|A. C. Schreiner home, Kerrville.|
click on image to enlarge
It came as no surprise, at least to this observer, that 'controversy ensued.'
At the meeting where the Kerrville city council accepted the gift at least one person spoke against taking the building, citing its numerous defects, including lack of handicap access, lack of air conditioning, and difficulties in accessing the upper floor of the home. If I remember correctly, another complaint was the amount of city staff time needed to develop a plan for the building, and for its inclusion into the 'library campus.'
Indeed, several have visited with me sharing similar complaints about the transaction. Many are concerned city government has a pitiful record when it comes to historic preservation, and most mention the city's lack of stewardship with the Arcadia Theater on Water Street. Still others bemoan the tax dollars the project will be spent on the project.
So, if you'll allow me, I'd like to step up on top of my soap box for a second.
A casual reader of this column will likely note I have a fondness for local history. In telling the story of our county, I have tried to build community; it's my opinion a community without a story is not a strong community.
We here are blessed with a strong story. The weakness has been so few know that story. We have a candle we've hidden under a bushel basket.
Our community has an even worse record of historic preservation. There have been a few attempts to collect items for a local history museum -- efforts that began as early as the 1920s. In each of these campaigns the ball never crossed the goal line; many of the donated historic materials ended up in the garbage or on a garage sale table. And we have no history museum.
Over the past few months I have been posting on my blog (www.joeherringjr.com) a series of historic photographs paired with photographs taken recently from the same spot. In the old photograph, you see an historic building or home; in the new photograph, you can see what's there, now. The series has garnered thousands of views, not only from local folks, but from viewers around the world, many of them former residents of our community.
Can you guess what the most consistent response has been to this series?
The most consistent response has been: I wish our community did a better job of historic preservation. Period.
And yet, when the gift of a historic home is given to the city government, the first thing people do is complain.
In the case of the A. C. Schreiner home, an anonymous donor purchased the property and donated it to the city, to be a part of the library system. The city accepted the gift.
Will the building project be expensive? Will it take city staff time and effort? Will someone complain about it? Will city government make mistakes in regard to the project? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
On the other side of the ledger, consider this: a historic home will likely survive another generation.
A. C. Schreiner was the oldest child of Captain Charles Schreiner; A.C. ran the Charles Schreiner Company, the mercantile store, while his siblings ran other of the family's enterprises. A. C. Schreiner was on the very first Kerrville city council. He and his wife donated funds to build the old sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church. He made numerous contributions to our community, as did his children, and their children.
The home there is likely the second home A. C. Schreiner built on the property; I believe the first was destroyed in a fire.
There are other structures I wish could be donated to the city: the Tivy Hotel; the Comparette House; the Arcadia Theater. I even wish the lot between the A. C. Schreiner home and our print shop could be donated to the city: the oak trees there were living when the founder of Kerrville, Joshua D. Brown, lived on that lot, and on the land on which the A. C. Schreiner home now stands. I call the large oak tree there "Founder's Oak," and I hope it, too, can survive another generation.
To the anonymous donor: thanks for your gift. I hope our community does a good job with it.
Until next week, all the best. I'm off of my soapbox now.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who thinks most people would be surprised to know who the 'anonymous donor' is.