McAllen’s Centennial celebration in 2004 laid the groundwork for the creation of the city’s own historical museum, McAllen Heritage Center, Inc. (MHC). The success of McAllen’s 100th birthday celebration became the foundation upon which this historical museum and PalmFest, a citywide festival celebrating the culture of our area, would be built.
Two years later, MHC became a recognized non-profit organization focused on building a museum where community members and visitors can learn about the rich history of our city. Thanks to the museum’s founding benefactors, who provided the seed money needed to leverage grant monies, MHC opened in Downtown McAllen at La Placita in June of 2008.
Next week is their “Coming Out” Party. MHC invites the public to visit the museum Tuesday, March 10 through Friday, March 13 from 1 to 5 p.m. to help them celebrate their grand opening. Refreshments will be served and commemorative gifts will be provided to guests. The official ribbon cutting with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce is Thursday, March 12 at 10 a.m.
The museum’s collection is already growing because of generous donations from residents of our city, and their relatives, who want the city’s history preserved.
MHC will house many permanent and temporary exhibits, including Carl Seale’s Palm Art and Paula Steele’s spectacular collection of artwork and antiques. Excitement surrounds Joe Taylor, who is creating a replica of the first train to pull into the city of McAllen. This historic event happened August 20, 1904, and is recognized by many as the impetus for progress in the city. Art Nemes will enhance the exhibit with a train station, and a map depicting McAllen in 1904. Taylor and Nemes are both members of Rio Grande Valley Rails.
The museum is creating a Traveling Trunks exhibit, which will allow teachers to share mementos from McAllen’s past with their students. A number of other projects are also underway. One of the museum’s short-term goals is to develop a strong relationship with the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg.
Geoffrey Alger serves as curator at the museum. Krista Hinojosa is the museum’s service assistant and David Garza is a museum intern. Regular business hours for MHC are Tuesday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Yearly memberships are available for as little as $30 for those who would like to help support the efforts of the museum.
The MHC Board of Directors has dedicated the center to two of its founding directors, Helen Snider and Rick DeJulio, who passed away before the center officially opened. Snider, a member of the Oldtimer’s Club, played an instrumental role in establishing MHC. Because of her love of history, particularly McAllen history, and the diligence with which she worked to preserve it, MHC began with a remarkable initial collection. DeJulio advocated tirelessly for historical preservation and his efforts live on in this museum. Their families continue to support MHC through significant monetary and museum collection contributions.
MHC’s Founding Board of Directors includes Elva Cerda, president, and members Spurgeon “Spud” Brown, Dr. Nedra S. Kinerk, Gracie Silva, Marilyn DeJulio and Carmen V. DeLeon. They would like to offer a special word of thanks to their founding benefactors: City of McAllen, Historical Foundation of Hidalgo County, McAllen Oldtimer’s Club, IBC Bank, Marilyn and Rick DeJulio, Robert and Dr. Nedra Kinerk, Junior League of McAllen, Frost Bank and Futuro McAllen. Their gratitude is also extended to many others who have made monetary and collection donations. MHC would not be “Coming Out” without these gifts.
MHC encourages donations of “All Things McAllen” and promise to preserve all donations for future generations. Financial contributions will allow them to expand the collection and the staff. This truly is a community museum.
Preserving our past for future generations is powerful. “We need to remember who we were to know where we’re going,” said Board President Cerda.