PT Receives $10,000 Grant from National Trust for Old First Baptist Church in San Marcos

Preservation Texas has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Fondren Fund for Texas of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to complete a preservation plan and engineering assessment of the Old First Baptist Church, an African-American landmark in San Marcos constructed in 1908.

Preservation Texas has retained Post Oak Preservation Solutions and Sparks Engineering, Inc. to undertake this project.  The preservation plan will guide the use of a previously-awarded Partners in Preservation grant of $150,000 from the National Trust and American Express for the stabilization of the church.

The church as it appeared in 1918. Calaboose Museum Collection, San Marcos Public Library.

Established in 1866, the congregation has a long history.  The 1908 church is its third sanctuary, located at MLK and Comanche Streets in San Marcos’s locally-designated Dunbar Historic District. The roofline was altered in 1927, with additional exterior alterations made in 1951 and interior remodeling in 1953 at a time when the church served as a Civil Rights-era meeting place.  The large frame church is raised on a tall masonry foundation, in part to mitigate flood impacts from nearby Purgatory Creek. It has been vacant since 1986 when the congregation moved to a new building.

The church as it appeared in 1966. Centennial program, San Marcos Public Library.

Today the building is suffering from years of water intrusion, particularly in its northwest tower. Stabilization will require repairs to the tower, roof, and foundation.

An aerial view of the church in 2018, reflecting alterations made in 1927 and 1953. Photograph by Patrick Melon, courtesy of San Marcos Main Street.

In 1953, the women of the church raised the funds to commission a local artist, Marian Kyle, to paint a mural of the River Jordan above the baptistery.  The long-term protection and restoration of this mural will be an important part of the project.

In 1953 the women of the church commissioned this mural above the baptistery depicting the River Jordan.