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

July 15th, 2009
Old Hays County jail in for restoration

The old Hays County Jail on Fredericksburg Street, soon to be restored. Photo by Sean Batura.

News Reporter

An almost-forgotten relic of 19th century Hays County will soon be getting a face-lift.

Hays County Commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously to hire Austin-based architectural firm ClaytonLevyLittle to restore the Old Hays County Jail, which will become a museum.

Hidden in plain view on Fredericksburg Street near the Courthouse Square in downtown San Marcos, the aged building is described by the Hays County Historical Commission’s website as “a two-story limestone block structure” in “the Italianate style.” ClaytonLevyLittle, to whom the county has agreed to pay over $100,000, will soon begin the process of stabilizing the old jail’s foundation.

Additional services outside the scope of the current restoration proposal would be purchased at the following rates: $175 per hour for senior partner, $125 per hour for partner, $105 per hour for project architect, $85 per hour for project manager, $75 per hour for intern and $55 per hour for clerical work.

“The benefit to the county will be having a county museum that will tell the story of Hays County,” Hays County Historical Commission Chair Kate Johnson said Tuesday.

Johnson said the historical commission will attempt to procure exhibits throughout the state for placement in the museum, in addition to items belonging to John Coffee “Jack” Hays, the Texas Ranger captain and military officer for whom Hays County is named. Other exhibits may feature other prominent historical persons associated with Hays County.

Johnson said it may be three or four years before the museum is open to the public. The museum’s working name is “The Jack Hays Museum,” though “The Hays County Museum” may yet stick.

“We wanted to make money for the Historical Commission, so…I think it would be kind of nice to have a little gift shop (in the museum),” Johnson said.

Johnson said it has yet to be determined whether a fee shall be required to access the museum.

The third of five county jails, the soon-to-be-museum was built in 1884 and used by the county until 1937, when the county moved inmates to a jail on the Guadalupe Street site of what is now Golden Fried Chicken. After that jail was demolished, the county housed prisoners at the current Uhland Road location.

County commissioners in 1884 ordered a jail built because of prisoner overcrowding — a problem that still plagues the county, which sends surplus prisoners to other counties and recently failed a state jail inspection.

Broaddus and Associates, hired by commissioners in April, is now analyzing the county’s overall space needs to determine whether a new jail should be built or the current one expanded. Broaddus also is in the process of right-sizing a county government center near Wonder World Drive, where most county offices may be relocated.

With the building of a government center in the next two years, Johnson said she hopes the historical commission can use a floor of the Hays County Courthouse for additional museum space. A provision of the county’s contract with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to restore the courthouse ten years ago required that the historical commission receive space at the courthouse. The contract has since expired, but not before the historical commission was mostly displaced to make room for another department.

“Because of limited space in the county, they took away our rooms and they put the Precinct 1 constables down there,” Johnson said. “I think, initially, it was because they had mold problems in the Justice Center. And they were having family court here (in the courthouse) and so they said, ‘Just temporarily, we’ll bring (the Constable Pct 1 Office) over here. It’ll be easier to do family courts.’ Well, now family court is no longer here, and they haven’t moved out yet.”

Johnson said the historical commission still has an office in the courthouse, though she cannot access it without making arrangements in advance, such is the intensity of competition for space among the various offices in the building.

“One of my thoughts has always been to somehow turn one of the (courthouse) floors into more of a historical museum-attraction for the downtown area,” Hays County Judge Liz Sumter (D-Wimberley) said Tuesday.

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15 thoughts on “Old Hays County jail in for restoration

  1. My great-grandfather Oscar Payne acquired this property after the county moved out in 1937. As a local contractor, he used the building and land to store his supplies and trucks. After his death in 1972, the jail passed on to his widow (& my great-grandmother) Bea Payne. Later it passed to my grandmother, Dottie Sims. Over the years, generations of my family have developed a special bond, and hold a special place in their heart, for this beautiful and historical landmark. My mother and grandmother both have many fond memories of spending time with Oscar at the old jail, and later remember the filming of “The Getaway” inside the building. My sister and I have childhood memories of acting as amateur tour guides to curious passersby, friends & relatives; and of the Jaycees using it for their annual “haunted house” during the Halloween seasons. As a kid, I will never forget how it made for one very scary, & creepy, haunted house! Over the years the building and grounds slowly surrendered to time and the elements. When my grandmother sold it in the late 1990s I know it was one of the hardest decision she ever made, but, it was important to her that it went into the hands of the right person(s); someone who would take care of it and could bring it back to life for future generations to enjoy and treasure. I know I speak for her and the rest of my family when I say we’re very pleased to see this beautiful piece of our community’s history receive the care and attention it truly deserves. -Ryan Patrick Perkins

  2. thank you Mr Ryan for sharing this nice piece of your family’s personal history about this place.

