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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Kerrville's Ice Plant, right on the Guadalupe River

Roller Mills and Dam, Kerrville
The multi-story red brick building is the old Ice Plant

Click on either image to enlarge

How the site appears today.
I'm old enough to remember the old Ice Plant, which was in the 800 block of Water Street in downtown Kerrville.  If you were on Washington Street, driving toward the river, after crossing Water Street, you'd just about hit the Ice Plant before driving over the bluff.
When I was a boy, it was a rite of passage to crawl into the basement of the old Ice Plant and explore the subterranean tunnels and rooms.  Most of those rooms are still there, beneath the parking area for One Schreiner Center.
Today only the basement of the structure remains, and has been converted to an "observation deck," with a nice view of the river.  In the second photo above, you can barely see the basement walls.
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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Hill Country Philanthropy

A very generous gift, indeed.
Kerrville and Kerr County have long been home to generous families, from the very first days of their founding to the present day.
Recent gifts make the news, as the Cailloux Foundation, the James Avery Foundation, the H. E. Butt Grocery Company, and the Peterson Foundation provide support to worthwhile causes, but it's my opinion the most valuable gift ever given to the citizens of Kerrville came from an source few would guess, and was a gift few would remember.
Before revealing the gift I think benefited the most people in Kerrville, let's consider some of the major gifts to our community, from today to long ago.
The Cailloux Foundation, of course, has had a major impact on our community.  The Cailloux Theater project, which renovated the old Kerrville Municipal Auditorium, transforming it into a first class performance facility, comes to mind first.  What had been a rather plain theater, with bad acoustics and an odd, mostly flat concrete floor (built that way so dances could be held there) saw big changes about a decade ago.  The facade was changed as a lobby was added.  Theater seating was added, along with an orchestra pit and redesigned stage, complete with an orchestra shell.  While many contributed to the project, the Cailloux Foundation provided most of the financial support.
More recently, the Cailloux Foundation was instrumental in the redevelopment of the 700 block of Water Street in downtown Kerrville, funding the demolition of the old Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, the design of a new square, inducing the construction of a purpose-built Kerrville City Hall, and the renovation of the old Charles Schreiner Company buildings.
The hospital, which stood vacant for far too long, was removed to make way for the new Peterson Plaza.  The plaza was designed, in part, to be like a town square; when the city government decided to build a new city hall on the site it came closer to that intent.  Coupled with Schreiner University's recent ownership of the old home of Captain Charles Schreiner, and the renovation of Captain Schreiner's store, along with the excellent work on the Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center, the 700 block became quite a gem for our community.
This came about because of the generosity of the Cailloux Foundation, though you can find other examples of their efforts.  Donations to the Notre Dame Catholic School, and to Our Lady of the Hills Catholic high school gave each new gymnasiums.  Annual scholarships to worthy students have provided college educations for those who might not otherwise have furthered their schooling.
The James Avery Foundation has also been at work in the 700 block of Water Street, and was a major contributor to the conversion of an old Great Depression-era post office into a thriving space for art, the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center.  This heavily-visited site has new exhibits on a regular basis, and provides space for seasoned and new artists to display their work, to take art classes, and to offer their work for sale to the public.
Other causes supported by the James Avery Foundation include the Peterson Regional Medical Center, Riverside Nature Center, and the American Red Cross, along with many other causes.
The H. E. Butt Grocery Company has been generous to Kerrville and Kerr County since its founding here in Kerrville in 1905.  I've heard many stories about the generosity of the company's founder, Florence Thornton Butt.  She truly had a heart for those less fortunate than herself, even before her store could be considered a genuine commercial success.  Stories abound of her taking gifts of fruit and food to families in need; indeed her generosity more than once put the growth of the company at risk.  In its earliest days, when there was just one small store here in Kerrville, Mrs. Butt would often provide groceries to hungry families at no charge.
In the late 1960s, her son Howard and his wife Mary gave our community a library, in honor of their families.  In recent years, Florence Butt's grandson provided for the renovation of that library.
For many years the Hal and Charlie Peterson Foundation was primarily focused on funding the needs of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, but few realize the breadth of the giving of this quiet Kerr County foundation.  Last year the Peterson Foundation distributed over $1.2 million dollars to area charities, schools, medical clinics, and arts groups.  Beneficiaries last year ranged from the City of Kerrville to the Hill Country Arts Foundation, from Schreiner University to Habitat for Humanity.  If it's a worthwhile cause in Kerr County (or in surrounding counties), very often the Peterson Foundation will be an active supporter.
Captain Schreiner was also generous with Kerrville and Kerr County, from establishing a fund for roads, still in use by Kerr County, to establishing what is now Schreiner University.  Schreiner University, in particular, stands out among Captain Schreiner's many contributions to this and surrounding communities.  For nine decades hill country students have improved their lives at the Kerrville campus.
Kerrville's founder, Joshua D. Brown, was also generous, even as our community was just getting started.  In 1856, in return for designating "Kerrsville" as the county seat of the newly-formed Kerr County, the first commissioners court required Brown to donate plots of land for public use: four acres for a 'public square,' on which today's Kerr County Courthouse sits; 'one choice good lot fronting the public square for county use;' one lot in suitable place for a public church;' 'one lot in suitable place for public school house;' and 'one lot in suitable place for jail.'
Despite these important gifts, I think the most valuable gift ever given to the citizens of Kerrville came from a man born in Canada in 1818.  He served in both the Texas legislature and in the California legislature, and wore the gray uniform during the American Civil War.  Though he and his two sisters took an oath to never marry, late in life he married a Kerrville widow, much to his sisters' chagrin.  (One sister never forgave him.)  He used to race horses in the area around what is today Broadway Street, between the Cailloux Theater and Schreiner University.  In the final years of his life, he operated a small hotel.
His name was Joseph A. Tivy, and because of his keen interest in public education, he pushed Kerrville to form a lasting system of public education.  He donated the land for a public school and lead the young community during its establishment.
In 1842, well before Kerrville existed, Joseph A. Tivy acquired the 'military' grant of Thomas Hand, a site he'd seen when he served as General Surveyor of the Texas General Land Office.  After serving with Jack Hays in the Texas Rangers, and adventures in California during the Gold Rush, and after service in the Confederate States Army, he and his two sisters moved to Kerrville, in 1872.
Free public schools were crucial to the development of our community.  When Tivy donated 16.67 acres for such schools, out of the old Thomas Hand tract, it was determined the only entity which could accept the gift was an incorporated city.  So, in 1889, the City of Kerrville was incorporated, and Tivy served as Kerrville's first mayor.
Other gifts have played an important role in our community, to be sure.  But it's my opinion the gift of free public schools, enjoyed by Kerrville school children for almost 125 years, has had the most lasting impact on our community.
Generous gifts are a long-held trait of the people of the Texas Hill Country.  During this season of giving, I hope we all learn from the example of those who came before us.
This story originally appeared in the Comanche Trace Lifesytyle magazine in December, 2013.
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Aerial view of Kerrville, ca. 1932

