The Alameda, "San Antonio’s Apollo," Receiving a Makeover

In its heyday, the Alameda Theatre was as important to San Antonio’s Latino population as the Apollo was to African-Americans in Harlem. The 2,400-seat, Art Deco Moderne theater opened in 1949—during the height of Jim Crow laws—“but in the theater, it didn’t matter what your last name was, or your color, you didn’t have to sit in the ‘colored’ balcony,” recalls Henry Muñoz, III, chairman and CEO of Kell Muñoz Architects, who attended performances there as a child.

Photos: © James Murdock

But after several successful decades, the theater fell into disrepair. The city of San Antonio rescued it from further decay and began envisioning a new future for the Alameda. That future is being realized thanks to the National Center for Latino Arts and Culture, a cultural group founded by Muñoz that encompasses both the theater and the nearby Museo Alameda. The museum opened in April as the Smithsonian Institution’s first affiliate dedicated to Latino history. It showcases the work of contemporary artists as well as treasures from the Smithsonian’s national collection. The theater, meanwhile, has signed a partnership agreement with the Kennedy Center to present music, theater, film, and other performances.

Renovation of the theater, under a design by the local firm Killis Almond & Associates, is ongoing. Exterior preservation work is complete and crews have started tackling the interior. So far, they’ve removed partition walls that had been inserted in the main hall but they’ve yet to restore two giant murals and the lobby. Additionally, the stage must be expanded to accommodate major theatrical productions and broadcast performances. Although a timetable for these remaining tasks is undetermined, Muñoz hopes to reopen the theater on its 60th anniversary in March 2009.