San Marcos community mourns the destruction of historic building


Photo Courtesy of Ryan Patrick Perkins

The Old Telephony Company Building was built in 1928 and served as a workplace for generations of San Marcos residents.

Sierra Martin

The Old Telephone Company Building, located on 138 W. San Antonio St., began its demolition June 15 to make way for a residential building, leading many San Marcos locals and preservationists to voice their concerns for the urbanization of the city.

The Old Telephony Company Building was built in 1928 and served as a workplace for generations of San Marcos residents. In 1983, the uniquely built Spanish colonial revival architecture was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. It is one of the several buildings in the area being demolished to make room for San Marcos Lofts I, a $15 million development.

The telephone company was one of the first in the city to employ women and oversaw the communication of San Marcos.

Diana Baker, the former chair of the San Marcos Historic Preservation Commission and lifetime preservationist who helped organize the funeral march to commemorate the loss of the building, believes it is important for cities to maintain buildings of historical significance in order to tie people back to their ancestors.

“Historic buildings are tangible evidence of this town’s history and when you tear that down, it’s gone,” Baker said. “There is no window to the past where we can learn from our history. These old buildings tell the story of this town, and they shouldn’t be torn down so developers can make money.”

In response to the demolition, an emergency meeting was called by the San Marcos City Council Thursday, June 27, to discuss issues related to the destruction of historic structures. Following the meeting, the city will now issue a demolition review period for structures over 80-years-old to facilitate a conversation between the San Marcos community and developers. If the review period is not accounted for, the developers could face up to a $2,000 fine.

Ryan Patrick Perkins, contractor and member of the San Marcos Preservation Commission, has a rich ancestral connection to the city. His fifth great-grandfather was General Edward Burleson, founder of San Marcos and Austin.

Perkins had five generations of family work at the Old Telephone Company, causing him to indicate the importance of historical structures in the city and ways to rehabilitate, reuse or relocate them.

“It’s important that our city council and city government is finally realizing the people of this community are okay with growth and development and understand we need jobs, but also want our city leaders to respect our community at the same time,” Perkins said. “That means hanging on to some things we identify with and places where we create memories. What happened last week is the most significant step forward for historic preservation in the City of San Marcos’ history. It’s something people have been working on for decades, just to have the city to understand that we need a delay if we are going to tear something down at the very least. So, we can have a discussion and facilitate a dialogue between the community and the property owner to let them know how significant it is.”

Cody Couch, manager of Cody’s Restaurant in San Marcos agrees with the decision to tear down the Old Telephone Company building and thinks it will bring growth and prosperity to downtown.

“We want more people to live, work, and play downtown. By tearing down the building that was doing little to give back to the city and building something that will provide multi-family living, I think it was a good choice. The growth of population downtown will also help bring exposure to restaurants and businesses in the city center,” said Couch.

However a listing in the National Registry of Historic Places is insignificant in the city’s Land Development Code, the city’s own preservation committee was blindsided by the demolition. Perkins was not notified of the demolition by the city or the preservation committee and found out via a phone call from a member of the San Marcos community.

Perkins said he understands the importance of maintaining a community that understands its influence and appreciates historical significance.

“We need to start saving our places and our spaces,” Perkins said. “Our neighborhoods, our culture, our unique identity (is important). We can be anything we want to be, so why not be creative and have a vision. Let’s figure out how to leave the legacy to our future generations better than we found it.”

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