McAllen Heritage Center celebrates upgrades

McAllen officials and community members join the McAllen Heritage Center for a ribbon-cutting for recent renovations at La Placita on Friday in downtown McAllen. Matt Wilson | mwilson@themonitor.com

McALLEN — The McAllen Heritage Center held a grand re-opening reception on Thursday in celebration of refurbishments completed in the historic building.

The museum, which is located in the “La Placita” building in downtown McAllen, went through a number of changes throughout the months of August through November of 2019.

With the refurbishments complete, the Heritage Center Board of Directors welcomed local leaders to a ribbon cutting ceremony on what also happened to be McAllen’s 109th birthday.

“This is a grand re-opening because we did a project in the back of the building,” said Elva M. Cerda, who is the MHC managing director and founder. “We did a lot of things. So we’re really celebrating that accomplishment. We partnered with the city of McAllen to get that done. We’re very, very proud of the fact that the city of McAllen is supporting us so much.”

The museum was formed in 2006, but it did not officially open its doors to the public until 2008. When it needed a place to call home, “La Placita,” the city’s historic post office, was the obvious choice for the museum’s location.

“It’s really been a labor of love for us,” Cerda said. “The public loves it. We take tour groups, we take Winter Texan tour groups, elementary school, high school, leadership groups come through here. I tell people over and over again that a lot of times we get people from- we have a map and you see all the different parts of the country people visit from, and even the world.”

Cerda said that visitors wanting to do business in McAllen usually target the museum as a destination to learn more about the city’s culture.

“Any city they go to find that they want to find art galleries, museums. We’re very lucky because we have IMAS (International Museum of Art and Science), we have a lot of galleries downtown, and we have this history museum,” Cerda said. “They come in here and they spend a lot of time in here. They spend a lot of time pouring over all the exhibits, asking questions. It just gives them a really good indication of who we are.”

La Placita McAllen Heritage Center in downtown McAllen January 26, 2017 in McAllen. (photo by Joel Martinez | jmartinez@monitor.com)

Now, with some changes being made to the historic building, visitors will get an even better indication about the city of McAllen.

Among the changes at the building include new restrooms, laundry facilities, a new kitchen, and a new boardroom where the old women’s restroom used to be.

“It was very large. Too much space being used for restrooms,” Cerda said. “We made it into a multi-purpose room. It’s a boardroom and an exhibit room as well. We want to offer that to small 501c3s that maybe don’t have a boardroom. It can accommodate eight to ten members in there to have a meeting. It’s a beautiful room. We want to serve the community too. It also is our train display room.”

“We added some HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and put solar screens. We did a lot,” Cerda continued. “We painted the building. We polished the floors. We did a lot of things.”

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling shared his excitement about the refurbished building.

“This is a great facility. I’m really proud of it,” Darling said. “If you’re new to McAllen, you’re going to get some good history — what it was like. If you’re an old timer in McAllen, you’re going to have great memories in here. I think it’s just a fantastic place for everybody. We have a place for the kids to come and get a little education about their city. That’s important to know, I think. Sometimes we forget about how important history is to us.”

MHC is open Wednesday through Friday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are accepted. For more information, visit www.mcallenheritagecenter.com.