Casa Navarro May Receive National Historic Status

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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.

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.

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.

The site at 228 S. Laredo St. includes the home, office, and outbuildings of José Antonio Navarro (1795-1871), a champion of Texas independence and an advocate for Tejano rights.

“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.

The mercantile building has served as a warehouse, grocery store, restaurant, bar, gift shop, and office. This 1930s photograph is courtesy of the Institute of Texan Cultures.

A 1930s photo of the mercantile building, which has served as a warehouse, grocery store, restaurant, bar, gift shop, and office. Photo courtesy of the Institute of Texan Cultures.

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.

(Read More: For Sale by City & County: Downtown Acreage, Historic Hotel)

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.

Nano Calderon, Site Educator at Casa Navarro, said admission to the site will be free for active duty military and their families from Memorial Day until Labor Day as part of the Blue Star Museums Program. This is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts' collaboration with the Department of Defense and Blue Star Families. Photo by Don Mathis.

Nano Calderon, Casa Navarro site educator, said admission to the site will be free for active duty military and their families from Memorial Day until Labor Day as part of the Blue Star Museums Program. This is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts’ collaboration with the Department of Defense and Blue Star Families. Photo by Don Mathis.

 

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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. 

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San Pedro Creek Project To Break Ground This Summer

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Property Owners Weigh In On San Pedro Creek Design Overlay

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City Unveils A Newly Preserved Plaza de Armas Building

3 thoughts on “Casa Navarro May Receive National Historic Status

  1. Great article Don, Iris and Robert! It is a treat to be able to share this news with folks in our community. And it is important for our younger downtown readers (your RR followers) to stay aware of the old things in the inner city that must be preserved, while we embrace the future and bring so much activity back downtown. You continue to get that message out as you chronicle progress. Thank you!

  2. If the application was sent in years past sponsored by the State, why was it turned down previously? Does designation trigger Fed funds or something, and it depends on if its budgeted??

  3. Just wondering what the criteria are for a national landmark. It seems odd that Casa Navarro is in the same league as the Statute of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Also, if the Bexar County Annex building is slated for demolition, that must be a very long-term plan. The Annex currently houses Bexar County IT. While the IMB Study of the Bexar County IT Department recommends transitioning to the former federal reserve, there does not appear to be any plan for moving the servers and legacy mainframe systems currently housed at the Annex. Any such plan would require time and money.

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