East Texas Baptist University has experienced a significant increase in Graduate students with a record enrollment this Spring of 86 students enrolled in Master’s programs. This is a 34.4% increase over Spring 2015. As a part of growing the graduate program, ETBU has begun developing the Marshall Grand downtown.
“We have made some improvements to the facility, in the lobby area, the first floor, second floor and the mezzanine we’ve made some improvements. We did have some leakage issues so we’ve made those repairs, and restored sheetrock and paint and some other improvements to that lower level,” said ETBU President Dr. Blair Blackburn.
ETBU will operate a catering support facility out of the Marshall Grand, as well as a late night coffee shop.
“I want to pay a tribute to Ms. Patsy and A.J.Tatum for what they have done for our Marshall community. I know that they have been in our building for the past ten years, and prior to that they had 20 something years in another facility. Unfortunately it burned down so they looked for space and at that time we had the opportunity for them to move into the facility and that was before we had it, that relationship was with the Anderson’s and the Cargill’s, and then when we took ownership of the building we continued that relationship,” Blackburn said. We’ve been on a month-to-month lease agreement for a couple of years and in the evaluation of our program and our plan to grow the Marshall Grand and to fully renovate the building for full use for the university, a centerpiece of that is the restaurant space.”
Blackburn says the building will have the catering support facility to use in coordination with the 8th floor ball room, which is going to be renovated, restored and utilized by the school. It is the highest point in Harrison County, and Blackburn says the view of Harrison County is vast and beautiful on the 8th floor.
While it’s been rumored ETBU will be opening a sandwich shop, Dr. Blackburn said that is not the case, they will open a late night coffee shop called the Capitol Cafe.
“We appreciate the Tatum’s and what they’ve done. I know people love and appreciate their commitment and what they have meant to this community. I know there has been a lot of talk in the paper last week and social media, but we are going to use the space, we’re creating a craft coffee house. I think some of the information was misconstrued, but we love our Central Perks, and R&R (Bakery) and Blissmore Valley Ranch Store, so we aren’t going into the sandwich business. Our plan is to offer a coffee house for our students and the Marshall community. We are thinking we are going to open in the afternoon, maybe 3 p.m., or 4 p.m., after Central Perks, R&R, and Blissmore have closed,” said Blackbun.
Blackburn says it is not uncommon for ETBU students to drive to Longview coffee shops in the evening to study, he says their goal is to keep those students in Marshall.
“Students want to drink coffee late at night, they want to stay up and study and get off campus and not be in the same place all of the time. We’d like to provide those services to students right here in Marshall, keep those students in town, anchored in downtown, and the community can come. We plan to be open until midnight or 1 a.m. seven days a week, so students can hang out, study and enjoy fellowship.
Blackburn told KMHT they will have a stage in the coffee shop where both Christian and secular music can be played by students.
“I think you’ll be surprised at what this building is going to look like,” he said.
Blackburn said the coffee shop will be called the Capitol Cafe. The name was chosen to honor a smaller hotel that stood next to the Marshall Grand. The Capitol Hotel stood from 1857 to 1971 at the corner of Houston and Bolivar Streets in Marshall. It was predated by the Adkins House and was succeeded by the Hotel Marshall (Marshall Grand), which still stands. It was financed by George Adkins and built by two slaves, Dick Land and Green Hill. These expert masons made the bricks that went into the 12-inch walls of the five-story structure. According to historical documents, the Capitol Hotel had a colorful history. It was the scene of important Confederate meetings during the Civil War. Noted Texans, actors, and other VIPS visited there – including the notorious. After the Hotel Marshall was built, owner Sam Perkins bought the Capitol and made it an annex of the larger hotel. The Capitol was razed in 1971. A historical marker on the lawn west of the Hotel Marshall notes the hotel’s history.