When Ronald B. Jager retired from the University in 1993 his plan was to write a monograph on urbanization in Texas, which he had been researching for years.
That plan was dramatically altered the following year when Ron and his wife Marie learned that the City Council had decided not to take advantage of the possibilities offered by an extraordinary gift from local telephone company owner and philanthropist, H.Y. Price, Jr.
Since 1893, the First Christian Church had been a prominent landmark at 222 West San Antonio Street. When the congregation moved to a new building on Ranch Road 12 in 1988, the deteriorating historic structure became an increasingly heavy burden. Following repeated attempts by the Church to lease or sell the building, Price purchased the structure for $140,000 on May 23, 1993, and the same day deeded it to the City with the provision that it be used for either a youth or a senior center.
Short of funds, the Council quickly moved toward a decision to raze the fire-damaged east wing and to either sell the two older wings or remodel them for general community use rather than for one of the purposes specified in the Price gift.
At this juncture the Jagers began an amazing odyssey, which has occupied their retirement years and produced an extraordinary contribution to this community.
Determined to implement the promise of the Price legacy, Ron and Marie circulated petitions, organized the Greater San Marcos Area Seniors Association, wrote letters to the local paper, lobbied the city council, and ultimately won a long-term lease from the City for the Price Seniors Center, with the Association assuming the full responsibility for renovation.
The initial building fund of $4,000 came from renting their home to a movie company for use as a funeral home. Other support came in sporadically from a variety of sources--grants from the Miriam and Emmett McCoy, the Ingram Family, and other Foundations; much help from CenturyTel and HUD money from the City; plus small contributions, volunteer labor, and in-kind donations. Demolition within the east wing began in 1999, reconstruction in 2000, and the Price Center Tea Room opened to the general public in September of 2001. Since then, the other two wings have been tastefully renovated, with Ron doing much of the carpentry and general drudgery work himself.
Sixty-hour weeks were the norm for both Ron and Marie for years as they nursed the old building back to health, and, since the Tea Room was opened, they have operated the facility for the Association with the objective of being "A part of the community rather than apart from it." Although operated by the Seniors Association, the Price Center strives to promote activities across all ages and demographics and has become a special favorite of a variety of Texas State organizations and groups.
Although the Jagers have accomplished much, work remains to be done. Next on the agenda is renovation of the second floor above the Tea Room and removal of the aluminum siding from the exterior and installation of new clapboard over the original weathered, lead-painted siding. Although creeping up on eighty years of age and dealing with some health issues, Ron and Marie show no signs of slowing down (much) and justly take great pleasure in what they have achieved during their retirement years.
Nor have those achievements gone unnoticed. In 2004 the Center was named "the Best Downtown Adaptive Reuse Project in the State of Texas" by the Austin-based Texas Downtown Association at its Annual Conference in College Station. See story.
|The Tea Room|
|The 1893 or Memorial Room|
|The 1910 Room|