Cephas House, Durham Park dedication
The city of San Marcos celebrated the completion of Eddie Durham Park and the renovations to the Ulysses Cephas House, two significant projects in the historic Dunbar Neighborhood, with a ribbon cutting and open house Tuesday morning.
Eddie Durham, one of the most important Swing Era composer-arrangers, was born in San Marcos and is credited with being the first person to record music played on an amplified guitar. In 2003 the city proclaimed Aug. 19 as Eddie Durham Day, and this park honors his memory.
The new park contains a bandstand pavilion and a domino pavilion, making it very suitable for small community events. The curved interior sidewalk design was inspired by the Gibson ES-150 guitar that Durham used to create the world’s first electric guitar solo in 1938.
Ulysses Cephas, son of former slaves, was a prominent San Marcos resident of the Dunbar Neighborhood at the turn of the last century and was known throughout the community for his skills as a blacksmith and as a community leader. A state historical marker recognizing his accomplishments stands in front of his former residence on MLK Drive.
“The Cephas House is located in the Dunbar Historic District, and preserving historical elements whenever possible was a primary goal of the project,” said Janis Hendrix, Community Initiatives administrator.
Many original materials were repaired and returned to use, including windows and sills, along with decorative interior woodwork. The location of interior walls that were removed has been marked with a contrasting floor stain so visitors can easily see the original layout.
“The wavy glass in the old window panes attests to the age of the materials,” Hendrix said. “Reusing original elements helps connect us to the building’s past and allows us to literally touch the history of our community.”
A horseshoe-turned-boot scraper remains in its original location next to the front step— no doubt installed by Cephas himself, as he was a blacksmith and farrier.
Both projects were funded through the city’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.