsletter of the National Federation of Tourist Guides Association, included an article about the Woolworth Building in its summer issue.

June 2020 – Juneteenth Video March

From June 3 to June 19th, we presented an eight video series of San Antonians speaking out about the importance of preserving the Woolworth Building as part of the vital, but under-told, story of African Americans in American history.  You can support their efforts by contacting the government officials listed on our Call to Action page.

Deborah Omowale Jarmon, Executive Director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum.

March 2020 – 60th Anniversary of Lunch Counter Integration

San Antonio’s lunch counters integrated 60 years ago” – San Antonio Express-News, Mar. 16.

Editorial: Remembering S.A.’s civil rights history” –  San Antonio Express-News, Mar. 14.

Ceremonial Proclamation (watch video at 7:32) – Bexar County Commissioners Court, Mar. 10.

February 2020

“Woolworth in spotlight as architects, historians fight to save it”Rivard Report coverage of  our Feb 1 Woolworth Watch Day Symposium: “Integrating History: The Role of Alamo Plaza in Bexar County’s Civil Rights Legacy.”  Missed it? View the video.

Group photo of Woolworth Watch Day attendess.
Watch Day attendees come together to support the Woolworth Building.

January 2020

World Monuments Fund CEO Speaks Out from Alamo Plaza

Benedicte de Montlaur interview courtesy of David Arias-Rios, Jan 31.

“World Monuments advocate touts keeping Woolworth site”San Antonio Express-News, Jan 31.

DreamWeek 2020 Logo

January 20th – MLK March

“More than 300,000 in San Antonio March, Celebrate and Reflect on MLK Jr.” – Texas Public Radio, Jan. 20.

January 17th – “Remember Black History on Alamo Plaza!”

“San Antonio Conservation Society trying to save historic building downtown” – News 4 SA (WOAI), Jan. 17.

Group hands out free donuts, advocate to save Woolworth building” – KSAT 12 News, Jan 17.

Event marks desegration milestone, sparks debate about Woolworth BuildingSan Antonio Express-News, Jan. 17.

November 2019

“Alamo Plaza Redesign Should Not Leave Woolworth Building Behind” – Aaronetta Pierce for The Rivard Report, Nov. 28.

Editorial: Preserve the Woolworth Building” – San Antonio Express-News, Nov. 24.

“Remember the Woolworth!  Celebrating the Battle That Didn’t Happen” – Rick Casey for The Rivard Report, Nov. 12.

Wolff calls for protecting Woolworth Building in downtown San Antonio” – San Antonio Express-News, Nov. 8.

“Woolworth Building makes major list . . .” – KENS 5 News, Nov. 5.

October 2019

“Why is the Woolworth Building Downtown Being Singled Out for Preservation?” – News Radio 1200 WOAI, Oct. 31.

San Antonio’s Woolworth Building . . . makes global list of endangered sites” – San Antonio Express-News, Oct. 30.

Woolworth Building selected as one of 25 World Monuments Watch sites for 2020! This international listing recognizes that our site combines great historical significance with contemporary social impact.

Our ofrenda for Mary Andrews, a local Civil Rights heroine, won second prize at Muertos Fest in Hemisfair.

“Woolworth Building Honor is Potential Snag in Alamo Plaza Redevelopment” – News Radio 1200 WOAI, Oct. 30.

August 2019

The Society of Architectural Historians wrote to Gov. Greg Abbott supporting our cause.

The Coalition for the Woolworth Building enthusiastically welcomed the San Antonio Branch NAACP as an official affiliate.

July 2019

View video – Conservation Society Executive Director Vincent Michael and historian Everett Fly, representing the Coalition for the Woolworth Building, discussed the importance of preserving San Antonio’s Civil Rights sites with Randy Beamer on WOAI News 4.

May 2019

The Texas Historical Commission gave San Antonio an extra reason to celebrate May as Preservation Month.  Members voted unanimously to approve the Woolworth Building’s State Antiquities Landmark designation.  This honor not only officially recognized the building’s ties to national Civil Rights history, but granted the building an additional level of protection under the Texas Antiquities Code.

National Media Coverage

Architectural Digest – “World Monuments Fund Pledges to Support Architectural Treasures”

CNN – “25 of the world’s most endangered places”

New York Times – “Bears Ears and Notre-Dame Named to 2020 World Monuments Watch”

Toronto Star – “The new Alamo battle to save site of lunch counter desegregation”

World Monuments Fund

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