"Remembering La Gloria" by artist Mary Agnes Rodriguez
"Each time the bulldozer hit the building I felt it in my own heart and I remembered, I remembered my own history." Virginia Grise, award-winning playwright and poet
What happens when a building dies?
We know that buildings die if they are left too long without people. Adobe buildings, for example, live through the warmth and the life that people bring to them. Left alone, they soon begin to deteriorate, the adobe bricks disintegrating back into the earth from where they came. Buildings die without their people.
We know that buildings die from neglect, from greed, from ignorance of history.
What is lost within us when a building dies?
When a building dies, it takes part of our memories and our history with it. Buildings are containers for the stories of our communities. They are more than bricks and mortar, more than the sum of their roof and walls and floors.
When Museo Urbano a community museum in a turn of the 20th century tenement in El Segundo Barrio on the historic S. Oregon Street, the building drew the people to it. It's woodwork called to one elder who told me that no one knew how to work the wood like that on our porch. He had learned as a young man how to cut the lumber just so and piece it together slowly so that each narrow piece fit into the design. But no one knew the technique any more.
Others came to the building to tell stories of the tenements of their youth: shared bathrooms, families crammed into two rooms, walking to the school gym in the morning to take a shower before school because the tenements only had outside showers. Virginia Grise, award-winning playwright and poet, describes the destruction of "La Gloria," a two-story white building built in the late 1920s that housed a bakery, a grocery, and a silent movie theater. Its rooftop became one of the first venues for early Tejano and conjunto music.
When its owner of four years decided to demolish it, the community stepped in and requested historic designation for the building. San Antonio's landmark commission denied the designation and a judge denied an injunction to stop the demolition. In 2002 the beloved "La Gloria" was demolished. It devastated the community.
Artist Mary Agnes Rodriguez's painting, featured above, hangs on my wall reminding me always that the destruction of a historic building destroys part of us.
Please enjoy the video below featuring a poignant poem by Virginia Grise and remember the buildings that mean something to you.
"Each time the bulldozer hit the building I felt it in my own heart and I remembered, I remembered my own history."