Martindale Schoolhouse brought to life once again
By Kyle Mooty
When former students of Martindale School returned for a 100th anniversary party for the building in 2021, they remembered everything from first and second grade classrooms to a principal’s office where those who misbehaved often got what some called “gettin’ swatted.”
Today’s memories at the Martindale Schoolhouse are centered more on those who exchange vows than those who once met the principal’s wrath.
The building, with its original structure and architecture, was purchased a few years ago by Craig and Wendi Foster.
By opening a look at local history, the Fosters are providing future memories as families and various reunions unite.
The Martindale Schoolhouse opened in 1921 and closed its doors in 1968.
At the 100th anniversary party, around 15 to 18 former students of the school attended and there are reportedly 25 to 30 individuals still alive that had classes there.
There are several bedrooms in the schoolhouse, some in locations where classrooms were once held. The master bedroom is where the principal’s office was located.
A small rural school, Martindale averaged between 60 and 70 students in the building, once going all the way from kindergarten through 12th grade. It eventually went just through the eighth grade and by the time it closed it was just an elementary school.
“The closing coincided with a lot of rural schools around the country that closed,” said Craig Foster, who has done his share of research on the building’s history. “It just became necessary. It didn’t work out to merge with Lockhart, so some went to Prairie Lea, but most went to San Marcos.”
The Fosters have rejuvenated the building while keeping the past alive with many pictures from as far back to the 1930s. There is one of the 1935 girls’ basketball team, and another of the school band from that same decade. A picture in front of the school shows a merry-go- round and no trees. There are now large trees on the lot.
There is also a photo of downtown Martindale with horses and buggies.
There is even a unique urinal from the old school gymnasium that has been moved to a bathroom inside the main house.
“Everything is original as far as the building is concerned,” Craig Foster said.
The house sleeps 14 comfortably, although many more have been in there at different times, whether it was at a wedding reception, business meeting or some type of reunion.
There have been commercials filmed in the historic building such as Blue Diamond Almond, H-E-B, and Instacart. There have been music videos filmed there such as Dave Beck’s Tejano Weekend.
The courtyard on the grounds is between the school building, the old gymnasium, and a storage facility, with the word Yes on the wall facing outdoor seating. Craig Foster said that was for when someone said “Yes” to a marriage.
“We lived in Austin and raised our kids in Austin,” Craig Foster said. “Once they got to graduation age and we were both kind of working corporate jobs, we were trying to figure out something to do for the second phase of our life, you know, maybe do something a little bit different. We thought about opening up some type of hospitality business. We already had a weekend getaway house in Martindale. We drove by one day and saw a For Sale sign in the yard. The owners were ready to sell because it became overwhelming. Very quickly, we sold our house in Austin and quit our jobs in Austin and moved here. We kind of rolled the dice and took a risk. It’s been really good.”
The Foster’s bought the building in 2017 and spent much of the next two years with it under renovation.
The new schoolhouse was opened first in 2019. The gymnasium was later opened as an open-air facility with no roof. Meetings have been held inside the old gymnasium, which still has the old stage where school plays once took place.
This gym was originally built by architects Driscoll and Groos, who built the bathhouses at Barton Springs and Deep Eddy. The gymnasium was built in 1939.
There are plaques on the road entrance to the gymnasium with the original plaques recognizing the Board of Trustees (the board president was F. Kenneth Wise) as well as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939.
The building was built by government money, at a cost of about $15,000 for the entire property. The original arched windows and entryways remain, a favorite spot for photos.
“When we bought it the basketball goals were still here,” Wendi Foster said. “We still have them. We also have the original school bell.”
The school was also the central meeting place in Martindale as it was the largest building in town.
The senior class of 1938 has a photo in the schoolhouse. Everett Holmes is in the photo, as is his future wife, Martha Nell Ellison. After graduation, they attended Southwest State Teachers College in San Marcos. They returned to Martindale, where Everett became the school principal. Martha Nell Ellison was the first mayor of Martindale and for several decades wrote a column of Martindale news for years for the Lockhart Post-Register.
Lodging only (sleep up to 14) cost between $1,400 and $1,500 per night through Airbnb. Prices fluctuate. A standard wedding package that includes all facilities and grounds with tables and chairs is about $8,000.
The largest wedding thus far at the schoolhouse had 204 in attendance, and the Fosters said they regularly have 150 or more.
“Our summer business is strictly Airbnb,” Craig Foster said. “It’s people staying here overnight. Typically, it’s family reunions or big groups that come and stay here over the summer. Then, in the spring or fall, when the weather’s nice, we have weddings. They stay overnight for the weddings, too. We have lodging combined with the wedding. Most wedding venues you just go and get married in. They rent it for the whole weekend. The wedding ceremony will take place in the front on the big lawn.
“There’ll be a cocktail hour in the courtyard. The reception, typically with a band or a DJ, is held inside the gymnasium – now called the Martindale Social Hall.”