Graffiti left at the scene led Fire Marshal Ken Bell to three local teens charged with setting a blaze that severely damaged the century-old fish hatchery building at San Marcos Plaza Park.
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Two boys, ages 14 and 16, and a 14-year-old girl are charged with arson and criminal mischief for setting the fire at about 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3. Bell said the teens effectively signed their name to the arson in the form of graffiti that was quickly traced back to the suspects. They were arrested Tuesday and have since been released to their parents.
The fire caused $75,000 to $150,000 in damage to the historic building, Bell said.
“It was a truly historic building, not a replication. The damage is severe,” Bell said.
Built in 1894-95, the dignified frame structure was constructed in a vernacular style adapted to local needs and available materials, Hays County architectural historian Lila Knight said. Its general proportions — and detailing like eave brackets and windows — suggest Italianate influences.
The Old Hatchery Building served as the administration office for the federal fish hatchery that opened in 1896 near the San Marcos River’s headwaters. The reflecting pools surrounding Texas State University’s present day Kellam building were part of the 25-acre hatchery.
The building was donated to the city of San Marcos in 1981 and moved across University Drive to its present location where it is rented out for events. The building was used for years as a polling place. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Texas Historic Landmark.
In 2009, a fire destroyed the former Lions Club tube rental building in City Park, just across the river from the Old Fish Hatchery Community Building. A new recreation hall built at the same location as its predecessor opened in October 2011.