Historic Landmark Designation For Calaboose African American History Museum

Staff Reports

The City of San Marcos is considering a historic landmark designation for the Calaboose African American History Museum.

The designation went before the Planning and Zoning Commission on February 9 and approved it unanimously. 

According to staff, the building was originally built to serve as the Hays County jail in 1873; when a new jail was built 1884, located behind the calaboose, the subject property housed African American prisoners.

The property was designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1990.

Preservation Texas, under Executive Director, Evan Thompson, has provided the city staff with a report that details more of the site’s history as the location of the original Hays County Jail through the use of the existing building as a USO club; attached as background.

The building, a contributing structure to the Dunbar District, is now home to the Calaboose African American History Museum, founded by longtime San Marcos resident, the late Johnnie M. Armstead, in 1997.

Alison Brake, Historic Preservation Officer, said the structure has been identified as a high historic property; the property that the city sees today was likely built in 1912-1922.

The historic landmark designation is slated to go before the City Council on Tuesday, March 2, at 6:00 PM for a public hearing.

Lisa Marie Coppoletta and Ryan Patrick Perkins, Chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, spoke in favor of the designation.

“There are some very important artifacts at that museum,” Coppoletta said. “Mr. Armstead was a steward of our community.”

Perkins said the significance of the site is important to the cultural heritage and the cultural landscape of the City of San Marcos.

“What is important here is that we are recognizing this site as a landmark for the City of San Marcos and its citizens,” Perkins said. “It’s been a landmark in many of our minds for quite some time, and this is just an official way for the city of San Marcos to recognize it.”

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