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

February 8th, 2011
Future of Cephas House, Durham Park subject of Feb. 9 meeting


The city of San Marcos is holding a public meeting tomorrow on the planned renovations of the Ulysses Cephas House and the design of the adjacent Eddie Durham Park.

The Cephas House

The Cephas House is located at 217 West MLK Drive, in the Dunbar Historic District across from the Calaboose African-American History Museum. The structure is named for a previous owner, Ulysses Cephas, who was a prominent African-American community leader in the first half of the twentieth century.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the Dunbar Center, 801 W. Martin Luther King Dr. The city’s parks and recreation advisory board will also discuss the renovation project at their regular meeting 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15 at the Grant Harris, Jr. Building, 401 E. Hopkins.

Other meetings may be scheduled with the Calaboose Museum board, Hays County Historical Commission, and any other identified groups.  The city has established an email address, to receive comments or requests for information.

Cephas was a renowned blacksmith and musician, and acted as a go-between for the Klu Klux Klan and the city’s African-American population.  Son of former slaves Joe and Elizabeth Cephas, he was known throughout Hays County for his skill in shoeing horses and building superior wagons and farm implements His father, Joe, was a blacksmith from New Orleans who was brought to San Marcos as a slave in 1852 and became well known for his skills, talents he passed down to his son.

Ulysses Cephas’ importance to the community is commemorated with a Texas Historical Marker located on the site dedicated in 1989.

The city of San Marcos bought the property in 2003 with Community Development Block Grant funds. Stabilization of the foundation and roof and the removal of hazardous materials of the Cephas House will begin this year.

The city used additional Community Development Block Grant funds in 2003 to buy an adjacent tract, which will be the site of the Eddie Durham Park.

Eddie Durham was a pioneer in jazz and a native of San Marcos. Durham arranged Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood,” pioneered recording using one of the first amplified guitars, and his work with the electric guitar strongly influenced a generation of jazz artists.  The park will honor Durham.

Carter Design Associates was hired to provide architectural services to include phasing, working drawings, and specifications for the rehabilitation of the Cephas House, as well as a reuse plan. Stabilization for the project will include the foundation, roof and entry porches. TBG is the consulting firm hired to oversee the design and development of Durham Park.

In September 2010, the city held a community meeting to update the public and to gather input on the project. On Jan. 18, the city council approved a resolution approving a series of meetings with the public and identified stakeholder groups. These meetings will help shape the project as well as to help fulfill requirements for obtaining federal funding.

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