October 10, 2014

The New Witte: Huge Expansions and Renovations to San Antonio Museum

In keeping with the city-wide transformations throughout San Antonio, special attention is on the historic Witte Museum with major renovations and expansions already underway.

To start off the project, one of San Antonio’s most historic homes on the Witte campus has been re-envisioned. Over 260 years old, the Jose Francisco Ruiz House was originally built in 1746 and later became the city’s first public school quarters in 1801 where Ruiz himself served as the first schoolmaster. In 1943, the house was carefully relocated to the Witte campus. This past October, it was again renovated into the new museum store.

The Witte Museum itself will be approaching its 90th year anniversary when the latest construction is completed in next two years. Since its debut to the public on October 8, 1926, the museum’s only major renovation occurred in the 50’s and 60’s. However, the recent opening of the South Texas Heritage Center in 2012 sparked the museum board to continue its restoration into the future.

The largest stage of the $60 million construction project will be made to the main building of the Witte campus when groundbreaking strikes early 2015. A new grander entrance will be shifted to Tuleta Drive, welcoming visitors into the Valero Great Hall and Orientation Gallery. The Dinosaur Gallery and People of the Pecos will be permanent installations featuring detailed models and interactive educational lab areas. The McLean Family Texas Wild Gallery will be revamped in a more modern theatrical space and a new traveling exhibition and special event wing will be added at the Mays Family Center. The whole campus will be surrounded by more vibrant landscaping that will also connect to the historic Acequia Madre and Diversion Dam.

Even during these transformations, much of the campus will remain open for visitors. “The Witte has worked mighty hard to provide a lot of stuff for folks to do while this is being renovated,” said Marise McDermott, President and CEO of the museum. “Part of the master plan is to provide as much square footage that's open as we're taking down. People are going to find it a totally engaging experience from the time you get out of the car until you get back to your car.”

To learn more about the New Witte, follow them online by visiting their Facebook and Twitter pages for updates and events. Be sure to also check out the wittemuseum.org for more Texas history and fun!