Aerial view of Kerrville, around 1932
Click on image to enlarge

There are so many things I like about this photo.  For fun, let's see if you can find the following landmarks.
  • The Kerr County Courthouse
  • The Blue Bonnet Hotel
  • Train freight cars
  • The building which housed the very first H-E-B store -- Mrs. Florence Butt's first store was in a rented building.
  • Notre Dame Catholic Church
  • First Baptist Church (trick question)
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • St. Peter's Episcopal Church
  • First United Methodist Church
  • Schreiner Bank
  • Schreiner store
  • Charles Schreiner Mansion
  • The A. C. Schreiner home
  • Pampell's
  • The Arcadia
  • The Comparette house
  • The Tivy Hotel (and bonus points for spotting the outline of where the Tivy Hotel until very recently stood, just before this photo was taken.)
  • The Ice House
  • The St. Charles Hotel
  • The Union Church
  • The Secor Hospital (later, the Kellogg Building)
  • Parsons Hall
  • The Favorite Saloon building
Several of you will likely notice the Sidney Baker Street bridge has not yet been constructed, nor the old Post Office at the corner of Main and Earl Garrett streets.  If you had been brave enough to fly about eighty years ago, this is what you would have seen from above Kerrville.
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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Our river valley

Click on any image to enlarge
Guadalupe River, near Kerrville,
March 1, 2014
Weston Building, Kerrville
Sunset, February 20, 2014, near Kerrville
Schreiner Mansion, Kerrville
No history writing today.  Just a few images I thought you might enjoy.  I took each of the photographs used to create the images above.
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Florencio Benavides Sanchez's bar-restaurant-pool hall

Florencio Benavides Sanchez's Bar-restaurant-pool hall, Kerrville
Robert Puig sent me the following in an email earlier this week:

Hello Mr. Herring,

I love your old photos of Kerrville . You doing a wonderful job of preserving Kerrville History.

I have attached an old photo of my grandfather, Florencio Benavides Sanchez's Bar-restaurant-pool hall . It was located at 209 Jefferson St.  The old structure is part of my grandmother Petra Ayala Sanchez 1920's house. Today this property is owned by my cousin, Lilie Vargas Gonzalez. It is one of the houses that was not demolished by the H.E.B. Construction.

This photo was taken around 1910. The two men standing in the door way are left to right: Gregorio Michon Ayala and my grandfather Florencio. They were both barbers and entrepreneurs : Gregorio owned an operated the Sunset Auto Bus line before the Petersons started Greyhound Lines Service. Florencio ran a series of bars, restaurants and grocery stores but competed with Ramon J. Castillo and later with Pinky Lewis' "Red and White Store" at the corner of Lemos and Schreiner. 

I would be nice if you could post this picture on your site. Maybe someone in Kerrville can identify the other three men in the photo.

Later in the 1950's, my uncle Florin Ayala Sanchez had a barbershop here for years. Don't confuse Florin Bowles Sanchez with this Florin. They were best of friends. Both were barbers.

There is a funny story about these Florins. After they returned from military services, they decided to go cut hair in Winters, Texas, during the cotton picking season. There was great money to be made. On the way back home after the season, they were stopped by the local police for driving too fast. The police officer came over to the driver window and ask for his drivers license and name:

To diver: What's your name and what to you do for a living? "Florin Sanchez and I'm a barber."

To passenger:  ( same question) "Florin Sanchez and I'm a barber too."
Officer:  (setup) Are you guys b.s. ing me! I'm taking both of you smart a***s downtown where you can tell me the truth.

Both Florins showed the officer their driver's licenses and the policeman broke up laughing.

Florin Bowles Sanchez's son, Louis Sanchez is a barber too.

If anyone can help Mr. Puig identify some of the other men in the photo, that would be great.  Just use the comments section below.

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