The old Hays County Jail on Fredericksburg Street, soon to be restored. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
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.Email | Print