  3. I’m Ryan’s mother and I have to make a correction: The film set in the latter mid 70’s was for the movie “Leadbelly” a biopic based on the life of blues musician, Huddie Ledbetter, directed by famous photographer, Gordon Parks (lovely man by the way). The old jail was also known for “housing” two of the famous Newton gang. Two of the brothers came back in the latter 70’s and went back down to re-visit the jail where they had spent some time and we got to walk through with them and hear their stories. One of the brothers held my great-grandmother at gun point during a robbery of the bank, she was a night switchboard operator at the phone company on San Antonio street. So you see there is a lot more history to that old jail that should be told and preserved. It would also make an incredible artist studio on the upper floors, the lighting is beautiful, such a waste not to be using it in some capacity. By the way, my grandmother, was a child when Benjamin Guerrero was hung. She and her friends climbed the fence to watch the hanging, when he dropped through the floor she said they all were shocked and fell off the fence and had nightmares for months. She always said she never got over it, it made a huge impact on her. When I was a child I made lots of mud pies upstairs and the stairs lead my friends and I into other worlds. It’s a great place with a lot of history. It needs to house something fabulous!

  4. “$75 per hour for intern and $55 per hour for clerical work” … wow, I bet most taxpayers would like to see our county pay lower rates, good grief!

  5. prior poster obviously do not know much about present day rates and how companies charge for services. billing rate is usually 4 times what the employees hourly rate they get paid is. Office rent, insurance all that other stuff of keeping a business up and running costs that clerical worker is making 13.75/hr

  6. Andy…what??? ….that’s bull… no way it costs 4x employees hourly rate… go back to economics school dude.
    btw, I’ve owned 3 successful businesses and made payroll on those for 20 years so I know what I’m talking about…
    Just like everyone in business knows that you can make a good profit on so-called “shipping and handling” charges, which in many cases exceed real costs considerably. Fact check that—CNBC has run more than one special with interviews of leading businesses discussing that exact point.

  7. standard industry practice. companies charge a billing rate for the services of a employee that is 4 times what the employees gets paid.

  8. Andy is right. This is sometimes called a multiplier and I have seen it between 3 and 4 times the salary rate. Theoretically, the larger the company, the lower the multiplier should be.

  9. This is particularly true of professional service firms with few equally-qualified competitors. There are only a handful of preservation/restoration firms in the state capable of working on this type of building. That number includes salary, benefit value (often equal to the salary), building leases, errors & omissions/general professional liability insurance (which can be very pricey in professional service related to construction trades), etc.

    That said, the $75 and $55 still seem too high. I would have expected something more along the lines of $60 and $40.

  10. Its a cool building that deserves to be renovated, in an ideal world, anyway. Back here in reality we have larger issues that are more worthy of county funds. Considering that the jail is in the middle of San Marcos, the city is more likely to get a financial benefit from it becoming a museum, much more so than the county will. Is the City ponying up any money? Has the county bothered to ask? Is this another example of capricious spending on a poorly thought out project with little return to county residents? I don’t know, but I hope someone is taking the time to consider these things. As for the cost, has the county sought grants to cover it? The fees charged by the consultant are steep, but as gh notes above, they can pretty much charge whatever they want.


  12. The County IS pursuing grants for the restoration of the building. Thus far, the initial money the county has put into the project has been matched one-to-one with private funds. And the building itself was donated to the County – not sold. The Hays County Historical Commission does a great job for the County. And they do a fabulous job of fund-raising. Commissioners Court should do more to recognize their efforts and the leadership of Kate Johnson (ps – I am not on the Co Historical Commission so I am not tooting my own horn).

    Don’t freak out yet.

  13. As I told Ryan at the Chamber mixer on Thursday, I am very glad to see this move forward. When our historic buildings are gone, they are gone (keen grasp of the obvious). The “beef” I have is with us not sharpening the pencils better on getting the most for our precious hard-earned limited supply taxpayer money ($75/hr for interns, $55/hr for clerical, seriously, I know we can do better). Having said that, I also believe the Hays County Historical Commission, working with and through other entities, all combined can make this happen in a quality way.

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