Main Building at Our Lady of the Lake University

San Antonio, Texas

Award Type: Honor Award

When the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence received land to create Our Lady of the Lake University in the 19th century, its founders envisioned fulfilling their mission to educate the poor in “a beautiful Gothic chapel with twin spires pointing up to the blue Texas sky.” But in 2008, when a four alarm fire devastated the University’s historic Main Building, that vision appeared to have gone up in flames.

However, the school’s community, which boasts one of the nation’s highest percentages of Hispanic students, gathered the very next day to launch its REBUILD, RESTORE, and RENEW program. Their assignment: not only reconstruct the San Antonio landmark, but also redefine the Main Building as a center of campus and community life.

Preservation efforts included interior and exterior restoration. The building reopened in 2011, and the Main Building’s iconic twin spires are once again a symbol of pride and hope for students and the surrounding community.

“While each is unique, this year’s outstanding Honor Award winners all reflect the importance of protecting what is special and irreplaceable,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “Whether it’s the restoration of an iconic post office in Philadelphia or the transformation of a Greyhound bus station into a Civil Rights museum in Montgomery, this year’s Honor Award winners demonstrate how saving places is bolstering local economies and creating jobs in communities across the country.”