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

July 28th, 2010
Letter to the editor: Save the First Baptist Church

To the editor:

As the chair of the Hays County Historical Commission, I am confused at the level of misinformation that the City of San Marcos is spreading about an important structure in the Dunbar Historic District. The First Baptist Church is a focal point in this very important African-American neighborhood. We realize that this building is not in the best of shape, but neither is the old county jail, which, by the way, looks worse than the church across the street.

I am appalled at the city’s lack of caring and loss of pride in a neighborhood that in years past was a vibrant and strong community. Generations of families have made this area their home and their church was a part of their life as we value our churches of today. As in every neighborhood, there is always change. And this church will be a extension of this neighborhood by being transformed into a new function, a community center. Though a different vocation, nonetheless a vital one because as things change, warm and familiar as this building is, it brings people back to their roots and a longing for stability.

That is why tearing down this church makes no sense to me. We need to come together to insure that the tearing down will never be an option. In the years to come, our hope will be that the community center will be on its way to being restored, the old county jail will have been restored and all of the people in San Marcos will take pride in their total community.

I appreciate this opportunity to say my words to you all. Take the time to review this carefully and seek out your fellow citizens before you make this important decision.

Thank you.

Kate Johnson
Hays County Historical Commission

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0 thoughts on “Letter to the editor: Save the First Baptist Church

  1. The City made a half-ass effort “back when.” About the same time as the discussions on the old First Christian Church (Price Senior Center) was moving to the center of a community scuffle. Gave a little money and some encouragement to the OFBC preservationists, too, but just to keep it standing there.

  2. Thank YOU Ms. Johnson. We did a video report called the “Blight Which Project?” earlier this year and documented these houses on the Southside. You will be shocked to see how long some of these houses have been condemned. And, you will be pleased to know after our Citizen Journalism report was uploaded four (4) of those houses were demolished. They just started on another one. Best Regards, LMC

  3. Where can we find out more about the plans for the church? (both the City’s and the neighborhood’s)

  4. Dr. Elvin Hayes, TxState (English ?). Ollie Giles. Rose Brooks. Collette Jameson (City), Rodney Bless His Heart Cobb. Lorraine Burleson. Jane Hughson (?). Past leaders of the Church. Not much “following the bread crumbs” or “networking” required–just ask. But be ready to filter some pretty strong opinions.

  5. The church is owned by the church. Dr. Elvin Holt has the keys represents the group.
    The City owns the Cephus (sp?) House next door and the adjacent lot.
    The Jail is owned by the County.
    The Calaboose is owned by the City but run by the Calaboose Board.
    “Not much networking here at all” is right, Mayor.

  6. Sorry, Elvin. I know better. I just like to see really worthy business get done faster. Or scrapped, rather than being left to rot. Elvin Hayes is only a runner, and attracts support just by running. You are a real person.

  7. It begs the question, why are there so many homes on the Southside that are condemned? And, where are our commissions and local elected officials? I sure do see candidates each election cycle walking door-to-door for the votes that reside in these precinct locations. And, more specifically why has the Historical Commission here in San Marcos, not stepped in regarding those homes located in the Dunbar area? A side note, we had one citizen who is a retired resident who lost an eye due to street conditions in Dunbar. I have spoken with neighbors who have problems with paint color “issues,” aka Historical Commission; certainly buildings over run with rats should be of greater concern for safety. If we were using “color branding” as a safety issue, then those banners downtown would be pulled over and given a ticket. Blight in Dunbar, as well as Victory Gardens is akin to environmental racism, an equivalent in harm to quality of life and safety to building over an Aquifer in my book. Where was newstreamz during last year’s run off, when myself and other citizens spoke out against that development? And, yes Dr. Holt Rules!!! Perhaps we as a community could host a fundraiser to bring out our collective history to share with other residents and visitors. I volunteer vegetarian tamales. Fastest masa spreader this side of West San Antonio, learned my skills from my neighbors in “The Vick.”

  8. This issue, which seems to have blown past like a leaf in the wind, made me think. (No! You can do too much of that! We’ve told you that over and over! Hair may grow on your palm!)

    Truth to say, the truest Heritage of our town is that of a plantation society, although it is certainly not all wrapped in that pesky “race” thing. There is a lot more. Ask the dark-skinned and the lighter-skinned descendants of the esteemed Burleson legacy.

