Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A snowfall in Kerrville in 1923

Kerrville Texas 1923 after a snowfall
Kerrville, after a snowfall, February 5, 1923
Click on any image to enlarge

A copy of this image is available HERE
Recently a kind reader shared some historic photographs of Kerrville with me, and I've been tickled to share them here with you.
Years ago photography was not as easy as it is today, and it was expensive. People didn't take as many pictures as they do now. Even selfies were rare.
Thankfully, though, there were three things which would tempt people to take a photograph in Kerrville: a parade, a flood, or a snowfall.
Two of the photographs recently shared with me were taken on February 5, 1923, after a snowfall. They were both taken from the rooftop of the St. Charles Hotel, a grand hotel which once stood at the corner of Water Street and what is now called Sidney Baker Street; it stood on the eastern corner of that intersection. The archway for Peterson Plaza opposite Pampell's stands on that corner today.
At the time the roof of the St Charles was likely the highest point in downtown, at four stories tall, although the photographs were likely taken from the roof of section of the building which was only three stories. The Blue Bonnet Hotel, which would eventually rise to eight stories, was originally built with five stories in 1927. The Kerr County courthouse might have offered a slight advantage in altitude if the pinnacle was accessible.
The two 1923 photographs show a sleepy town covered in a light blanket of snow. In one, the photographer points his camera almost due east toward Tivy Mountain; in the other to the northeast, almost directly up what is now called Sidney Baker Street.
The photograph taken toward Tivy Mountain shows a lot of interesting things.
The large three story stone building in that photograph is the Kerr County courthouse, which was built in 1886. It would soon be replaced by the current courthouse, which was built in 1926.
The roofs in the immediate foreground are of two Schreiner buildings: a wool warehouse, and a windmill shop. I'm old enough to remember those buildings. The wool warehouse had a very distinct smell, though it was not unpleasant.
Along what is now Earl Garrett Street I notice there are a lot of residences, though near Main there are a few commercial buildings.
Where the post office will be built in the 1930s, at the corner of Earl Garrett and Main Streets, I see something I've never seen before: what appears to be a long arbor, which points toward the courthouse. It appears to turn at 90° angle toward Sidney Baker Street, parallel to Main. It almost looks like a cattle shoot, but checking the 1924 Sanborn map of the block, I can't image livestock being unloaded there. Perhaps it was just a pleasant walkway near Captain Schreiner's home. Where the Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center stands today, in the old post office, was once Schreiner's garden, complete with a greenhouse. When these photographs were taken, in 1923, Capt. Schreiner was still living.
In the distance you can see Tivy High School, the steeples of several churches, and a snow-covered Tivy Mountain.
Kerrville Texas 1923 after a snowfall looking north
Kerrville, after a snowfall, February 5, 1923
The road stretching away from the photographer is today's Sidney Baker Street.

A copy of this image is available HERE.
The other photograph, taken looking up Sidney Baker Street, shows what was called the Kellogg Building when I was a boy. When the photograph was taken, however, it was the Kerrville Hospital, and behind it, along Main Street, the Steagall Hotel, though by 1924 it was called the Bratton House.
In the distance you can see where Antler Stadium will be built in 1941.
I suppose my favorite part of this second photograph is in the foreground. It is the silhouette of a person in the middle of Sidney Baker Street. The person is facing the "Guarantee Garage." The way the person's right foot is extended, and the way the person's coat is billowing out, it looks as if a snowball has just been thrown, and the pitch captured on film.
I am so thankful to the kind couple who shared these images with all of us.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 24, 2017.






