VC’s Virginia Callan Welder Performance Annex earns national historic designation

Photographed by Dimitri Kessel for LIFE magazine, 1942 Former Bernhard Electric Building photographed by Dimitri Kessel for LIFE magazine, 1942, is now the Victoria College Virginia Callan Welder Performance Annex, located in downtown Victoria.

Victoria College’s Virginia Callan Welder Performance Annex, located directly behind the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Victoria, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service added the building to its official list on Jan. 25, 2024, making it the first building in Victoria to be added since 1992.

The former Bernhard Electric building, located at 103-109 W. Goodwin, was built in 1930 and acquired by the Welder Center in 2004. Victoria College acquired the properties in 2013.

After Hurricane Harvey significantly damaged the historic structure in 2017, rendering it unusable, VC engaged RMA Architects & Interior Designers (formerly Rawley McCoy & Associates) to address structural issues and develop a rehabilitation and renovation plan. Rehabilitation of the facility, named after Leo J. Welder’s wife, Virginia, began in 2019 as a part of VC’s 2016-2025 Facilities Master Plan.

Scheduled for completion by 2025, the project will transform the annex into office, rehearsal and performance space for events that overflow from the Welder Center. The space will accommodate up to 160 guests at roundtables or 300 individuals in auditorium-style seating.

“We are excited that the Virginia Callan Welder Performance Annex has been recognized for its historical significance,” said VC President Dr. Jennifer Kent. “This designation not only honors the building’s past but also ensures its future as additional space for those utilizing the Welder Center to rehearse, celebrate and gather in downtown Victoria.”

The initial structural survey and plans for rehabilitation were funded by a $10,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman's Emergency Grant. A $367,000 emergency supplemental grant from the Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Texas Historical Commission, funded 87 percent of the exterior rehabilitation. Sewer line replacement was funded in part by a $10,000 City of Victoria Façade Grant, and the O'Connor & Hewitt Foundation provided a matching donation supporting rehabilitative work on the exterior and interior of the building.