The Peripatetic Kyle City Jail
April 2, 2012 § 2 Comments
Back when Aquarena Springs was a hokey tourist resort, complete with Ralph the diving pig and a submarine theater featuring Texas State University co-ed mermaids, one of the less cloying attractions was the Texana Village, a collection of old area buildings and reconstructions. The Merriman cabin, built in 1846 by Dr. Eli Merriman, was San Marcos’ oldest standing home. The saloon was a recreation, but the front bar was from Fredericksburg’s famous White Elephant Saloon. Kyle’s city jail from 1884-1925 had also been moved to Texana Village. Small and simple, it is of a very rare construction technique. Sawn 2-by-4 boards are laid flat like logs and built like a two-pen log cabin, layer stacked atop layer of boards, reinforced by iron bars and braces. In 1884, when Kyle was still a wild child of a town, it is said that the Hays County Commissioners Court decided Kyle needed its own jail and moved a cell from the original, 1873 county jail in San Marcos to a spot just north of Center St. and old Hwy. 81 (the current I-35 frontage road). I personally fail to see how the current structure, as is, could have been part of the old county jail, but that’s the official wisdom. At any rate, the two-room jail was used until 1925, and stood vacant until moved to the Pioneer Village on the Aquarena Springs grounds in 1964.
One of the mysteries following the dismantling of the Pioneer Village was where various of its components went. The Merriman cabin was moved to a spot adjacent to the 1867 Charles Cock Home, at Allen Parkway and E. Hopkins. But when I contacted Aquarena Springs’ management several years later, no one was able to tell me where the other items and structures of interest to me had gone, specifically, the White Elephant Saloon’s bar and the old Kyle City Jail. Unbeknownst to them and me, the jail had been rescued from destruction at the last possible moment and moved onto the grounds of the grounds of the second-empire-style, Hays County jail (used 1884-1936). It sat there for seven years, hidden from view by the vines and assorted brush that had grown up along the chainlink fence that enclosed the jailhouse lot, until it had to be moved again, when the old county jail preservation project began, to its present location in a field behind a building on the grounds of San Marcos Academy. It now belongs to the Hays County Historical Commission, which is now seeking the funds necessary to restore it and move it to a more prominent location, hopefully back in Kyle. It was named to the 2012 Preservation Texas Annual List of Texas’ Most Endangered Places, which will hopefully aid in the necessary fundraising. I still don’t know where the White Elephant’s bar ended up.