SAN ANTONIO – The owner of a historic East Side home is trying to honor its history by turning it into a small dance studio.
The owner of the house on the corner of Cactus and Martin Luther King said it had the best view of the Tower of the Americas and the Alamodome. Homeowner Alma Chavarria wants to share his opinion with the rest of the city.
“I want people in San Antonio to come visit when everything is ready and decorated because the house is for everyone,” Chavarria said.
The 113-year-old building received a historic designation from the Office of Historic Preservation because it was once a polling place for black voters and housed an Abernathy grocery store from 1922 to 1967.
Rumor has it that Martin Luther King Jr. visited the small house. Neighbors told Chavarria that the house was a meeting place for leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Chavarria said the original owner of the property, Frank Abernathy, was a family member of Ralph David Abernathy, who was a close friend of King.
“For a long time, while my neighbor was cutting the grass, I did not know who this gentleman was. He walked by and told my husband that my grandmother has a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. on your porch,” Chavarria said.
Chavarria would like to find this photo, but so far the rumors remain unconfirmed. But she has a concrete curb in front of the house with FMA engraved on it, Chavarria said it was Frank Abernathy’s initials. The concrete step of the curb once served as a step, the only one on the street.
When the home received a historic designation in 2018, Chavarria was forced to keep the story because she felt her Denver Heights neighbors were losing their lifetime homes to investors selling homes.
“We are losing history because the site was predominantly black and we are losing a lot. Our history and it must be preserved. And I believe that we can start with this little house, and there is something else that we are likely to learn. Hey, this is a historic place,” Chavarria said.
In order to get more people involved in the history of his house, Chavarria wants to turn his house into a small dance studio.
So far, the rezoning committee has voted unanimously to rezone her home from residential to commercial.
Chavarria doesn’t want East Side families to travel far to learn the art of dance like her daughters did.
“Maybe Tina Turner or Michael Jackson will come out of this little thing. But we start with small children for society because they are more vulnerable,” Chavarria said.
The rezoning proposal has been sent to the San Antonio City Council, which is due to vote on the idea on February 2. If approved, Chavarria said she would seek funding and investors to help renovate and preserve the house.
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