The old San Marcos Telephone Company building, sometimes called “the blue building,” is set to be demolished to make way for San Marcos Lofts 1, a multifamily development expected to be completed in 2020. Daily Record photos by Lance Winter
Residents mourn loss of historic downtown building
Preservationists in San Marcos are mourning the loss of a building on the impending National Register of Historic Places that is being demolished to make room for a multifamily development. As of mid-afternoon Thursday, the building was still standing, but a fence had been put up around it.
The old San Marcos Telephone Company building, sometimes called “the blue building” at 138 W. San Antonio St., was added to the National Register in 1983. According to the nomination form for the building, the San Marcos Telephone Company erected the Spanish-Colonial Revival building in 1928.
“The freestanding, flat-roofed office building of stuccoed brick is accented by peaked pilasters at its front corners, and a red, barrel-tile, pent roof that stretches about six feet beyond the front facade,” the application reads.
The local phone company moved into the building under the guidance of Walter Donalson, who was then president of the phone company. The San Marcos Telephone Company remained in the building until 1955, six years after the company was purchased by H.Y. Price.
The telephone building, the old Ozona Bank and other structures in that block between Hopkins and San Antonio Street are being demolished to make way for San Marcos Lofts 1, a multifamily development expected to be completed in 2020. According to a Facebook post by the city, the new building will be the first of a two-part multifamily complex that will have a total of 277 units with 385 bedrooms and more than 10,000 square feet of retail or office space altogether. The second part will be constructed on San Antonio Street on the site of the commercial strip where Gold Crown Billiards used to be.
The demolition of the old Ozona Bank building began earlier this week. The remains of the building are shown as crews continue to work on clearing the space.
Though the San Marcos Telephone Company building has a place on the National Register, that designation does not exempt it from demolition. Griffin Spell, chair of the San Marcos Historic Preservation Commission, issued a statement about local rules for the demolition of historically significant buildings.
“The property is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), but is not listed as a local landmark and is just outside the Downtown Historic District. The current owner of the building was contacted but indicated they would oppose any attempt to designate the property a local landmark,” Spell wrote. “The city’s Planning and Development Services staff has indicated they will not support any local landmark designation without the support of the property owner.”
A listing on the National Register “does not interact with the city’s Land Development Code (Code SMTX) in any meaningful way,” Spell wrote. Thus, the Historic Preservation Commission was not consulted about demolition or construction at or around the site.
“To the best of my knowledge, due to prior rules established with the SMART Code, the Planning and Zoning Commission was not involved in these decisions either,” Spell wrote.
Spell said that a demolition review period for historic resources has been discussed.
“This is a proposal that came out of the new My Historic SMTX Survey, and after discussion by the Historic Preservation Commission on June 6, there was a clear consensus to discuss this topic further,” Spell wrote. “The My Historic SMTX Survey is also moving forward, with formal adoption by the Historic Preservation Commission tentatively scheduled for July 11.”
The Daily Record has submitted a public records request and questions to the city to find out more about the San Marcos Lofts project.