|La Casita, on Highway 39, past Hunt, and past the River Inn Resort|
For me, one of those places can be found on Highway 39 past the River Inn Resort. Heading west past the River Inn, and past the various cabins alongside the resort, you cross the Guadalupe on a two-lane bridge. As you cross, you'll notice a chimney covered with vines in front of a chalky cliff. The house it served no longer stands, having burned down years ago, but the stone chimney remains.
Though the site is on private property many have explored the ruins of the old house. Walking from the road to the chimney, you notice a series of stone troughs which catch water from a spring, which might have served as a method for keeping things cool years ago. A stairway climbs the first rise of the bluff, and a walkway crosses over the springs and climbs up to the old stone chimney and hearth. The floor is gone -- it was a pier and beam house -- but a few charred piers remain.
In springtime berries can often be found among the rubble of the old house. I remember making a trip out there with my bride when our marriage was still quite new.
The river at the old chimney is shallow, and not in much of a hurry. The river makes a bend there in front of the house, and from the top of cliff above you have a view both directions of the river. The cliff behind the house offers several routes to the top, and over the years I've tried several of them.
Once, years ago, a woman I'd never seen before (or since) was at the site. She had visited the house as a child, she said, and she showed me a photograph of what the house looked like before it burned. I had never seen an image of the house before. This was before cell phones or digital cameras, and I regretted not having a way to make a quick photograph of the picture she showed me.
From her photograph, I remember it was a multi-story house, perched there on the bluff, with balconies and large awnings or flaps over the windows.
To my mind it looked wonderful, like a true retreat.
Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across an image of the house among some historic items loaned to me by some friends down the street from the print shop. Although the story of the house is known by many people, it was a new story to me.
The house, like many in the Hunt area, had a name: La Casita.
According to the recently published history of Hunt, Texas, the house was built by Andy Anderson from Waco, Texas. "In the 1930s," the book reports, Anderson "leased the side of a cliff overlooking the river on the South Fork. He leased it from Foster Merritt. There he built his vacation home, La Casita.
"The 1932 flood waters came within inches of the floor of the home and washed away the garage and entrance steps. By the 1950s the property was again in use by the Merritt family. Members of the Merritt family lived at La Casita a few years and held family reunions there. Then, the home became vacant. It was a well-known roadside icon where people would stop and enjoy a walk through the abandoned home that hung on the side of the cliff and take enjoyment from a nearby spring. In the 1970s hooligans, eliminating fun for the passing tourist, burned the home."
I'll post photos of La Casita on my blog, www.joeherringjr.com, on Monday.
Until then, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes to explore sites in Kerr County. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 29, 2013.
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