By Mo Brown, Site Manager, Casa Navarro State Historic Site
After closing for a year and a half due to major construction renovations as well as the design and installation of new state-of-the-art interpretive exhibits, Casa Navarro State Historic Site in San Antonio reopened with two special events during the last week of February 2012.
The first event on February 21, “Fat Tuesday,” was co-sponsored by the Friends of Casa Navarro, the Cortez Family of Restaurants, and the Texas Historical Commission (THC), as a “thank you” preview and opening reception for our sponsors, project architects, contractors, exhibit design partners, and Friends supporters and descendents. The event was celebrated in Mardi Gras style with colorful beads and purple, green, and gold decorations (José Antonio Navarro had lived in exile twice in New Orleans, and conducted business between San Antonio and New Orleans as a merchant).
An estimated 156 people attended the preview to see the newly renovated 1850s historical home and store (now our visitors center, gift shop, and offices), interact with new exhibits highlighting Navarro’s contributions to Texas history, partake in delicious food and drink, and hear guitar and banjo music by Ben Tavera King. In addition, the Cortez Family and co-sponsors announced a surprise. Event attendees were invited to hop on a rotating shuttle bus and preview the beautiful 40 x 8 foot hand-glazed tile “Casa Navarro – Laredito” mural (still in the making) and meet the artists, Jesse Trevino and Elizabeth Rodriguez Trevino. When completed, the mural will be installed on the exterior wall of the site, along Nueva Street. Stay tuned for a future Casa Navarro “Mural Unveiling” event!
Our main reopening event and José Antonio Navarro Birthday Celebration was held on Saturday, February 25th, and an estimated 800 visitors came to the site that day. The City of San Antonio provided complimentary parking, and Laredo Street in front of Casa Navarro was closed to vehicular traffic, allowing food vendor trucks to provide food throughout the day.
The event opened with a flag ceremony by the San Antonio Police Honor Guard and a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the front porch of Casa Navarro. Program speakers included Maclovia Perez from the Friends of Casa Navarro as “José Antonio Navarro,” who acknowledged and introduced local and statewide dignitaries and legislative representatives, including U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzales, State Representative Joaquim Castro, State Representative Lloyd Doggett, Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkinson, and District I City Councilman Diego Bernal. THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe spoke about the renovation project and acknowledged the preservation project partners, THC project staff, Friends’ President Troy Salinas, and Founding President Sylvia Navarro Tillotson, as well as preservation supporters in the community, including Nancy Avellar from the San Antonio Conservation Society.
Inside, birthday cake and cupcakes were sponsored by Cupcake Coutier and the Friends of Casa Navarro, and hot cocoa was provided by La Margarita Restaurant. Tejano and Buffalo Soldier reenactors provided entertainment and photo ops throughout the day. Music was provided by Charlie Cruz, who played a cigar box guitar. A large number of visitors and Navarro descendants came from all over Texas and the U.S. and everyone seemed to enjoy interacting with the new exhibits and gift shop.
A special and BIG thank you to the THC’s Public Information and Education Department for the invitations and programs, and especially to all our generous volunteers—including many from the San Antonio Professional Tour Guide Association—family members, and personal friends (amigos). And a special thank you to my site staff, Rob Abodeely and Dino Pena, for helping to make the event a HUGE success!
Casa Navarro is located at the corner of S. Laredo and W. Nueva streets in downtown San Antonio, in the Texas Independence and Hill Country Trail Regions.