Home of San Antonio NAACP pioneer a step closer to avoiding demolition

J.A. Grumbles’ home on Wyoming deemed ‘historically significant’

SAN ANTONIO – The house at 1115 Wyoming, a few blocks east of the Alamodome with boarded-up windows and doors nailed shut, may not look historically significant, but the Historic Design and Review Commission unanimously decided it was.

Built in 1898, according to the San Antonio Conservation Society, the home had belonged to J.A. Grumbles, the founder of the NAACP chapter in San Antonio 103 years ago.

“(Grumbles’) home is important to understanding the history of racism in San Antonio. We believe strongly in the preservation of this historical site,” said Dr. Gregory Hudspeth, the local chapter’s current president.

Deborah Omowale Jarmon, CEO & director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, said, “This was a victory specifically for the NAACP and the African American community but really for our community as a whole.”

“Our city recognizes that history and culture cross color lines,” she said.

However, apparently unaware of its history, the owners had wanted to tear it down to build a house of their own.

During the hearing, they told the HDRC it had become a potential “deathtrap” that could fall onto the house next door.

At one point, Alice Kneifel, the major property owner, asked commissioners, “Did you realize Mr. Grumbles; was only half black? What about the rest of his heritage?”

Later, in response, commissioner J. Maurice Gibbs said, “That really has no relevance here.”

Although the HDRC agreed with city staff by deeming the house historically significant, the final decision to demolish will be up to the city council.

Omowale Jarmon said, “It’s not over yet.”

She said it would take at least six out of 10 votes on the city council to save the house.

As for the current owners, Omowale Jarmon said, “I don’t see where they would want the home.”

The owners already have told the HDRC they’d be willing to sell it to recoup what they’ve put into it.

“So we need to come up with a plan to purchase the home,” she said. “Then we need to work at preserving the structure.”

If the city council agrees with the HDRC finding and with the appropriate zoning, Omowale Jarmon said perhaps the Grumbles House could become the new home of the local NAACP chapter he founded more than a century ago.

She also said she wants the current owners to know, “It is my hope that they will help us create a very historic gem here on the East Side for everyone to come and visit.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.