Sunday, June 18, 2017

Two newly discovered photos of Kerrville in 1897

Kerrville, 1897.  On the left, the Gregory Hotel; on the right, the St. Charles Hotel.
These stood at the intersection of Water and what is now Sidney Baker Street.
Click any image to enlarge.
In the winter of 1897 photographs of Kerrville were taken by "Mr. Lowrey, a traveling man.' Two of his photographs survive, and this past week a kind reader shared them with me, and now I can share them with you.
The problem with 120-year-old photographs is this: none of the structures in the two images still exist. By looking closely at the images you'd never find the spot from which they were taken, using modern clues, since the landscape and buildings have completely changed since that time.
This problem makes figuring out from where each photo was taken more of a challenge, and therefore much more fun. In fact, you'd need a bag of tricks to solve the mystery.
I can now confirm both of the images were taken in Kerrville; one from what is now Peterson Plaza, facing roughly west, toward what is now Pampell's; the other was taken from the other side of the river, in what is now Louise Hays Park, near where the footbridge stands today, looking up the bluff to the area between the vacant Bank of America building to the vacant Arcadia Theater.
Neither photograph shows people, though that's probably because it was cold. One of the photos was taken after a snowfall.
That photo, of the side of the St. Charles Hotel (which stood on the eastern corner of today's Sidney Baker and Water Street) shows the Gregory Hotel (which, after many transformations, is now the Pampell's building). I've never seen this photo before.
There are several significant things in the photograph. First, it shows the St. Charles grew after 1897; an addition shown in other photographs of the building is not in this photograph. Second, a building is visible between the two hotels which I've never seen before. It's on the western corner of the intersection of Water and Sidney Baker.
One of the tools I use to help me decipher old photographs is my collection of Sanborn-Perris fire maps, and I have a copy of one from August, 1898. I bought transparencies of these old maps years ago from the Library of Congress, and they've proven useful many times.
The 1898 map shows the St. Charles without an addition, and the 1904 map shows the St. Charles with the addition, so the handwritten date of 1897 on the back of the photographs is probably accurate.
The 'mystery building' shown in the gap between the two hotels is listed on the Sanborn map, and labeled "Notions & Mill'y," and its description on the map matches the photograph. It's a frame building of one story with an awning in front.
Kerrville, from the river, 1897
Kerrville, from the Guadalupe River, 1897.
The buildings shown once stood in the 700 block Water Street

A copy of this image is available HERE.
The other photo taken in 1897 was more difficult to figure out. It was taken from the Louise Hays Park area, near where the footbridge crosses today, and it looked toward the bluff and town. At first I didn't think it was actually of Kerrville, but had been mislabeled years ago. This happens frequently. I didn't recognize a single building in the photograph, and there was a building in the middle with a chimney and sloping roof.
But studying the old 1898 map showed me I was wrong: it was definitely of Kerrville. The photographer waded across the river and pointed his camera north. The building with the chimney in the center of the photograph is the St. Charles Hotel. The building closest to the photographer was the windmill and warehouse shop of Charles Schreiner. The other buildings were a part of the camp yard, where ranchers could park their wagons and spend the night when they brought wool or mohair to market, or when they made a run into town for supplies.
Nothing else is known about the photographer, Mr. Lowrey, beyond the inscription on the back of each photograph. Perhaps additional photographs taken by him will be found.
In 120 years the photos we snap today will likely be as foreign to viewers as are these photographs to us. However, if all of the digital photos we take are never printed on paper, it's possible we'll have more photographs of Kerrville from 1897 than we will from 2017.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical items from Kerrville and Kerr County, and who enjoys a good puzzle. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 17, 2017.







Monday, June 12, 2017

Solving the Mysteries of Kerr County Photographs

1938 Tivy Bugle Corps taken on Antler Field, on Tivy Street
Tivy Bugle Corps, 1938, on Antler Field,
back when the football field was parallel to Tivy Street.
Note building in the background behind bleachers.
It's one of my small obsessions, trying to figure out where something once stood, or trying to confirm where an old Kerrville photograph was taken.
Take, for example, the old Tivy football field. I've mentioned it plenty of times. The current Antler Stadium was opened in 1941, just a few weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, but Tivy had been playing football for decades before that stadium was built. I'd been told the old football field was near Tivy and Barnett Streets, but it was hard to figure out exactly where.
That football field hosted more than just football. For a string of summers it was also the site of a big July Fourth rodeo. It was a community gathering place, and it's now gone.
I had reported, years ago, the old football field was behind the school in an area bounded by College, 2nd, Gilmer, and North Streets. I thought this, I suppose, because a football field size area was there, and we'd practiced marching on that field when I was in the Tivy Band.
Wrong: the football field, I was told, was actually in the area bounded by Tivy, 3rd, College and Barnett. I was in the wrong block. Still, I couldn't figure out how they'd fit a football field in that crowded area; the old Tivy Elementary School took up most of that block.
Thumbing through the 1938 Tivy Antler yearbook today I realized how that football field fit into that block: its length ran parallel to Tivy Street, with bleachers also parallel to Tivy Street. I finally understood how the athletic field fit into the block because of a photograph showing the Tivy drum and bugle corps standing in formation on the field, with the bleachers behind them. The key, though, was a building behind the bleachers; that building is still there, at 805 Tivy Street.
The building shown has had many uses. When I was a child, I believe it was a kindergarten building; today it's the KISD Student and Family Services building. It has a distinct roofline that really stands out.
Home of Gene and Millie Butt, Kerrville
Taken in the home of Gene and Millie Butt,
on Earl Garrett Street.  The clue was the fireplace.
And, as a different example, I was looking through some of the images shared with our community by a kind person in Minnesota who found a collection of slides at an estate sale. A series of photographs showed students at someone's house, and in one of the images a woman is seated near a fireplace.
I had this feeling I'd seen that fireplace before. It was made of rough cut granite and had a very singular look.
It happened that I had a printing delivery to make to the H. E. Butt Family Foundation offices on Earl Garrett Street this week. In the first building I entered, I asked if I could take a photograph of the fireplace, which is quite lovely. The kind person there reminded me there was another fireplace in the next building, and I should take a photograph there, too.
When I got back to the print shop, I compared the two photographs with the photos from 60 years ago.
It turned out the fireplace in the 1956-57 photographs was in the second building, which was a home built for Gene and Millie Butt. (The similar house next door was built for Florence Butt, who founded what is now H-E-B Grocery Company.)
I have a hunch the woman in the photograph is Millie Butt, who was a beloved fifth-grade teacher here in Kerrville for decades. She was the daughter-in-law of Florence Butt, and sister-in-law to Howard Butt. (I'm hopeful someone can confirm this hunch, or point me in the right direction.)
For the most part, this obsession is harmless. Hopefully it will help piece together the story of our community.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who often focuses on things which should probably be ignored. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 10, 2017.







