“HISTORY SPEAKS FOR ITSELF”: Martindale School, a gymnasium recognized by the official Texas historical marker

MARTINDALE – A small crowd recently gathered around the former Martindale School and Gymnasium to celebrate its designation as the official Texas historical marker.

But the few alumni in attendance called it a special moment. For Mike Holmes, Jon Cradit, and Danny Norris – who all attended the school in the 1960s before it closed and Martindale students began attending San Marcos Consolidated ISD – the historic revealing ceremony was the occasion to turn remember.

Above, Mike Holmes, Jon Cradit and Danny Norris (left), all alumni of the old Martindale school and gymnasium, stand next to a new historic marker, and Craig and Wendi Foster (right) ), who now own the property and have converted it to a wedding venue and accommodation.

Holmes recalled the trio’s elementary school days when they circled around the playground merry-go-round as fast as they could. “We were going so fast, we would see how far we could take people away. I mean, today would be unheard of, ”said Holmes.

Holmes also remembers roller skating on the school sidewalk.

“We used to bring our skates and it was those old metal skates,” Holmes said. “On the front of [the skates] they had two clamps that you put on your shoe, and then you had an old metal key and you push your shoe firmly and just tie it up. We were skating here like a roller derby during recess.

Norris remembers his father, Hillburn Norris, who served as a flag bearer in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, constructing the flag pole that still stands in front of the building. “It was pretty special for him to build this flag pole,” Norris said.

The school at 101 Lockhart Street in Martindale opened in 1921 and served not only as a school but also as the city’s central meeting place, according to Craig Foster, who currently owns the property. The school, which closed in 1968, has hosted school functions like plays, dances, and sporting events as well as town halls, fundraisers, carnivals, and conventions.

Above, Craig Foster helps unveil a new historical marker released by the Texas Historical Commission.

After its closure, the school was used in various commercial and residential capacities. In 2017, Craig and Wendi Foster purchased the property and converted it into accommodation and a wedding venue. The school, which spans 1.7 acres, measures 5,900 square feet and includes several accommodation rooms. The old gymnasium – a 4,000-building building constructed in 1939 now called Martindale Social Hall – is now used for weddings and events. The former school cafeteria is now used as a catering kitchen.

Craig Foster said he was drawn to home ownership after his children graduated from high school and that he and his wife wanted to explore work outside of the corporate world.

“We drove by one day when we were thinking about quitting our jobs and investing in a hotel or something. We saw the [for sale] sign in the yard and were like, “Huh,” Craig Foster said. “We never thought of this as an option. Once we visited the place, we found out, “OK, we have accommodation, there is an events center, there is parking, there is infrastructure. We could do so many different things with it and that’s what got us excited.

Craig said a few weeks later they put their Austin home on the market, sold it, and used the money to invest in the Martindale Schoolhouse.

Craig said it was a no-brainer to seek designation as a historic Texas marker. But the application process was intimidating. He said he wrote a 10 to 12 page essay, which included a detailed history of the school with footnotes, bibliographies and indexes. He did a lot of research talking with former students and digging through the archives of the San Marcos Daily Record and Lockhart Post Register.

To be eligible for a marker, two basic criteria must be met: historical significance and age. According to the Texas Historical Commission, historical significance is met by examining the subject’s role and importance in local history, while the age requirement depends on the subject.

“The official Texas Historical Marker program helps bring attention to community treasures and the importance of their preservation,” THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe said in a statement. “Awareness and education are among the best ways to ensure the preservation of our state’s history. This designation is a tool that will increase public awareness of important cultural resources.

Craig described his feelings as “satisfactory” after he exposed the former Martindale School and Gymnasium scorer during the ceremony on December 19.

“It kind of validates the story of it,” Foster said. “It’s not so much what I did. I mean, yeah, it was a lot of hard work collecting, researching, and writing. I felt like I was back in school. But the building speaks for itself, the story speaks for itself. People still go through this [went to school here]. There are formative memories. It really was the only game in town in terms of where to go when you were growing up in Martindale.

Inside the school, a hallway displays class photos and the history of the school. Holmes said part of his family’s past remained in school.

“One of the pictures in there is the class of [1938] – my mom and dad both graduated from high school here in ’38, ”Holmes said. “Later my father [Everett Holmes] was the principal and superintendent here throughout our stay. So I went there, so I mean all of my heritage and family history is here at this school.

Above, images line a hallway at Martindale School, keeping the history of the building alive.

With the new historic designation, Cradit said he was glad that there was still interest in the school, even 53 years after it closed.

“I really appreciate that they go to the trouble of doing all of this,” Cradit said. “I really hated seeing it as a machine shop and everything… and every time the roof of the old gymnasium collapsed and the floor got rotten, I just hated to see it deteriorate.” It’s so cool to see someone take a love in it now and fix it.

The inscription on the Martindale School and Gymnasium marker reads:

“The Martindale school and gymnasium operated from 1921 to 1968 and served as a gathering place for the whole community. Many remember fond and formative memories of the “Old Martindale School,” whose sheer size lit up the city by sharing culture through education and entertainment. Residents looked forward to events such as carnivals, music lessons by Miss Louise Lawson, and fundraising events such as faculty members playing basketball while riding donkeys.

“The growing student population in the farming town required a suitable site for classrooms and school functions. The new building was designed by Austin Architects CH Page & Bros. in the style of the mission revival. Built in 1921, the concrete was transported by horse and carriage from San Antonio to be mixed in place and finished with stucco. In 1939, during the Great Depression, the Wildcats welcomed the construction of a gymnasium. Austin Architects Dan Driscoll and Delmar Groos (also known for Barton Springs Bathhouse and Deep Eddy Bathhouse in Austin) designed the building with hollow tiles and Carnegie steel roof trusses. Construction was funded in part by federal New Deal agencies.

“The desegregation of 140 Hispanic students from a separate school to the main school in Martindale occurred in 1948. There is no evidence or recollection of African American students attending Martindale School. overall declined, as many residents flocked to urban areas in the 1960s. This prompted depopulation and a controversial vote for the school’s merger with the San Marcos district in 1965. In the years that followed Upon closure of the school, the property served in various commercial and residential capacities.The site remains significant in the educational and cultural history of the community.

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