New City Landmark Honors Work of Priest With Cesar Chavez in East San Jose

McDonnell Hall, the original church for our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and setting for the 1950s farm labor movement, is now a City of San Jose Landmark.

Historic McDonnell Hall

The San Jose City Council approved the designation on Tuesday, November 29, noting that a coalition of federal, state and local leaders are lobbying for the building become a National Historic Landmark. The National Park Service is currently studying sites significant to the life of César Chávez and the farm labor movement in the West.

McDonnell Hall, 2020 San Antonio Street, is already included as a stop on San José’s César E. Chavez Memorial Walkway, which commemorates the San Jose sites that played a role in Chavez’s life.

Father Donald McDonnell was sent by the San Francisco Archdiocese to work with farm workers in East San José in the early 1950s in an area then called “Sal Si Puedes.” He organized a parish and became a mentor to César Chávez, who lived in the neighborhood from 1952 to 1955.

In October 1953, Chavez and other parishoners cut in half an old church that McDonnell had bought from St. Martin Church in the Burbank area of San Jose to move it to Kammerer Avenue, which is now the site of the Mayfair Community Center.

The church, originally known as Guadalupe Mission and later as Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, served as the primary site where Chavez and Father McDonnell served, educated and organized farm workers and other community members. In recent years, the building was renamed McDonnell Hall and relocated to its current site.

“The Chavez family is honored and grateful for the efforts of the Mayor and the City Council members for recognizing McDonnell Hall as a Historical Landmark,” Rita Chavez Medina, Cesar’s sister, said in a city news release.

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