San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 21st, 2009
Architect chosen for historic jail restoration

Managing Editor

An Austin-based firm with a history of preservation projects in Hays County will design the restoration of the old county jail, which has sat empty and deteriorating for decades on an overgrown lot on Fredericksburg Street in San Marcos.

Hays County commissioners today awarded an architectural contract to ClaytonLevyLittle, one of whose principals was the primary restoration architect for the 1856 Winters-Wimberley House in Wimberley and the 1880 childhood home of author Katherine Anne Porter in Kyle.

Constructed in 1884, the limestone Italianate-style building served as the county jail until 1936. In 1915, it was the site of the only legal hanging in Hays County when Benjamin Guerrero reputedly puffed on a cigar and said to the assembled crowd, “Fine show, no?” according to Preservation Commission member Jim Cullen.

The jail sits in San Marcos’ Dunbar Historical District and next door to the Calaboose African American History Museum.

“It’s been sitting there for so many years with no attention to it. It’s just so beautiful and once it’s restored, I think its going to be a great accompaniment to that historical district and to the county,” said Kyle resident Kate Johnson, the Hays County Historical Commission chair.

No dollar amount is yet attached to the award since the contract has not yet been negotiated. The Hays County Historical Commission has about $130,000 on-hand for the project, said county auditor Bill Herzog, $65,000 of which was appropriated by the commissioners court in 2006.

Another $50,000 was given by an anonymous donor through Preservation Associates, Inc., the company that bought the building in the 1990s, stabilized the foundation and mothballed it to await future renovation and reuse.

Johnson said the existing seed money will allow the commission to raise other funds through grants and private donations. She does not yet have an estimate on how much the larger project will cost.


PHOTO: An abandoned limestone building on Fredericksburg Street served as the conty jail from 1884 to 1936. Hays County commissioners have chosen an Austin architecture firm to begin the process of restoring the building.

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