Several hundred people gathered Wednesday evening at Hemisfair in response to President Donald Trump's fundraising visit to San Antonio earlier in the day.
Leading the counter protest and rally was Democratic presidential hopeful and former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro.
Despite being one of the hottest days in months, the crowd packed in under the baking sun excited to hear from the San Antonio native.
"Our kids deserve so much better," Castro supporter Linda Alaniz, 69, said. "We need a change in leadership so we can get our opportunities back for our children and grandchildren."
Castro supporters, and Castro himself, addressed with fury and frustration the Trump administration's immigration policies, which Trump opined on during the event at The Argyle Club in Alamo Heights.
"We're going to choose compassion, not cruelty," Castro told the crowd when speaking on immigration.
Castro also reflected on his grandmother’s story of coming to the U.S., and inserted some anecdotes about his upbringing on San Antonio’s West Side, which gained an ovation from the crowd each time.
Attendees held up loteria cards with Castro's image, and other posters.
In the last couple minutes of his speech, Castro faced the elephant in the room—or, on the plaza, if you will—concerning his campaign.
"Some people have said, 'Well, you know you're not a frontrunner,' and I tell them, I wasn’t born a front runner," he said, a talking point he's used repeatedly.
After the rally, they stuck around to greet Castro, and they asked him to sign posters, take selfies, pray, or shake hands with them for a few minutes.
Shotgun House Coffee Roasters is opening a new location next week at 1010 S. Flores St., its second less than a year after it opened the original location on the West Side in April of last year.
Owner and founder Eddie Laughlin decided to open the SoFlo location because the prospering area lacks good coffee, he said. The second Shotgun House is moving into The 1010 apartments in the SoFlo corridor of Southtown and will join other businesses there such as restaurant Bamboo and record shop Southtown Vinyl.
“There just wasn’t a good walkable coffee shop for the Judson Lofts, the South End Lofts, and Steel (House Lofts) and The 1010 apartments that are going to be right above us,” Shotgun House owner and founder Eddie Laughlin said. “There’s just a ton of urban core community right there.”
Laughlin anticipates the customer flow at the new location to be much more stop-and-go as opposed to the West Side location, 1333 Buena Vista St., which he described as more of a “destination” despite both spots being similar in size.
Shotgun House’s new location was previously a bakery, which has helped for a quick turnaround in terms of renovations and prep to move in, as opposed to the original location, which was converted from warehouse space.
If you missed the deadline to purchase online tickets to "Hamilton," which runs May 7-29 at the Majestic Theatre, through the Ticketmaster Verified Fan system, you can still get some.
A limited number of tickets, which range from $75 to $195.50, will be available Friday morning (March 15) at the Majestic, 224 E. Houston St.
You have to get a wristband between 7-9 a.m. at the Majestic. You'll also have to fill out a preorder form in order to expedite your ticket purchase. If you get there after 9 a.m., you'll have to wait until everyone with a wristband purchases their tickets before you can get yours—assuming there will be any left.
At 9:30 a.m., the Majestic staff will begin announcing "purchase groups," which are groups of people determined based on the number on their wristbands. Then the groups will be brought to the line so they can purchase their tickets.
Bring a photo ID and credit card matching your ID. Each customer will be allowed to purchase a maximum of four tickets.
Tickets that cost $10 can also be purchased the day of the performances via lottery, but those details, according to a Majestic spokeswoman, are not available at this time.
"Hamilton" is the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America's founding fathers who also served as George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War. The show, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, "blends hip-hip, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway."
During the historic 13-day siege on the Alamo, which began on Feb. 23 in 1836, Lt. Col. William Barret Travis called for reinforcements, who arrived on the first day of March. Thirty two men came from Gonzales ranging in age from late-teens to mid-40s. The "Immortal 32," as they are remembered, would live and fight another five days within the confines and walls of the compound.
Friday morning, 183 years later, 32 men from Gonzales—many of whom are descendants of the original 32—walked into Alamo Plaza to cheers and an introduction by Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald. A list with the names of the "Immortal 32" was read and a moment of silence followed. Many attendees were children whose schools allowed them to come to Alamo Plaza on a Friday morning and see the ceremony. McDonald gifted Gonzales Mayor Connie Kacir a flag to commemorate the sacrifices of the 32.
The re-enactment and ceremony was part of the Alamo's series of events remembering the 13-day siege that took place here in 1836.
