Groundbreaking set for San Benito’s new museum

SAN BENITO — After years of planning, the groundbreaking for the San Benito Cultural Heritage Museum will take place today.

The future guitar-shaped building will not just be a plan but an actual building once crews start the job.

Since about 1995, city leaders such as Tootie Madden, vice president of the San Benito Historical Society, have planned for a museum to showcase the city’s rich history.

Along the way, organizers have overcome major setbacks in their project to house the Freddy Fender Museum, the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum and the San Benito History Museum.

Now, the city is making plans to break ground on the $1.7 million project.

Everyone is urged to attend.

The event will take place at 4 p.m. at 201 E. Heywood Street, the location of the new museum.

City commissioners have entered into a contract with Jones Construction of Weslaco to build the 6,932-square-foot building on 2.18 acres at San Benito Plaza, near the Community Building and the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center.

To fund the project, the city will use a $1 million EDA grant and about $700,000 set aside from its general fund.

The building will allow the Freddy Fender Museum, the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum and the San Benito History Museum to expand their exhibits.

Since 2008, the three museums have shared a 1,000-square-foot area in the city’s Community Center.

In 2001, Rey Avila launched the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum inside his home. Avila has also been a major proponent of the new museum.

For years, Avila has stored artifacts dating to the city’s heyday as a recording center for conjunto pioneers like Narciso Martinez, the master accordionist from La Paloma.

In the new museum, Avila’s organization plans to display a replica of the city’s legendary Ideal Recording Studio, complete with the company’s original record presses.

The road to a new museum hasn’t always been easy; there were several hurdles to climb.

In 2013, the project was moved to a 9-acre site along the resaca, where the city used a $1.2 million federal grant to help buy the land at 500 Business 77.

But officials scrapped those plans after realizing original grant specifications required the museum be built at the Heywood Street site.

Plans call for construction of a building designed in the shape of a guitar.

A guitar-shaped entrance will front Heywood Street.

City officials are counting on the museum to draw tourism to the city, considered by many to be the birthplace of conjunto music.

If You Go

What: Groundbreaking for the San Benito Cultural Heritage Museum

When: Today, 4 p.m.

Where: 201 E. Heywood St., San Benito