McDonnell Hall Designated National Historic Landmark

McDonnell Hall was once the Community Service Organization, where Cesar Chavez began his ascent as a community organizer and leader. Photo Credit: Office of Supervisor Dave Cortese

East San Jose Building Was Meeting Place of Cesar Chavez and Labor Activists

Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission Chapel, also known as McDonnell Hall, the East San Jose meeting place where Cesar Chavez first learned community organizing, has become a National Historic Landmark.

The announcement was made on Wednesday, January 11, 2017, by Sally Jewel, U.S. Secretary of the Interior.  McDonnell Hall is one of 24 new National Historic Landmarks that will be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Located at 2020 East San Antonio Street in the East San Jose Mayfair Neighborhood, once called Sal Si Puedes (get out if you can), the building serves as the parish hall for Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and is owned by the Diocese of San Jose.

McDonnell Hall is nationally significant for its association with such key figures as Cesar Chavez, Fred Ross Sr., Herman Gallegos and the Rev. Donald McDonnell, an activist priest after whom the hall is named.  It was home for the Community Service Organization whose work helped to spur the emergence of Cesar Chavez as a community organizer, civil rights leader and labor rights leader between 1952 and 1962.

Santa Clara County commissioned the National Historic Landmark nomination under the leadership of Board President Dave Cortese and Supervisor Cindy Chavez. In partnership, the City of San Jose provided a grant to fund architectural analysis in support of the nomination.

“Giving McDonnell Hall this designation is a testimony to the important civil rights work that started here in the 1950s and continues here today,” said Board President Dave Cortese.

The nomination was championed by the late Rev. Deacon Salvador E. Alvarez, who led a broad coalition of stakeholders until he died in 2015. His wife, Sylvia, and daughter, Serena, continued to lead the efforts.

“McDonnell Hall is hallowed in the vein of other great American historical sites,” Alvarez once said. “Hallowed by the virtue of ordinary individuals who undertook necessary struggle and sacrifice for social justice and civil rights and who did it non-violently and led by faith.”