At 12:30 p.m. today, a ceremony will be held in front of the Alamo, recognizing Texas Independence Day.
On Sunday, the festivities continue with the Crockett Fiddle Fest, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., which includes performances by fiddlers and country music bands.
The festivities wrap up on Wednesday, March 6, the final day of the siege. The day begins with Dawn at the Alamo, a ceremony that begins at 6 a.m. that include members of the San Antonio Living History Association. Later that morning at 10 a.m., a ceremony lead by Scott McMahon, director of the Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, will speak about the aftermath of the battle.
At 2 p.m., a roll call of each defender's nation and state will be read during a memorial service. Finally, at 6 p.m., the final ceremony remembers the defenders.
All events are free and open to the public.
On the afternoon of Feb. 1, 1960, in Greensboro, N.C., four North Carolina A&T students sat down at the Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter and ordered coffee. Denied service, they were asked to leave but remained seated until the store closed. Within weeks, their sit-in movement had spread to dozens of cities across 13 states.
On March 16, 1960, San Antonio became the first Southern city to negotiate a city-wide desegregation of lunch counters. One of those counters was in the downtown Woolworth on the corner of Alamo and East Houston streets, which remained a Woolworth until 1997, when the retailer left San Antonio. Many San Antonians probably know more about the 1997 closing of the retailer than realize it’s a special place in the civil rights movement.
Four days later, Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball’s first African-American player, told The New York Times the story of San Antonio’s peaceful lunch counter integration “should be told around the world.”
Now the 1921 building is home to a Jimmy John's, a dessert shop called Belgian Sweets, a Tomb Raider 3D ride, and Ripley's Haunted Adventure, and with nothing to signify the events that transpired nearly 59 years ago. And its future—along with the adjoining 1923 Palace theater and the 1882 Crockett buildings—is uncertain.
In December, two months after the City Council approved the controversial Alamo Plaza plan on Oct. 18, one that's intended to turn the plaza into a museum and larger public space, four preservation groups formed the Woolworth Coalition—San Antonio Conservation Society, San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAACAM), Westside Preservation Alliance, and Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. They want the former dime store and its historical significance preserved and not be shoved aside for the 1836 battle between Texian and Mexican forces.
The Alamo plan, which was approved by a series of committees composed of citizens and officials at local and state levels, places a museum where the three buildings stand on the plaza. However, renderings released to the public last year show variations of what the museum could look like—including, preserving the buildings, retaining the facades, or razing the buildings to make way for new construction.
The one certainty, officials said, was the location of the ground’s main entry point—through the Alamo museum and visitors center where the Crockett building currently stands across from the Alamo facade. Whether that meant the building would stay or be razed, no one could—and still can’t—answer.
In recent interviews, District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño said an architect to design the museum and a firm to study the "integrity and the value historically of the (Woolworth) building" would be hired and announced this month.
“We don’t have a demolition list," Treviño said. "We have no preconceived notions about what is going to be designed. That is up to the architect that we select.”
But vagueness of the plan, and the refusal by leaders, such as Treviño and others, to assure the buildings won't be razed for a new Alamo museum, continue to spike concern.
“No one has said we’re definitely tearing it down, but as you see from those pages, it's sort of … you’re setting it up for failure,” said Vincent L. Michael, executive director of the San Antonio Conservation Society and a member of the coalition.
During the public process last year, Alamo Plaza planners floated the idea of demolition. One of the reasons was because the floors of the Woolworth, Palace and Crockett buildings don't align—an explanation the Conservation Society found unconvincing.
“It’s really a stupid argument,” San Antonio Conservation Society President Susan W. Beavin said. “I can’t think of a nicer adjective.”
Beavin continued, “Most good architects will tell you that a lot of your famous museums in Europe have uneven floors. It’s like they’ve just pulled everything they can out of the air that they think might be believable to be an argument.”
In response, the conservation society has hired its own architect to provide renderings of how the three buildings could be repurposed into a museum without having to demolish them.
"These will be ready soon," Beavin said in an email this week, adding that her group will announce the architect at the same time.
During the public debate last year, some people—such as Forrest Byas, a member of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee who was interviewed by the San Antonio Express-News—argued for the razing of the buildings for the reconstruction of the west wall, which was “the scene of some of the heaviest fighting during the famous 1836 battle,” Express-News reporter Scott Huddleston wrote.
