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The Aztec Theater's Near Death Experience

There is far more to the Aztec Theatre's story than just its future -- its past and architectural pedigree are nothing short of fascinating. I spoke to San Antonio Conservation Society’s Sue Ann Pemberton, who said its architectural theme is called Mayan Revival.

"It was constructed in 1926 as one of the thematic theaters of San Antonio" Pemberton explained. "The Aztec, the Mixtec, the Zapotec, the Toltec and the Mayan cultures were all revealed here in this theater."

She's referencing the architectural detail seen throughout the theater on its walls, ceilings and doorways. I spoke to her about going to the theater, and she described the experience.

"When you walk in and you’ve got these creatures and their eyes are lit up these statues are looking at you," Pemberton said.

I noted that, like walking into the Majestic Theater, it’s nearly impossible to walk in and not have the architecture act on you.

"Exactly! You’re transformed the minute you walk through the doorway," Pemberton said. "It’s like you’re taken into a different world."

In the 1980s, hard times hit the Aztec, which had gone through many iterations throughout the decades. It was in real danger of being condemned.

“The San Antonio Conservation Society actually purchased the building in 1988,” Pemberton said.

They protected the building until an interesting character appeared in San Antonio.

“Baron Theodore Bracht” Pemberton said.

Bracht, a Belgian businessman, purchased and restored the Aztec, completing it in 2006. But unfortunately "the market he was setting it up for never really took off," Pemberton said.

Which brings us to the current day owner Sam Panchevre, who has opened it as a live music and meeting venue. It’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s really the only example of Mayan Revival style theater in the state of Texas, and one of the few that remain in the nation" said Pemberton.

And now a revival about which San Antonians can feel proud.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii