The iconic Hays County Courthouse, built in 1909, is a San Marcos landmark located in the middle of The Square. Many services are being phased out of the building as the courthouse is being relocated, moving jobs to other buildings in the city.
Recent construction may remove some of the services offered at the iconic 100-year-old courthouse in the center of The Square.
Because of increased staff numbers and modernization efforts, several of the departments within the historic Hays County Courthouse will be relocated to a larger building currently under construction.
The new government center is located on Stagecoach Trail, and is expected to be fully complete for a grand opening next year. County government offices around the San Marcos area will be consolidated to help ease efficiency.
The divisions expected to remain in the historic courthouse building are the Commissioners Court, the Historical Commission, the county judge and the Precinct 1 and 3 commissioners along with several other departments.
Debbie Ingalsbe, county commissioner Precinct 1, said the new government center will serve as a convenient “one-stop shop” for residents.
The justice center holds all of the courts and is a block away from the main courthouse. Ingalsbe said employees have operated in the structure for more than 11 years, despite its original intent to serve as a temporary unit.
“We are currently in buildings that are just inadequate,” she said. “We’re just totally out of space and have been for quite some time.”
Rodney van Oudekerke, retired San Marcos Police officer, said he put together a book on the history of the city. He said court was held in a log cabin before 1861, when the first courthouse was built.
Van Oudekerke said the building burned down seven years later and in 1871 the second edifice was constructed. He said damage from structural problems caused a third building to be built in 1883 and in 1908 the courthouse lost its top floor to a fire. C.H. Page and Bros. designed the fourth and current edifice for completion during 1909, he said.
“The courthouse really was the capital of the county and the courts, where judicial decisions were made and social gatherings took place,” van Oudekerke said. “In the days when that courthouse was built, counties took pride in showing off their buildings.”
Diana Baker, Historic Preservation commissioner, said she is concerned about whether commercial establishments will move into the soon-to-be abandoned government structures in the downtown area, including the annex and the records building.
Ingalsbe said the courthouse employees are going to work with the downtown association and city to make sure incoming businesses will conform to standards for a “successful and vibrant” region.
She said approximately $52 million is the final guaranteed maximum price to cover construction costs on the new government center. Furniture, fixtures and equipment added bring the project’s estimated overall total to approximately $63 million, she said.
“For about four years, we built and designated this building fund into the county budget,” Ingalsbe said. “We never had to raise taxes in order to build the facility.”
Van Oudekerke said he has mixed emotions about the new courthouse structure.
“Moving [the building] out there is not going to have the same impact that the one downtown did,” he said. “I’m happy we’re in a position that we’re able to do that, but I don’t think they should destroy the existing courthouse. It’s unique to Hays County.”
Ingalsbe said some of the divisions will begin transferring to the new location in November, such as the tax office. She said the majority of offices should be fully transitioned before the December holidays.