Texas Community Comes Together to Plan the Revival of a Historic African-American Church

New owners, a revitalized community and a commissioning board have come together to honor and restore a significant part of San Marcos history: the Old Baptist Church.

When the Old Baptist Church’s current owner, Kurt Waldhauser, acquired the property last year, he was unsure of its history and future. Originally, he had considered demolishing the boarded-up church, thinking it had remained closed and untouched for too many years to seem particularly significant. However, as he and his wife began researching its background, they learned it’s importance to the history of San Marcos.

According to Waldhauser, the original Old Baptist Church was actually built in 1868 elsewhere in San Marcos. Shortly after its opening, the building was burned to the ground by the Ku Klux Klan. Thirty years later, it was rebuilt in its current location.

“We knew we needed to do whatever we could to save the structure,” Waldhauser said. “We don’t know how it’s going to happen, we don’t know how it’s possible to do it, but we know it needs to be done. That’s what we’re working toward.”

Ramika Adams, board member and treasurer of the Calaboose African American History Museum, is one of the people leading the church’s preservation efforts.

“The wonderful thing is that when it was rebuilt, the new church was even grander than the one that was burned down,” Adams said. “In rebuilding, the community of that time was saying, ‘You’re coming to take us down, but we’re coming back bigger and badder.’”

According to the U.S. Census, San Marcos currently has an African-American population of only 4 percent. At one point, however, a major African-American community thrived in the Dunbar neighborhood surrounding MLK Drive. From barbershops to restaurants and insurance agencies, Adams said it was a flourishing community until gentrification forced many of them out of San Marcos in the middle of the 20th century.

The church’s preservation project centers around honoring the rich history, while simultaneously turning it into a space where a new community can thrive.

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Source: Texas State University Star