The Casa Maldonado is a nearly-century old building, which has served the Westside Community in many ways and tells a piece of the Westside story that is seldom remembered and rarely documented. Casa Maldonado was the birthplace of civic leader and union organizer William Maldonado and served as a tavern, fruit store, thrift store, and offices. The house has been empty since 2004.
Casa Maldonado, also known as the “Pink House,” is located in the area known as Villa Guadalupe, a culturally and historically significant neighborhood at the turn of the 20th century. The area served as a catchment for people from Mexico as it lay close to the railroad and was one of the first neighborhoods encountered on the roads from the West and Southwest. The area also had no racial deed restrictions, was relatively low in land value, and was largely undeveloped. Immigrants with moderate means could afford the land, while those with less money could afford the tenements and shotgun houses for rent. This immigration also coincided with a growth trend for San Antonio, particularly the boom years of WWI.
Spurred by a large influx of Mexican immigrants between 1910 and 1925, Guadalupe Street became the commercial center of San Antonio’s Mexican-American community. Wood-frame commercial structures served both the commercial and housing needs of their owners. The Maldonado Building is prototypical of this development pattern, having been used by the Maldonado family for residential and commercial purposes throughout the family’s 87 year ownership. Today, 1312 Guadalupe St., the Maldonado building is the only wood-frame structure remaining in the central area of Guadalupe and Brazos, and it is only one of two two-story wood-frame structures still standing on the whole length of Guadalupe Street, making it a significant example of the community and commerce of an earlier era.
The Maldonado building was a central location for community and political organizing in San Antonio’s Mexican-American community during one of the most important periods in its history, the 1940s through the 1960s. Prior to the 1940s, Mexican-American citizens were effectively excluded from all elections for public office, both as voters and as candidates. Casa Maldonado served as a community gathering place when Bill Maldonado used it as the home base for his work as a founder of the Spanish Baseball league in 1937, as manager of the winning Progreso Club team, and as a leader in the league’s campaign for political and social justice. It also became the Westside Headquarters for an emerging group of Progressive Democrats. Among the activities headquartered at the Maldonado Building during these years were: Bill Maldonado’s 1948 campaign for county commissioner, in which he was one of the first Mexican-Americans to seek the Democratic Party nomination in the 20th century; the Westside portion of Adlai Stevenson’s 1952 Democratic Presidential Campaign; and the 1954 campaign to recall the Mayor and other council members.
The building served as many things over the decades, including a bar, meat market, and local fruit market, and was eventually managed through the 1970s by Cecilio Martinez, the lead plaintiff in a 1974 lawsuit that led to the creation of single-member Council districts in San Antonio, the beginning of the end for the so-called Good Government League, a coalition of mostly monied Anglos controlling local politics.
In the summer of 2011 the City Council voted unanimously to deny historic landmark status to Casa Maldonado, known locally as the Pink House. Its owner, an economic development corporation called Avenida Guadalupe Association, declared it would tear down the structure to make way for a new office building complex.
Throughout numerous city and neighborhood meetings, Avenida staff and supporters have said the Pink Building stands in the way of progress, economic development and job creation on the west side. Avenida supporters on Thursday also questioned the building’s significance, saying preservationists’ history of Casa Maldonado, confirmed in a report by the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission, is suspect.
Avenida CEO Oscar Ramirez has long said Casa Maldonado is unsalvageable, pointing to an engineering report commissioned by Avenida in December that states repairing the building and bringing it up to code wouldn’t be “structurally feasible.”
The Westside Historic Preservation Group and the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, groups hoping to save Casa Maldonado, scored an emergency grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to commission their own structural report on the building.
In late July of 2011, City Council put a small kink in Avenida’s plan to demolish Casa Maldonado, voting unanimously to start the landmark designation process after listening to dozens who showed up to plead for the building.
The Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, the Westside Historic Preservation Group, the San Antonio Conservation Society, and hundreds of Westside residents have fought for over a year to keep the building around, garnering at least 1,700 signatures for a petition to save Casa Maldonado. A website was also created to disseminate information and spread awareness to a large audience. But what ultimately may have saved the building was a newfound community passion for documenting the Westside’s history and protecting its cultural landmarks from neglect, disrepair, and demolition.
Since 1986, when Casa Maldonado was listed as a contributing structure in study of San Antonio's historic assets for a second time, 51 of the West Side's 71 contributing historic structures have been demolished, says Sanchez.
Angered by the 2002 demolition of Westside dance hall La Gloria, many of those hoping to save Casa Maldonado say their effort is part of a larger fight to force urban redevelopment efforts to work with historic preservation goals.
For more information on preservation efforts in the San Antonio community visit the speranza Center
Save Casa Maldonado
National Trust for Historic Preservation
La Vos De Esperanza, Courage in the Path of Obstacles (.pdf)
My SA, San Antonio's Home Page, 'Pink building' cleared for demolition
Current, Council vote clears the way for Pink Building demolition
Current, Fight over decrepit Maldonado Building about honoring Westside soul
Now Cast San Antonio, Opinion: We will fight for Pink Building on West Side