Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kerrville 99 years ago today

I've been interested in local maps for a long time, and recently I ran across a map in my files which was created by Aaron Yates a few years ago.
Mr. Yates, whose family has a long history with local maps and surveys, took two separate images and combined them: an aerial photograph of downtown Kerrville and the November, 1916 Sanborn map of the same area. It was, in effect, a "mashup" of two technologies: a nearly 100-year-old hand-drawn map, and a photograph taken from an airplane, probably around 2011.
What you have when combining the two is quite interesting.
First, it's remarkable how closely the hand-drawn map lines up with the photograph. Buildings that are in both images line up fairly well. The Charles Schreiner Mansion, on Earl Garrett Street, for example, fits almost perfectly. Either the 1916 map makers or Aaron (or both) did a good job lining things up.
It's also interesting noticing the changes in the city's downtown area over the last century. Gone are most of the private homes, replaced with commercial structures. Blocks that held many homes now hold none.
Some places which were vital to our community in 1916 have been gone for several generations, now. Some examples:
Near the intersection of Water and Washington streets, on the river side, once stood a water-powered mill. Originally built by Christian Dietert, the complex, by 1916, was owned by Charles Schreiner. The map shows buildings labeled "cotton gin," "flour mill," and "grain elevator," along with a building labeled "old light plant, not used." Two separate grain elevators were listed, with a combined capacity of 42,000 bushels. By 1916, some of the mills were powered by sources other than the river; a coal bin is also shown.
On Earl Garrett street, between the river and Water street, is a building marked "windmill warehouse and shop." This was a wooden structure, and stood about where the Cascade Pool would later be located.
There were also two separate "camp yards" on the map -- a place where ranching families could camp when they came to town to trade or shop. One was in the 700 block of Water, behind today's Arcadia Theater and extending behind the old Favorite Saloon building, which holds Hill Country Living today. The other camp yard was in the 800 block of Water, behind what is now the Rivers Edge Gallery, at the intersection of Water and Washington streets.
Along Schreiner street, west of Sidney Baker, there were many warehouses and lumber yards. These were located in that area because the rail line ran along that street. In 1916, Kerrville was still served by rail service, both freight and passenger. Most of the homes constructed in those years, as well as the goods bought and sold in local stores, arrived by rail, and was distributed from that street.
Along McFarland and Hays street, where the City of Kerrville has several buildings today, once stood the Kerrville Electric Light, Heat, and Power Company building. In 1916 many (but not all) homes in the downtown area had electricity. Power was available during the day until just past sunset -- unless one of the Schreiner families had a party, in which case the power was available to the entire community until the party ended.
Near the power plant was the "Charles Schreiner Water Works Pump House," which supplied water to many residents and businesses in the first water system in the community.
In 1916, all but one of the churches were frame structures; the exception was the Baptist church, which then was located on the corner of Jefferson and Washington streets. None of the old churches remain, save for a remnant found in a present-day home on Jefferson street.
The past century has seen many changes. I'll post a copy of the map on the front window of our printing company if you'd like to see a copy.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is old enough to remember freight trains rumbling into town. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 14, 2015.

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