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Cape’s Dam has been badly battered by floods over the decades. Daily Record file photo

Cape’s Dam, old church focus of group’s efforts

Historic Preservation
Sunday, August 5, 2018

It’s often said preservation begins through storytelling. It helps keep alive great things that have shaped our country — our communities. Go a little deeper and you’ll find people taking it to another level, out of the realm of rhetoric and into action to save and preserve certain buildings or artifacts.

Following Thursday night’s San Marcos Historic Preservation Commission meeting, it’s clear the time for preservation is at hand.

Kate Johnson, chair of the Hays County Historical Commission, addressed the commission during public comments and asked they include the preservation of Cape’s Dam as part of their goals and objectives.

“As you’re likely aware, the dam, mill race and other associated features were nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 as a historic district,” Johnson said. “The nomination was approved by the Texas Historical Commission – (THC) and the National Park Service. But one private property owner objected — thus preventing its official listing.”

She said she was certain the commission would agree their first goal would be to identify and prioritize historic resources and should include all of those properties eligible for the National Register.

“The THC has formally stated Cape’s Dam remains eligible, “Johnson added.

“Your second stated goal to expand the protection of historic resources should include resources along the San Marcos River, the very lifeblood of the city.”

Johnson said Cape’s Dam fulfills their objective to fill in the gaps in existing districts.

“Built in 1867, it is the last surviving example of San Marcos’ earliest industrial development,” Johnson said. “At one time, the San Marcos River was lined with dams that milled wheat and corn to feed its people; milled lumber and shingles to house them; and ginned cotton to provide the first cash crop for the area. The river provided the earliest economic development for the city — even before the arrival of the railroad.”

She said today, the river continues to provide recreation and tourism and that even Cape’s Dam and its mill race continue to contribute to this economic development by providing a pathway for canoers and swimmers.

“Finally, Cape’s Dam also contributes to your third goal to promote historic preservation through outreach and education,” Johnson said. “The support of preservation organizations for saving Cape’s Dam have included the San Marcos Heritage Association, the Hays County Historical Commission, the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Rivers Protection Association and the Texas Historical Commission. It has also raised awareness and led to historic dams statewide being listed on the Most Endangered Places by Preservation Texas.”

There are ongoing discussions about renovating the old First Baptist Church. Daily Record file photo

Kurt Waldhauser, owner of the historic First Baptist Church located at the intersection of MLK and Comanche followed, requesting historic landmark status for the church building, a privately-owned piece of property.

“I believe it’s one of the most important buildings in the city,” Waldhauser said. It’s also one of the most neglected in the city.”

Waldhauser said the original location of the church was burned down in 1876 by the Ku Klux Klan.

“It took decades before members of the church rebuilt,” Waldhauser said.

“Historic preservationist James Nolan, originally from Charleston, S.C., once referred to the building as the grandest African American Church in Texas. It’s our goal to restore this building to its former grandeur and to honor the community that built this building.”

The commission will discuss the significance of both locations at its next meeting in September.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666