Mission community activist to write book about Roosevelt Auditorium

MISSION, Texas – One of the leaders in the fight to save nationally listed Roosevelt Auditorium plans to write a book about the famous building.

Irma Flores Lopez has fond memories of the auditorium because for many decades it was part of Roosevelt Elementary, where she went to school. Her mother also went to school there and has provided lots of stories about the education she received.

Roosevelt Auditorium was built in 1929 as part of Roosevelt Elementary School on the “Mexican” side of Mission. It was placed on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places in 2002. 

In the unsuccessful fight to stop Mission CISD from demolishing the auditorium, many people that also went to school at Roosevelt have been contacting Flores Lopez to tell her of their memories. They have also shared many old photos of going to school there. 

“I think it’s important that people know the history of Roosevelt Elementary and Roosevelt Auditorium, now that it has gone. So many of us have roots there,” Flores Lopez said.

“During the Great Depression, Roosevelt stayed open. Lots of the men who went to war during World War II, their little siblings were at school there.”

Flores Lopez said she has been getting dozens of messages from people with stories about the principals and teachers they had when they attended Roosevelt.

“For those of us who lived south of the railroad tracks, just to enter school at Roosevelt Elementary gave us hope. It gave me a lot of hope. I want people to know that history, why it was so important.”

Among the famous people who attended Roosevelt Elementary School were Dallas Cowboys legend Tom Landry, Congressman Kika De La Garza, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, WWE wrestler Merced Solis (better known by the ring name Tito Santana), comedian and character actor Trinidad Silva, Pablo Perez, McAllen ISD’s first Hispanic superintendent, and Mission environmentalist Maria Ester Salinas.

Salinas pointed out that many Mission children who lived south of the city’s railroad tracks but did not go to Roosevelt still walked from their school to the auditorium in order to perform in school plays or receive their certificates.

In addition to Flores Lopez and Salinas, the other community activists who fought to save Roosevelt Auditorium were Gabriel Ozuna, John Goodman, David Garza and Roel Rangel. 


Garza abruptly left a recent Mission Historical Preservation Commission meeting after hearing of a proposal for the commission to be bolstered with a subcommittee made up of members of the public. Garza said Mission city leaders were proposing the subcommittee because they knew the commission had been useless in the fight to save Roosevelt Auditorium.

As Garza was getting up to leave, Mission Historical Preservation Commission member Hollis Rutledge said to him: “Let me tell you something now, Mr. Garza, I have no interest in people with diarrhea of the mouth.” 

Interviewed later by the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Garza said: “I’m so glad I got under the skin of Hollis Rutledge and I made his blood boil. Because everything I was there to do I accomplished by holding them accountable for their huge failure in doing what we did as citizens. Every attempt to save the auditorium was done by concerned citizens.”

Garza then listed the achievement of the concerned citizens.

“We reached out to attorneys who started an injunction to stop Mission school district from demolishing Roosevelt Auditorium. We found all the holes in the city ordinance that failed to preserve Roosevelt. We found the mistake in the ordinance that said six council members were needed to stop a demolition when Mission only has four, plus the mayor. We found the mistake in the ordinance where Bell County is listed instead of Hidalgo County,” Garza said.

“What a joke that ordinance is. Who wrote it? Who proof read it? Obviously not the Historic Preservation Commission. Subcommittees are not formed to do the work of a commission. The commission should be educated. They should have training. There was training offered last Tuesday. They didn’t attend that training. But yet they want to form subcommittee so that the citizens who have the knowledge can do all the work for them. Absolutely not. We will not drink their Kool-Aid.”

Garza said a group of concerned citizens did more in two weeks than the Historical Preservation Commission should have done in the last two years. 

“They had two years to figure out how to save Roosevelt Auditorium because they are a preservation commission. But they only met because we turned up the heat.”

Garza added that he and other concerned citizens are thinking of setting up their own historical preservation society to preserve and protect Mission’s history.

Faulty map

One member of the Mission Historical Preservation Commission who has sympathy for the concerned citizens group is Julie Saenz.

Saenz said the Mission Historical Preservation Commission was never consulted by Mission City Council over a decision to cut the city’s Historical District in half.

In 2015 the Historical District was shrunk to make it easier for the City to grant planning permission to developers. But, as a by-product, historic buildings south of the railroad tracks were no longer protected by the City.

As a result, the city’s preservation ordinance did not apply to the nationally listed Roosevelt Auditorium. So, when Mission CISD sought a permit from the City of Mission to demolish the building there was no ordinance in place to prevent the school district from doing so.

Now, Mission City Council is revamping its preservation ordinance so that other nationally listed buildings south of the railroad tracks do not get demolished. The City Council particularly wants to save the Rio Theater, La Lomita Mission, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, and the Mission Pump House. 

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Saenz said she was saddened to see Roosevelt Auditorium demolished. 


Editor’s Note: The above news story is the second in a two-part series about a recent meeting of Mission Historical Preservation Commission. Click here to read and listen to Part One. 

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