Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finding "Lakeside Park"

Lately I've been on a kick to find Kerrville places that either no longer exist or are not easily found. I keep telling myself it's just a phase I'm going through, but I found myself tromping around this week, once again looking for something that was once important but is no more.
In earlier columns I reported my search for Split Rock and for the location of the grandstand and exhibit hall from the West Texas Fair. Most people of course have never heard of either one, but had you lived here at the turn of the last century, you would have been very familiar with both.
Split Rock was a local landmark on the road between Kerrville and Center Point, the same road you'd probably take to San Antonio, and possibly even Camp Verde and Bandera. The West Texas Fair was a big to-do held each summer around the fourth of July. There's some evidence the first airplane to visit Kerrville and Kerr County landed at the West Texas Fair and gave folks rides. I believe I have a photograph of the young pilot at the controls of his primitive aircraft, but I have no way to verify the image. Perhaps a reader can help in this regard.
Click on any image to enlarge
Lakeside Park, Kerrville, late 1920s
This week I was looking for a spot which had long been the favorite of young people in Kerrville: the Lakeside Park. In addition to being a popular swimming spot, it also had a skating rink and dance hall, at least until the big flood of 1932 destroyed it.
I suspected the park was once somewhere between "downtown" and Schreiner University, but even after scouting the area I could never find a spot that looked exactly right.
There are lots of references to the Lakeside Park in my collection of letters and news clippings, but most agree it was a "happening place."  The photos I have of the park show it was quite large, with a wide building for the bath house, and a larger building for the dance hall.
The riverside amenities included a large slide like the one at Mo-Ranch in Hunt, though this one may or may not have had a sled. I can tell by careful examination of one of my photos of Lakeside Park the slide ended several feet above the water. Any daredevils traveling down that chute would end their "guided" descent in the open air, hurtling at high speed and with nothing but river beneath them. Just imagining the ride is thrilling.
There was also a little diving dock and some rustic steps to get in and out of the water. A simple place, really. But a place people -- especially young people -- loved and flocked to.
Looking at the water in the photo made finding the old place almost impossible. There is simply not a stretch of water that looks like the photo. In the old photo, the river is wide and appears to be deep. There is nothing like that between the old "downtown" and the college today. Either it's deep but narrow, or wide but shallow.
While studying a 1924 Sanborn map of Kerrville I found, tucked away on page 8, the area where I thought the Lakeside Park might have once stood. To my surprise the old park was there on the map, just past a bend in the river, and nestled between E and F Streets.
Detail, Sanborn map of Kerrville, 1924
I hopped in my car and drove as near to the site as I could. The land matches the old photo -- but the river does not. I can only guess, from its name and from the photo of the river, that the area once had a small dam that made a small lake. That dam, if it ever existed, is no longer there.
As I stood near the site I listened to the wind blow through the cypress trees. I'm not sure if I imagined it or not, but I thought I heard the sound of young people laughing and playing in the river.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has, as one of his many unpaid jobs, the careful inspection and cataloging of much of the riverbanks in the downtown area.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times May 14, 2011.

11 comments:

  1. Fascinating, Joe! I love your line "As I stood near the site listened to the wind blow through the cypress trees......". That made me homesick for beautiful Kerrville and the Hill Country!

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  2. I am very thankful that you are finding all these sites that no longer exist. It's very, very interesting.

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  3. Before the old dance hall was torn down, it was available for local social events.

    I'm old so I may have my factors wrong, but it seems like a Boy Scout Troup used to hold its meetings in the building.

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  4. In my previous post I said that I might be mistaken, and I was mistaken.

    The Boy Scouts did not meet in the old dance hall on a regular basis. Instead, for about three years, they held an annual exhibit in the building.

    The scouts demonstrated the many different things that they had learned throughout the year.

    Parents and friends, and anyone who wished, attended the show. Food was available (at a price - it wasn't free).

    Each year the exhibit lasted about four hours. It was a great deal of fun.

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  5. Joe, You got me interested in this as well. Using the Google Satellite view, you can't see anything but the straight run of the river down past the G Street bridge. HOWEVER,on the historical Sanborn maps of Kerrville you can see a fork in the river pretty much where E street hits the water's edge:
    1916:
    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/sanborn/j-l/txu-sanborn-kerrville-1916-1.jpg
    1910:
    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/sanborn/j-l/txu-sanborn-kerrville-1910-1.jpg
    1904:
    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/sanborn/j-l/txu-sanborn-kerrville-1904-1.jpg

    maybe the fork in the river caused a deep and wide spot that was swimmable. And the flood re-routed the river and destroyed the reason the rebuild the park.

    I'll see if I can find a post 1932 map anywhere.

    Oh, check the map collections I pulled that from to help with the history stuff:
    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/sanborn/k.html
    http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

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  6. Oh, and looking at the pic above, the island formed by the fork in the river would give a vantage point from where the pic would have been taken. Notice the brush coming into frame on the right hand side, and that it appears to be taken from the middle of the river?

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  7. Thank you "That Guy," for giving us the links to the Sanborn maps.

    They are wonderfully clear online.

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  8. Take a look at the 1916 map, sheet # 1.

    In the top right part of the map, it spells "Gilmer" Street as "Gumer" Street.

    It also has "Lytle" Street listed as "Garrett" Street.

    Garrett Street must have been changed to Lytle Street when Mountain Street was changed to Earl Garrett Street.

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  9. Also on the 1916 Map, sheet # 1, Rodriguez Street was named Houston Street.

    Lemos Street was named Lytle Street.

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    Replies
    1. So the name of Lytle street was taken down and added to where it is today, which is block from my mothers house on Everett . We used to live on Lytle where it stands today when I was in grade school.

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  10. Can you imagine all the stories you could hear from the older generation that are still alive today, passed on to the kids and grandkids . Love to hear the history of Kerrville and especially see the photo's posted. I was born and raised in Kerrville along with my siblings, aunts and uncles, and I saw many buildings which no longer exist, it is a shame. Many towns the size of Kerrville make their towns attractive to attract the tourist, instead Kerrville is taking down buildings in downtown. I understand progress and changes, it it still hard to see the loss. I guess for me there are many memories of walking downtown and especially after a movie at the Arcadia where the price of a ticket was I think 75 cents. I have add this, when Petersen Hospital was demolished, what do to put in a parking lot of some sort. Please remind me of what is there now. Why a parking lot, since there are hardly any business's there now. I would love to see photos of Pampell drug store. I could not believe it when I took a tour of the building how huge it was. I think it was an opera house in it day.

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