Texas Border Business
By Roberto Hugo González
Recently, the McAllen Heritage Center celebrated its 15th anniversary with a magnificent event. Among the attendees was a very special guest, Julianne Rankin. Rankin, the former city planner for McAllen, worked for 38 years before retiring in 2019. She has always been an integral part of the city’s development and was part of the city when the museum was conceived and brought to life.
The building that houses the McAllen Heritage Center is a building with a rich history. Originally a federal post office, it transitioned into different roles before becoming the city’s cherished heritage center. Rankin recalls the phase when the city, particularly then Parks Director Larry Pressler, recognized its historical significance and the need to preserve it as a beacon of McAllen’s culture and heritage.
Rankin recollects the challenges faced during the initial phases of setting up the museum. She credits individuals like Dr. Nedra Kinerk, Elva Cerda, and Rick DeJulio from Futuro McAllen, a non-profit group dedicated to improving the quality of life in McAllen, for advocating the importance of recognizing and preserving historical sites.
One of the significant efforts during this phase was the creation of a historical ordinance. The idea was to preserve old buildings and recognize their historical value, but the task was far from easy. Rick DeJulio, one of the advocates, initially presented an extensive, hundred-page ordinance, but it had to be simplified and condensed to make it palatable for the city commission. The adoption of the ordinance marked the start of the city’s commitment to the preservation of its history.
One of the most critical developments post-ordinance was the establishment of historical districts within the city and designations for historical properties. Javier Cervantes, a planner with the city, played a pivotal role in these initiatives.
Over time, the McAllen Heritage Center has grown and evolved. It has been molded into an exhibition space, meeting space, and event space. It has housed numerous artifacts, including some donated by Rankin herself, all telling the story of McAllen’s rich history.
When asked about her views on the current state of the museum, Rankin expressed her delight and pride. She praised the expansion plans and highlighted the significance of the museum’s downtown location, just like in many other big cities. Moreover, she applauded the efforts to maintain the façade of the historic building across the street, the old JCPenney building.
Rankin sees a bright future for the Heritage Center, envisioning more events, more people, and more engagement with the younger generation. Even in her retirement, she remains passionate about the city’s history and is eager to see more people excited about it.
Overall, the McAllen Heritage Center’s 15th-anniversary celebration was not just an event but a reflection on the city’s growth, a revelation of its historical essence, and a reaffirmation of its dedication towards preserving its rich heritage.