Using that logic, Michael and Beavin asked: Why not move the Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse? The federal building stands on the location of the Alamo’s north wall, where Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna marched through, and where Lt. Col. William B. Travis died, they said.
Beavin later added, “Everybody is stuck on the Alamo, ‘Oh, let's take down the buildings so we can show the west wall.’ Well they’re not suggesting taking down the federal post office, which was the north wall. So it's like pick and choose: you want it all or not? And it doesn’t address any of what went on at the Woolworth, the significance of any of the African-American heritage and culture that was very prevalent.”
The Alamo Management Committee, which includes Treviño, and two members each from the Alamo Endowment (the plan's primary funder) and the Texas General Land Office (GLO), continues to meet, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said in an email.
“The concerns about the Woolworth building have been discussed and will continue to be discussed until a recommendation is made,” Houston said, referring to the team that will design the museum and assess the buildings.
Representatives at the GLO did not respond to interview requests, and Douglass McDonald, CEO of the Alamo Trust Inc., declined to be interviewed.
During an East Side meeting Feb. 7 at the Claude Black Community Center, District 2 Councilman Art Hall said, “My understanding is that the (Alamo) plan is amended so that the Woolworth building is not going to be part of the demolition. I’m getting more info as we move forward, but that’s my understanding.”
Hall changed his position slightly the following Wednesday. Following a City Council B session meeting, in a joint interview with Hall and Treviño, Hall deferred questions about the Woolworth building to Treviño.
When asked why a historical assessment of the Woolworth was needed, considering the fact that no one disputes the civil rights events that transpired there in March 1960, Treviño said, “What this person is going to document is the actual history of the building both tangible and intangible.”
Despite uncertainty as the Alamo plan moves forward, La Juana Chambers Lawson, a leader at SAAACM, is optimistic that if things are handled correctly, and the former home of the Woolworth is preserved, there will be new opportunities to tell the largely unknown stories extending past 1836 in the plaza.
“What we would like (is) for us to have the opportunity to tell the story of African-Americans here in San Antonio,” Lawson said. “Preserving the Woolworth building would give us the opportunity to really bring out those stories that we just forgot about.”
Beavin added, “The whole story of the African-American presence, not just at Woolworth, but there in the plaza, is something that most people—even most of the African-American population—are unaware (of). It’s significant, so it’s another reason the building needs to tell the Woolworth story as well as being part of the museum.”
The question remains why this Woolworth has received so much attention given that it was one of seven locations that desegregated its lunch counters, according to the conservation society’s research.
Beavin mentioned the other notable location is the Kress building, two blocks west on Houston Street, which is home to a Texas de Brazil steakhouse; and the building’s owner, GrayStreet Partners, is planning to convert the upper floors into office space. Others around the plaza include the old H.L. Green building, which is the current home of Ripley's Believe It or Not!.
The Houston and Alamo corner is the focus of preservation because of its prominent downtown location, according to members of the coalition.
Also, most of the sit-ins across the South occurred in places with larger African-American populations and more pronounced racial turmoil. That San Antonio would be the city leading the nation in desegregating lunch counters and doing it quickly, and with no conflict, makes the downtown Woolworth even more noteworthy. Coalition members credit city and religious leaders of that era and cite the heavily-trafficked bus stop near the downtown Woolworth as a melting pot where many cultures met from farther reaches of the city.
“Being at the prominent corner of Houston and Alamo, the Woolworth corner was where many people changed buses,” Michael said. “Especially if they were heading to the East and West sides they would catch the bus on Houston at Alamo.”
Despite the significance of the events, the desegregation was quiet. In the days following March 16, 1960, local newspapers gave the story very little coverage, according to Heron research.
“You know why the story doesn’t get told? Because there wasn’t any conflict. You know conflict—if it bleeds it leads. Conflict sells papers,” Michael said. “To try to tell the story of a city that did it peacefully where everyone gets along is not a good story.”
Editor Ben Olivo contributed to this report.
Setting It Straight: The original version of this article misstated the year the Woolworth building was built, which was 1921.
» "From Crockett to the Civil Rights Movement: Layers of Significance on Alamo Plaza," prepared by the city's Office of Historic Preservation (2018)
» San Antonio Express-News: Historic events collide at the site of Woolworth building (Sept. 24, 2018)