SAAACAM: Historical marker needed for what was the Key Hole Club

West Side special events venue was San Antonio’s first integrated nightclub

SAN ANTONIO – A building just off the 1600 block of W. Poplar could be getting a historical marker in the near future, but not for being a special events venue known for its outdoor lucha libre matches.

Owned by a fraternal order on the West Side, the large building at one time was the Key Hole Club, San Antonio’s first integrated nightclub.

“There definitely needs to be a historical marker,” said Cristal Mendez, the historian of the San Antonio African-American Community Archive and Museum.

Oscar Casiano, president of the Sociedad Fraternal Cruz Blanca, said he agrees it deserves one.

Understanding its historical significance, Casiano said he hadn’t made any major changes to the building.

With fraternal order’s membership dwindling, Casiano said he’s had to rely on renting out the huge hall for parties and special events, as well as part of the parking lot for Mexican wrestling every other weekend starting in March.

As a result, Casiano said he’s struggled to cover the cost of maintenance.

“I don’t know for how long, but as long as I can,” he said.

Mendez told him that perhaps SAAACAM could help by considering the venue for some of its own special events, “to bring you some business and to keep this this history and this building.”

“That’s good,” said Casiano.

Even before SAAACAM’s offer, Casiano said he would give SAAACAM what’s left of an old neon sign for the Key Hole Club he found underneath the stage.

Mendez said it would be perfect for including it in an upcoming SAAACAM music exhibit.

“I can’t tell you what it means to the community. We’re so excited,” Mendez said.

Also, soon to be posted on the SAAACAM website will be a short film about the Key Hole Club, “A Door Between Two Worlds,” by Jadyn Evans, a senior history major at St. Mary’s University.

Evans said the film was “the right thing to do,” having heard nothing about African-American history growing up on the West Side as an African-American and Latina.

Using mostly archival film and photos for her film, Evans had never been to where the Key Hole had been since 1950 until its closing in 1964. Before then, it was on the East Side between 1944-48 on Iowa Street.

Walking in along with Mendez, Evans said, “I got goosebumps.”

“It’s amazing. It’s gorgeous,” Evans said as she looked around at the stage where the most famous names in jazz performed and the original wood floor where so many had danced to the live music.

Casiano said he’s recently heard from people as far away as Minnesota and California, wanting to visit where the Key Hole once was.

He said there’s even someone interested in featuring the Key Hole in a movie.

Casiano said he welcomes the renewed interest in the history of the Key Hole Club so that “even when I’m gone, it’s still going.”

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