Jan 24, 2024 - News

San Antonio's Black history museum gets larger, historic space

A rendering shows a planned new museum in downtown San Antonio.

Rendering of the upcoming museum. Photo: Courtesy of SAAACAM

When the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum opens in its new downtown location, it will be in a space where Black people were once segregated from some areas.

What's happening: SAAACAM recently purchased the Kress-Grant Building on Houston Street with $2.5 million from the city, $1.25 million from the Houston Street Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, $5 million from Bexar County and a $4.3 million loan from the seller.

  • The museum, slated to open in 2026, will showcase stories about Black people in San Antonio that will include exhibitions, event space, a research library, a 12-room boutique hotel and a re-creation of a lunch counter with a Black chef residency program.

Why it matters: The move to Houston Street, just steps from the Alamo, will increase visibility for the museum and the amount of space the museum has to tell the city's history through the lens of Black history, culture and identity.

By the numbers: The move will increase the size of the museum from 715 square feet of exhibition space at its current location in La Villita to over 20,000 square feet.

  • SAAACAM CEO and director Deborah Omowale Jarmon tells Axios it'll be one of the largest Black history museums in the state.

Flashback: Omowale Jarmon tells Axios the segregated history of the building is "not that far away" for people who experienced separate employee lounges for Black people when it housed the Kress five-and-dime store.

  • It was one of seven San Antonio stores to desegregate in 1960.
A rendering shows the inside of a planned Black history museum in downtown San Antonio.
Exhibit space in the museum. Photo: Courtesy of SAAACAM

Details: SAAACAM is working with TimeLooper, an interpretive design firm, to create an immersive experience.

  • Local architecture firm Overland Partners is also working on the design.
  • The roomier location will give SAAACAM the opportunity to bring large items like the sign from the Key Hole Club, the city's first integrated nightclub, into public view.
  • There will also be a research library where guests will be able to view artifacts like a bill of sale for seven enslaved people who were owned by Thomas and Tabitha Grayson, ranchers who maintained a home in San Antonio.

What they're saying: Omowale Jarmon points out that the location puts SAAACAM near other notable institutions of history, like the Alameda Theater and Market Square, creating a "synergy of culture."

Meanwhile, Centro San Antonio CEO Trish DeBerry says the museum will enhance her vision of every block of downtown San Antonio telling a story.

What's next: SAAACAM will need to raise $51 million to complete the first phase of the project.

  • A community planning meeting will be hosted at Overland Partners on Saturday, so residents can get involved in the design process and share their ideas with the firm.
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