Sunday, June 4, 2017

Every H-E-B employee in a single photograph

Original employees of HEB store in Kerrville Texas
C. C. Butt Grocery Company employees and the Florence Butt family,
a selfie, taken around 1915 in downtown Kerrville
An interesting photo returned to Kerrville this week. It was taken in the 800 block of Main Street, roughly behind where Wolfmueller's Books stands today on Earl Garrett Street. A parking lot is on the site now, but when the photo was taken, around 1915, a family's home was there, and the photograph was taken on the porch of their house. There are eight people in the photograph; six men and two women.
On the front row are Johnnie Hamilton, Nita Butt, Florence Butt, and Howard Butt; standing behind them are Claude Richerson, Leland Richeson, Charles Butt, and Gene Butt. Charles, Gene and Howard are Florence's sons; Nita is the wife of Charles Butt. Johnny Hamilton is the brother in law of Leland Richeson. The one person who is not connected to the others is Claude Richerson, but I have a theory to explain why he is in the photograph, which I'll explain in a bit.
Florence Butt opened a grocery store on Main Street in Kerrville in 1905 in a two-story building which was across the street from the house where this photograph was taken. That little grocery store grew into what is today's H-E-B Grocery Company.
I'm thankful to a kind friend who sent me an original print of the photograph; I had a nice scan in my collection (also from him), but having an original will allow me to study the details much easier. (That scan was used in my first book, "Home," which was published in 2010.)
Studying the original photo, I can now tell the photo was a selfie. You can see the shutter cable snaking from the camera to the bench on which four of the people are resting. I can't determine whether Florence or her son Gene took the photograph; Florence's hand looks as if it might be pushing the plunger on the cable, but Gene had an interest in photography at the time, and the cable looks as if it's heading toward him.
What's interesting about the photo, at least to me, is who is in the picture, and who is not in the picture.
Leland Richeson was the first employee of the grocery store, and was later a business partner with Howard Butt for many years. Later still, he became the first retiree from the company. If this photo was taken in 1915, Richeson was around 26 years old.
Leland's brother in law, Johnnie Hamilton worked at the store and roomed with the Butt family. I have a scan of a postcard he wrote home on April 3, 1915, where he writes "Am in Kerrville now. Guess will spend Easter here. Am feeling very well." Johnnie came to Kerrville because he had tuberculosis; he passed away from the disease in 1918.
Florence Butt home in Kerrville Texas around 1915
The Butt family home in Kerrville around 1915.
Back of Masonic Building (now Sheftall's Jewelers)
can be seen to right of home.
I can guess why Florence, her sons, and her daughter in law were in the photo. All were active in the grocery business. Charles, according to a sketch by J. E. Grinstead, was taking a leadership role in the company; in this photo, Charles would have been around 25. Howard had just graduated from Tivy in 1914; he would serve in World War I in 1918. Gene offered film processing at the store, and would later leave the grocery store to work at the post office. Sadly, Charles would later die of tuberculosis.
Missing from the photo was Florence's husband, Charles Sr., who passed away in March of 1915, also a victim of tuberculosis. Missing, too, was Florence's stepson Kearney Butt, who ran a second-hand furniture store in Kerrville.
Which brings us back to Claude Richerson. In early October, 1915, this item appeared in the Kerrville Mountain Sun: "Claude Richardson [sic] of the C. C. Grocery Store has accepted a position with Guggenheim-Goldsmith in San Antonio."
Based on all of this, I have this theory: this photograph was a picture of people who worked together. I think this was a photo of the employees and family of Florence's little grocery company.
According to H-E-B's website, the company now has over 76,000 employees. But on a cold day in Kerrville, sometime around 1915, the entire company could crowd around a rocking chair built for two, and have their photograph taken.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic Kerrville and Kerr County photographs and historical items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 3, 2017.





Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dedicated To Their Memory

Dedication Ceremony, WWI Memorial Park,
Kerrville, 1938
Did you know we have a park in Kerrville dedicated to the memory of Kerr County soldiers who gave their lives for our country in World War I?
Neither did I until a friend brought by some old photographs by the print shop last week, although I've passed by the little park several thousand times. It's likely you have passed it, too.
The park is located at what was once the gateway to the city, at the intersection of Broadway and Water streets. The joined streets become Memorial Boulevard. It's the little triangle of land opposite the Union Church, which is on the western tip of the campus of Schreiner University, and also opposite the Raphael Community Free Clinic.  Recent utility work has left a unsightly slab of concrete and various utility boxes marring the site.
Before IH10 sliced through our county, all traffic between San Antonio and El Paso passed this little triangle of land; that route was called the Old Spanish Trail, and it stretched from Florida to California, just like IH10.
So, in 1938, when the park was dedicated, it was the entrance to our community, and the park was chosen for its prominent location.
The photograph shows a group of women standing behind a carved stone on which a bronze plaque is mounted. On either side of the women are two men with U. S. flags. Behind them a group has gathered, and you can see a tent (similar to funeral home tents) in the background.
Looking at the photograph, I thought I recognized some of the women, and so I had to research the photograph. I found it featured on the front page of the July 7, 1938 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun.
"Gold Star Mothers Attend Dedication of War Memorial," the headline read. At the time of the dedication, almost 20 years had passed since World War I ended. (That anniversary would come in November, 1938.)
According to the story, "the site of the park was purchased by the Civic League from the county commissioners, and the marker was given by Mr. and Mrs. Garland Lang. The city of Kerrville will care for the spot...."
There was a "massing of colors," while the "'Call to Colors' was sounded by the buglers from the Boy Scouts.
"Col. L. H. Webb, medical officer in charge of the U. S. Veterans facility at Legion, served as master of ceremonies, and called the names of Kerrville's glorious dead, telling something of their lives, and introduced the Gold Star Mothers."
The past commander of the State Department of the American Legion attended, and a man named Dean Martin gave a speech.
He said "people were gathered for a memorial day, for a day of dedication, to pay tribute of respect to the memory of those men from our county, our homes, who, answering the call of duty went down to the Valley of the Shadow and there answered the last roll call. In giving freely they gave their all and now sleep where the poppies bloom, 'between the crosses, row on row.'
"We are gathered," Dean Martin said, "to link the present with the past, and to face the future unafraid. 'Optimism without frivolity, seriousness without despair.'
"War means mothers who look for letters they will never see, wives who wait for voices they will never hear, and children who listen for footsteps that will never come."
The Gold Star Mothers pictured at the dedication were (on the front row) Mrs. Faust Merritt, Mrs. W. G. Garrett, Mrs. W. P. Cowden, Mrs. Eddie Kaiser, and Mrs. E. W. Baker. On the back row were Mrs. Mark Mosty (representing her brother, Robert Spicer), Mrs. Della Sommers (representing her brother, Grover Hollimon), and Mrs. Knox (representing her brother, Randolph Davis). The color bearers in the photograph are George Hauer and E. E. Kelsey, V. F. W. members.
This Memorial Day weekend, as you pass by the little park, remember the men for whom it was built, and the mothers' tears with which it was dedicated. It is a quiet little memorial and we often pass it by without notice.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who will certainly miss his father-in-law, Irv Gregory, who passed away Tuesday. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 27, 2017.






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