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Perhaps one of the region’s better kept secrets - a structure referred to as John S. Harrison House, located within the City of Selma – is taking the next step towards restoration and development of its surrounding property into a park. Citizens are urged to be involved in the process. An open house seeking input is being hosted on Monday, February 11 at the City of Selma Municipal Building, City Council Chambers, 9375 Corporate Drive from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. A second opportunity is on Wednesday, February 20th at the same time and location, when planners expect to meet with the close neighbors of the project. 

“The Harrison House and surrounding property, in conjunction with the Selma Stage Stop, represents a rich history for the City of Selma. It is the goal of the City to tie these two very important properties together, both historically and physically, with a connecting hike/bike trail, public park, and meeting facilities at the restored house,” said Steven Jones, COO for RABA KISTNER Environmental and the Harrison Property Project Manager. “The entire development team consisting of Raba Kistner Environmental, Seventh Generation Design, Bender Wells Clark Design, and Civil Engineering Consultants is dedicated to partnering with the City to bring a successful project that not only recognizes and preserves the historical significance of the two properties, but provides readily available, functional facilities to the entire community,” stated Mr. Jones.

This process couldn’t happen too soon, if you ask Jean Heide, President, Selma Historical Foundation. It was through Jean’s efforts that the house was listed with the National Register of Historic Places. According to her documents, “The John S. Harrison house is significant for its association with the earliest development of Selma. The house is one of only two remaining original structures of Selma – the other being the Selma Stage Stop and post office that still sits on IH-35 directly across from Retama Race Track.” The stage stop was built and started by John S. Harrison and his partner, William McCullough. The stage stop can already be visited but Harrison House is just now completing an archeological survey and a public input process. Work on the park surrounding the house will start soon after the public meetings with restoration of the house to follow.

Harrison’s older brother, Erasmus Darwin Harrison, got to Texas before John, but died with Fannin at Goliad, Texas in March 1836. Land posthumously awarded to his brother for his service is what brought John to Texas. John and a partner opened up a stage line in 1846 that brought passengers coming in from New Orleans and Galveston, so that passengers could have a “pleasant and convenient “ passage to Austin and San Antonio. Because of his stage lines, Harrison was a major figure in Texas history. His stage lines were responsible for bringing immigrants to the heart of Texas in the early years of statehood.

“Mayor Harold Friesenhahn, whose family was the 4th owner of the property, sold it to the City of Selma in 2001 with the condition that it would be restored and used as a community center of some kind,” said Heide. “I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for the families of Selma to have direct input - at the ground floor level - into the development of the John S. Harrison National Register/State Archeological Landmark property. The house and its surrounding property played equally important roles in both the state's and Selma's early history and these public meetings afford Selma's families an avenue for melding this very distinct and unique history into the planning of a state-of-the-art community park for all the families of Selma,” finished Heide.

Anyone not attending the open houses can see the same materials presented at the Open Houses at www. Selma.tx.us and give comment as long as they are received by Friday, March 1, 2013. Comments should be sent Attn: Steven Jones c/o Raba Kistner Environmental, Inc., 12821 W. Golden Lane, San Antonio, Texas 78249. You may also submit comments by fax (210) 699-6426, or by e-mail to [email protected]. Written comments will be received through Friday, March 1, 2013.