Demolition of historic East Side building begins; Some believe it could have been saved

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Robert Samarron - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - The demolition of a historic East Side building has begun after a study suggested the building is no longer architecturally sound, but some believe it could have been saved.

The San Antonio Machine and Supply Company constructed a building that sits on North Center and Cherry Street in 1912.

The building was much bigger when it was first constructed.

Local architect and historical advocate Everett Fly said the company manufactured supplies for oil companies and ranchers and close to 300 people worked there, which was considered a lot of employees at the time.

“I can only imagine in San Antonio there were all kinds of employees, black, brown and otherwise,” Fly said.

He said historically, the company made an impact on San Antonio's economy and the industrial world.

The state bought the building in 1975 to house Health and Human Services offices. In 1982, it was named after G.J. Sutton, a San Antonio civil rights activist.

In 2013, the building was closed.

State surveys say the building's architectural integrity has been comprised.

Fly said summaries of those studies show the main problems lie within the structure of the building and toxic materials inside, and now, it's about to be demolished.

During this legislative session, a law was passed that allows the state to sell the building to a private developer.

Fly is disappointed. He believes there were ways to save parts of the building, such as the facade.

“There are many buildings around San Antonio that have had less of the building standing, and we found ways to protect and conserve them,” Fly said.

Fly said the East Side building has so many historical layers to it. He believes it not only shows industrial history but also held the name of a man who was the first black official elected from San Antonio to be a state representative.

“The cultural layers and the significance of the people that built the building, the people that worked in the building, the people that lived around it, all of that disappears when we demolish and erase history like this,” Fly said.

He hopes what replaces it brings the community together.

“A new development that is as meaningful or more meaningful than the state facility that was here that would engage multiple parts of our community,” Fly said.

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