The San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission voted June 13 to deny the motion to expand the Lindsey-Rogers and Hopkins Street historic districts. The commission also recommended a historic resource survey be conducted before any development takes place.
The property in question, otherwise known as the Lamar School Annex, was previously owned by San Marcos CISD before its sale in 2014 to Guadalupe RE, LLC, a Philadelphia-based holding company owned by David Lerman of Philadelphia and Mark Berins of Houston.
Former SMCISD Superintendent Mark Eads negotiated the sale for after an updated land survey commissioned by the buyer found the land to be smaller than originally advertised, according to the San Marcos Mercury.
Since the purchase of the property, all development plans have been paused due to the historic significance of the site. According to SMCISD, the Coronal Institute, a Methodist High School, was built on the present site of the Lamar Annex in 1868. The Coronal Institute was a private, coeducational school that offered military training to boys.
In World War I, the government rented the school for use as a barracks and training grounds. Coronal remained open until 1918 before its sale in 1925 to the San Marcos School District, which then built the first San Marcos High School.
The San Marcos Historic Preservation Commission regards the Lamar School Annex property to be deserving of high priority status due to San Marcos High School being the first high school in Texas to desegregate.
Yancy Yarborough, San Marcos High School Principal in 1955, told Delena Tull of the San Marcos News in a 1987 interview, “integrating the high school was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career.”
James Baker, a resident of the historic district, spoke in favor of the expansion as he believes the history of the site should be respected. For most other historical sites around San Marcos, Baker believes “no substantial improvement to society” was offered compared to the decision to desegregate the San Marcos High School.
“Ancestor worship is great, but I ask you, what about the rest of our people,” Baker said. “With the vote to desegregate the high school on a hot summer night on August 9, 1955, followed by a peaceful, early desegregation, we have a story that makes all other historical markers in our city pale in comparison.”
Sue Cohen, a resident in the historic district near the Lamar School Annex Property, spoke in opposition to the expansion at the open forum. Cohen believes the expansion proposal is an attempt to limit and restrict the proposed development of the Lamar School property.
“Many of us believe the systems in place to guide growth and development are good,” Cohen said. “I trust our city leaders to make wise and thoughtful choices about development and not be swayed by the vocal minority against growth and development.”
Chair Jim Garber of the Planning and Zoning Commission called for a vote to deny the motion to expand with a recommendation that a historic resources survey be conducted and no expansion be considered until the survey is complete.
The City Council will consider this item July 5, according to the City Clerk.