Destination San Marcos, Texas
During digitization, the Digital Media Specialist suspected that the image above was of downtown San Marcos. He theorized that one of the buildings in this elevated view was the Hays County Courthouse, while another was the First United Methodist Church. He further theorized that the image was taken from Chautauqua Hill, were Old Main still stands today. This theory started us on our research path.
Close inspection of the elevated view shows that the building proposed to be the Hays County Courthouse does not resemble the courthouse as it stands in downtown San Marcos today. However, it does look like the Hays County Courthouse that F.E. Ruffini designed in 1882. The present courthouse's cornerstone (pictured above) verifies that Ruffini, out of Austin, was the architect of the prior structure, and that it was built by Donalson and Rogers, July 13, 1882.
Here are some images to help you see how we made our comparison. The first image is the image we saw at the beginning of this page, the elevated view. The second image shows a postcard image of the Hays County Courthouse from 1882. It is not the easiest comparison to make, but similarities in roof structure and window placement can be seen.
This image is another from the Central Texas Glass Plate Collection. It shows a building that is consistent with what we see in the elevated view. Comparing this image to the two allows us to conclude that they show the same building: The Hays County Courthouse in San Marcos, Texas.
The historical marker in front of the Hays County Courthouse provides a brief history of the four courthouse buildings, including its tendency to catch fire. In 1908, when the top floor of Ruffini’s courthouse was damaged by a fire, the building was razed and replaced by the present courthouse.
This research tells us that photographer must have exposed these negatives between 1882 and 1908. We have added a second data point, 1892-1908, to our timeline.