Other Views from 1881

Where is San Marcos?

Above: Augustus Koch (1840–?). Bird’s Eye View of San Marcos in Hays Co. Texas, 1881. Lithograph. Size and lithographer unknown. Private Collection.

San Marcos in 1881

San Marcos was still a small, country town when Augustus Koch documented it in December 1880 shortly after the International-Great Northern Railroad, shown on the right-hand side of the print, connected it with Austin and San Antonio.[1] Anglo-American settlers had arrived at the site in the 1840s, and the city had developed as a regional milling and ginning center. Cattle and cotton had become its main products by 1870, but still there were only 742 persons counted in the census of that year.

As with most of Koch’s bird’s-eye views, the courthouse (1 on map) is the prominent building, shown here from the southwest. Built in 1871, this is the second Hays County Courthouse, which had to be razed a decade later because underground springs caused the ground to shift and weakened the foundation.[2] The Hofheinz Hotel (4), at the corner of Austin and San Antonio streets, is prominently featured, as is the two-story county jail (2) at the corner of Fredericksburg and Comal streets. When compared with the 1886 Sanborn’s map, it appears that Koch accurately represented the buildings on the north and east sides of the courthouse. He put a sign—“Malone’s Cheap Store”—on the building on the southeast corner of the square, which is labeled a general merchandise store on the 1885 Sanborn’s map. The building later housed Green’s Bank and is one of the few 1881 structures remaining in San Marcos today. B. W. Smith’s City Mills, on the San Marcos River, may be identified by the dark smoke churning from its smokestack, and San Marcos Springs, now called Aquarena Springs, is seen at the foothills in the upper right-hand portion of the print, flowing into the San Marcos River. A bit of Purgatory Creek may be seen on the right-hand side of the image, near the railroad, as it enters the San Marcos River.

The Coronel Institute (5), on West Hutchison Street, was a private boarding and day school that was established in 1868 and continued in operation, through several identify changes, as a school until 1918. Lamar Middle School is located there today. Koch pictured a small public school building (3) sitting on the hill on the north side of the city between Austin and Guadalupe streets, which became the future site of Texas State University—San Marcos.

Another of the few remaining structures, the Charles S. Cock house at the corner of Union and Fort streets, is an unusual construction of rock, limestone, pine, cedar, and elm. The Dailey House near the intersection of San Antonio and North streets, built in 1871, also still endures much as it was originally built, except that a front porch was removed in 1937.