Heritage, Volume 9, Number 3, Summer 1991 Page: 18
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The Old San Antonio Road
By Frances Stovall
T he best way to know twentieth
century San Marcos is through a
tour of its homes and historic
buildings, and a visit to its river
where there are ghosts of towns that never
were to be.
A successful one was completed this
spring, the seventeenth annual Tours of
Distinction sponsored by the Heritage Association
of San Marcos. It was tied in with
the celebration of the 300th anniversary of
El Camino Real, or the Old San AntonioNacogdorhes
Today travelers, canoeists, and fishermen
replace attacking Indians at this historic
river crossing which has seen the
footsteps of the French and Spanish dating
back at least 300 years. San Marcos downtown
is not to be missed either. A Main
Street City, it has seen admirable preservation
in the past two years.
At the core of the tours sponsored by
the Heritage Association of San Marcos is
the emphasis on the relationship between
history and architecture. The houses
visited provide a window on the birth of
the town, the county, and the state.
The Heritage Association pays tribute
to the those who have gone before, having
a practical and practiced awareness of preservation.
Lamentations were many this
past year at the demise of a building, Carroll
Hall, the Old Main of the San Marcos
Academy, a 1909 Classical Revival building
intended for immortality but demolished
at the whim of administrators at
Southwest Texas State University. However
many handsome buildings and homes
remain in the pretty town.
Little did the organizers dream that a
historical tour created for the nation's bicentennial
would continue on for seventeen
years and develop into such a successful
event in 1991 and become a significant
event in the celebration of the tricentennial
of an old Spanish road.
It was around the theme The Old San
Antonio Road Comes Alive that the
Heritage Association of San Marcos
programmed its annual tour.
A poignant tie-in with the Old San
Antonio Road was the McGeheeWestover
House, the final family home of
a man who as a boy had lived on the Camino
Real at the low water crossing of the San
Marcos River. This route known as the Old
San Antonio-Nacogdoches Road is also
identified as the San Antonio-Bastrop
Road. John Francis McGehee, in the
1850's on his father's farm bordered by
both the Camino Real and the San Marcos
River, was an enterprising young man. He
with his brother George, fashioned yokes
and wagon spokes for the oxen-drawn
wagons of commerce that broke down as at
the rocky-bottomed crossing of the river.
The house at 803 West Hopkins Street
restored by Myra and Paul Westover was
the last home of the McGehee family who
earlier had built the most elaborate Victorian
house on Belvin Street, a residence
still pointed out to tourists who browse the
historical districts of San Marcos.
An elaborate mansion the early
twentieth century building designed by a
recognized San Antonio architect, Attlee
B. Ayers, was the primary drawing card.
Everyone locally went to see how its new
owner had reclaimed the home that in the
1920s had been the showplace of San
Built in the innovative Renaissance
Revival style, the Lloyd Gideon Johnson
House was the most fashionable home in
San Marcos in 1919. A disastrous fire on
the second floor disheartened the owners
and it was sold to local Masons in the 1930s
to become the Masonic Lodge for fifty
years. When Ron Graves bought it and
restored it in 1990 he restored its former
magnificent appearance throughout. A
second floor ballroom was reclaimed and
the fire damaged stairway replicated authentically
to become a true showpiece for
the tours this year. Its listing on the National
Register of Historic Places was but
an introduction to San Marcos' Belvin
Street National Register District.
Another imposing mansion included in
the tour is a house that is becoming recognized
as San Marcos' doll museum, the
Augusta Hofheinz House. It has been
restored by Millie and Stan Seaton at 1104
West Hopkins Street, the third floor renovated
as home to hundreds of dolls. The
house was built at the height of an affluent
period in San Marcos by the widow of an
1880s hotel keeper.
The three-story Hofheinz Hotel
downtown has recently been uncovered
with the restoration of the courthouse
annex, originally a 1909 bank building designed
in the classical revival style and
added on to the front of the 1880s Hofheinz
Hotel. Its present restoration through the
Hays County Historical Commission is the
most noteworthy restoration in San
Marcos and was the impetus for increased
downtown facade renovation through San
Marcos' Texas Main Street program. In
1989 it won the Texas Downtown Association's
award for the best public/private
venture in preservation.
Noted local craftsmen executed the
house for the hotel keeper's widow in 1909.
Well respected local carpenters, the Leffingwell
family, placed their distinctive
signatures in the oval stained glass window
on the east facade and on the elaborate
coffered ceilings within. It is famous for its
beautiful and distinctive leaded glass front
door imported from France.
Judge W.D. Wood's house built
originally in 1883 is the earliest remaining
Victorian home in town. Judge Wood
came to San Marcos shortly after the Civil
War and instead of continuing the practice
of law acquired much property-one a site
18 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1991
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 9, Number 3, Summer 1991, periodical, Summer 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45423/m1/18/: accessed January 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.