History Untold: St. Paul Square holds memories for daughter of former hotel owner

April 19, 2023
Jessie Degollado

SAN ANTONIO – When Suzanne Smith’s father and uncle first came to San Antonio from Bay City in the 1940′s, she said, “Things were rolling and popping, and this was the place to be.”

The place was East Commerce, the main street of what is now the St. Paul Square Historic District, just east of Interstate 37 and San Antonio’s tourist mecca downtown.

“Everything up and down the street was pretty much Black-owned businesses,” Smith said. “This was our San Antonio.”

Despite the barriers of segregation back then, Suzanne Smith said her father, Pinkie Smith, was determined to go into business for himself and be successful.

Smith said her father went from a job as a chauffeur to becoming the manager of the Cameo Theater, a segregated movie theater at the time.

From his vantage point, Smith said her father saw opportunity in the building across the street from the Cameo.

He went on to open the Deluxe Hotel there, and her uncle had a drug store at the corner of the building.

The Deluxe had a soda fountain, a dining room and a lounge, Smith said.

“Everybody came to the Deluxe, especially because of the Cameo,” she said.

Smith said it made for a perfect night out, “A nice meal, a nice evening, you know, go to see a movie.”

She said her father also owned two motels, one of them was named after Pinkie Smith’s youngest daughter.

“So all my friends called me Suzanne Motel,” Smith said.

The other was the Ritz Motel, which has since been torn down. It was listed then in the Green Book, a guide to places accepting of Black travelers.

Smith said when Black entertainers came to San Antonio, they stayed at her father’s establishments since other hotels were segregated.

But when desegregation became the law of the land, Smith said, “That opened up opportunities for people to go anywhere they wanted to, and they did.”

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Historic St. Paul Square offers a variety of parking options, including self and valet parking in four surface lots and the Baldwin Garage, in addition to street parking.

Valet Parking is available Thursday and Friday Evenings, Saturdays and special event days.

TEXT/SCAN to Park Rates
• 0 to 30min = FREE
• 31min to 1hr = $2.00
• 1 to 2hrs = $4.00
• 2 to 4hrs = $6.00
• 4 to 10hrs = $10.00

Baldwin Garage Rates
• 0 to 1hr = $2.00
• 1 to 2hrs = $4.00
• 2 to 4hrs = $6.00
• 4 to 10hrs = $10.00
• 10 to 24hrs = $20.00
• First 2hrs Free with Validation**

*Rates subject to change on event day
**Validations available at the following SPS establishments:
Beauty Haus, Cellar Mixology, Cuishe, Francis Bogside, Lilly’s Greenville, Suck It Kitchen Toro Kitchen + Bar, Vice Versa.

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