Historic Latino Think Tank Gains National Recognition
Houston clubhouse at center of Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement designated National Treasure and recipient of disaster recovery grant
Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 60 Clubhouse, in Houston, Texas, its newest National Treasure. One of the last-remaining sites associated with the formative history of the oldest and largest Latino organization in the U.S., this designation reflects the Clubhouse’s central role in advancing civil rights. In cooperation with local partners, the National Trust will assist in rehabilitating and identifying future uses for the building and commemorating its nationally-significant legacy.
“We are committed to amplifying the voices of those who historically have been overlooked and underrepresented,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The LULAC Clubhouse is not only an irreplaceable reminder that bold ideas often take shape in modest places, but also, that more needs to be done to learn from our nation’s collective civil rights contributions. It deserves our best stewardship and preservation efforts.”
Though an unassuming two-story stucco building, one mile from downtown Houston, the LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse served as the organization’s de facto national headquarters and testing ground during the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and is forever linked to the larger than life leaders and trailblazing programs it cultivated. As a center of political organizing during the most determinative, yet least studied years of Latino civil rights efforts, this prominent chapter of LULAC was instrumental in the creation of national social and educational programs benefiting communities today, including:
- Head Start Program, modeled after LULAC’s "Little School of the 400" program and managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote school readiness of children from low-income families.
- SER (Service Employment Redevelopment) Jobs for Progress, the largest work placement program in the nation.
- Affordable housing opportunities and homebuyer training adopted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Founded in 1929, in a time when "No Mexicans Allowed" signs and brutal lynching of Mexican Americans were commonplace in the southwest, LULAC contributed to the early desegregation of public facilities across Texas in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1954, taking efforts a step further, members of LULAC Council 60 brought the landmark Hernandez vs. Texas case to the U.S. Supreme Court to end segregation on juries. Council 60 also holds the distinction of hosting President John F. Kennedy at Houston’s Rice Hotel in 1963—the day before he was assassinated—marking the first time a sitting U.S. president appeared at a LULAC event.
“Within our organization, LULAC Council 60 has always been at the forefront of many social and economic issues, providing guidance to the League and making a difference on the local, state and national political stage,” said Roger C. Rocha, Jr., national president of LULAC. “We are thrilled to have the National Trust’s spotlight on the Council 60 Clubhouse, a site that will always hold a distinct place in LULAC history as home to civil rights trailblazers and community advocates.”
Despite the building’s role as home of LULAC Council 60 for almost 65 years and the growing Latino community’s desire to experience civil rights landmarks, the threatened Clubhouse has been vacant since 2013 and requires substantial renovation. In August 2017, following the onslaught of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, the building’s condition was further endangered. This National Treasure designation now presents a case to develop new preservation models for protecting historic properties that have lost architectural integrity, yet retain even greater historical and cultural significance.
“The stories of Council 60 are those of local sacrifice and national achievement—they echo today and have much to teach us about coming together in an increasingly diverse America,” said Ray Valdez, president of LULAC Council 60. “We are proud to work with the National Trust to ensure the Clubhouse receives proper recognition and protection, and the opportunity to inspire future generations.”
This designation comes with a $140,000 disaster recovery grant from American Express to support the Clubhouse’s initial rehabilitation efforts. Funds will help in completing emergency stabilization, roof replacement, foundation repair, and wall reinforcement. LULAC Council 60 is one of three projects selected by the National Trust and American Express to help rehabilitate historic buildings and landscapes in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Dade Heritage Trust in Miami and the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico’s Para la Naturaleza initiative have also been awarded grants.
The LULAC Council 60 Clubhouse joins a portfolio of more than fifty active National Treasure campaigns that includes the Houston Astrodome, the A.G. Gaston Motel, part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, and Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. To learn more about the LULAC Clubhouse National Treasure, please visit: www.savingplaces.org/lulac