The city is restoring the historic home of Ulysses Cephas, a blacksmith and community leader at the turn of the 20th Century, with the goal of making it a focal point in the Dunbar Historic District.
The city purchased the house in 2002 with $43,799 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds after neighborhood residents expressed concerns that many of the original homes in the neighborhood were being demolished. The Cephas House is located at 217 W. Martin Luther King Drive, across the street from the Calaboose African American History Museum.
The Dunbar Neighborhood is the birthplace of jazz and swing composer and musician Eddie Durham (1906-1987) and the home of the city’s first African American residents.
The Cephas House renovations will include restoration of the exterior, some repurposing of interior rooms, and accessibility improvements.
Janis Hendrix, the city’s Community Initiatives Program Administrator, said the Texas Historical Commission has determined that the home is eligible for listing on the National Register, and that the rehab project is being managed as a historical renovation.
“Advocates for its preservation included the late Johnnie Armstead, founder of the Calaboose Museum, as well as local historians Ollie Giles, Richard Gachot and neighborhood residents,” Hendrix said.
The city anticipated using the house as an annex to the Calaboose Museum. Other uses discussed in meetings with stakeholders and focus groups included a cultural arts center that might incorporate information and/or artifacts regarding Cephas and Durham. The city will consider proposals for the use and possible lease of the Cephas House. The city council will determine its final use, taking into account the federal “strings” that come attached to a project funded with CDBG funding.
Artifacts from Cephas and his times are being preserved as the historic home undergoes restoration.
The project contractor, Cougar Construction LLC of Nome, Texas, has completed a number of historic renovation projects. Owner Richard Bates is performing much of the work himself. The rehab contract, including removal of lead-paint, is $231,000. Additional work to remove the asbestos found in the roof mastic will be performed by Robles Service Group of Cibolo at a cost of $8,500.
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