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Old First Baptist Church receives $10,000 grant

The Old First Baptist Church of San Marcos has been given a grant of $10,000 grant from the Fondren Fund for Texas of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The church is a significant part of the Dunbar Historic District and local landmark that was constructed in 1908.  After receiving its status as a local landmark in 2018, the church was granted $150,000 upon winning the Partners in Preservation online contest.

Reports say the recent grant will be used to come up with a preservation plan for the historic building.

“We’re [Preservation Texas] focusing on African American historic resources and you know, have been aware of the church here in San Marcos for some time and we’re following up on the status of the 2018 grant that was awarded,” said Evan Thompson, executive director of Preservation Texas.

Preservation Texas in partnership with Post Oak Preservation Solutions and Sparks Engineering Inc. will complete the planning project, which will include the preparation of forms to be submitted to the Texas Historical Commission and National Park Service to determine the building’s eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s a critical step to getting that stabilization project going,” Thompson said.

While the church has only recently received grants, preservation efforts started long before then.

“In the late 1990s around 1997, we started what was called ‘Save Old First Baptist.’ That was the first effort to save the church,” said Elvin Holt, archivist at the Calaboose African American History Museum

“For decades The Old First Baptist Church played a vital role in the life and culture of the African Americans in the Dunbar Neighborhood as well as in the lives of a broad range of other people in San Marcos and vicinity,” as previously published in the “A Journey Through Time, A Millennium Edition,” issue of the Daily Record. “Erected in 1908 by the descendants of former slaves who organized the congregation in 1866, Old First Baptist is the oldest surviving public building in what was once the heart of African American Community in San Marcos.”

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The church over the years has been used for a number of significant events like a graduation ceremony venue for African-American graduates as well as a meeting place for the San Marcos chapter of the NAACP.

The congregation was first established in 1866 and its first renovations were in 1927, before 1953 which brought more drastic architectural changes.

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