    But then, thinking further, we share that with the entire country. George and Tom and the gang reading their history, their Bibles, and their phlosophers, figuring out how to get out from the oppressive yoke of European style monarchy, and all. And they were able to do that, and had the contemplation time for how to go about it, ONLY because they had the cheap labor on the farm to provide them with the means. And we now claim to be any different? ( I read the daily news!) Have we carried it on too far? Or can we make it even MORE efficient? And what about the growing desperation of those who can’t even be employed on the farm, especially the ones who used to have a slot?

    Check out those narrow, deep lots in the Hysterical Districts, with the grand manors on the front, and who knows what on the back, toward the Creek bottom. Very rich history there, indeed. The old FBC is part of it. Lila K, where are you? What does the statue of old “Gabby” Hays on the Square (for so he may have been known to friends) represent, really? Is this OFBC thing just another political issue?

  9. I remember from the late 1950s and early ’60s going to the Church for turkey dinners on Sundays after our own segragated church services a few blocks to the north. I can’t recall, but it seems they were held periodically in the basement the entry to which was to the east of the main stairway to the sanctuary. Dora and Boy Dog, a large German shepherd, would come by our house on Hillcrest Street to sell tickets and my parents always bought them. Dora and Boy Dog always came to the back door of our house although we told her it was okay to come to the front.

    Those dinners were wonderful. I would see many of my teachers there–Calvin Smith, Yancy and Merle Yarbrough, Ethel Read–and that was a leveling sort of thing. But it was not leveled to the extent that our hosts felt free to join us at the table. Those teachers are gone now but my Mother, Sister, Wife (baby sat by the ministers wife) and I remain and I would dearly love to see the history of those gatherings carry forward in a restored Church building.

    Much has changed for the better–Dora’s successors come to the front door or I go to their house to buy tickets, the Church congregation joins us to enjoy the meal together, maybe we switch roles and we serve the congregants, my former church now welcomes all.

    Another writer to this paper speaks of natives leaving this town and other just passing through. Some of the natives remain and wish to see some of these traditions remain while the heartbeat of this community still shows.

    Fran (a BISM) and I would contribute to refreshing those memories.

  10. The aging, but still obviously alert Bill Haney is another guy “I’d go down the river with.” Sometimes a pest, in the day, but always honorable, careful, steadfast, and in it for everybody. A true “citizen,” in the best sense of the word.

  11. The hearing for the Church is today (Friday, July 30) at 10:00 am at the Municipal Court Room No. 630.
    Come on out and support the Dunbar Neighborhood!

  12. Maybe the city can NOT give Paso Robles the $ 30, 000,000 tax incentive break and use some of the collected taxes from the wealthy golf course, gated community to help preserve this historically rich and established neighborhood.

  13. And by the way – there was a stay of execution this morning in the demolition hearing for the Old First Baptist Church. The city is going to do a “walk-through” with the Church Restoration Committee and identify all that needs to be done to continue the stay of execution.

    It would be really nice if the City/City leadership would step up to the plate and make some serious inroads into revitalizing this neighborhood.

    The County is working on the Old Jail with bids being accepted for the first phase of work right now. I am hopeful that we will see some changes in the near future. The City is also apparently planning on restoring the Cephas House. This ensemble of historic buildings (Cephas House, Calaboose, Old Jail and Old First Baptist Church) could be a showpiece for the City – with a little vision…

  14. If only there were some organization that could coordinate the 4 different entities to partner and put together a master plan…

  15. Well, it IS, as Mr. Haney and any number of others point out, a very significant part of our “Heritage.” Ohhhh, Roood-neeey! Mr. Van Oudekerke? Need a good distinguishing campaign issue? One you can own outright? Rodney Cobb might be good–he always is! Maybe even those accomplished enthusiasts at the BoR would be willing, no? Get Ms. Couch and civic-minded friends to front it for you at the City? Maybe our own Wizards of Oz could lend a voice from behind those flimsy curtains.

  16. Chris – I could be wrong about this, but I think a master plan for the whole area does exist. Richard Gachot has been working on it and I believe that TSU may have done one quite some time ago.

  17. From what I understand, the plan is for a community arts center. I would love to help in any way that is needed.

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