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Monday, September 26, 2016

A Tour of Downtown Kerrville before 1920

I've been looking for something in my files, which means I've been finding all sorts of other interesting things other than the thing that started the whole search.
For instance, I found a letter postmarked November 1995 which a description of Kerrville before 1920. It was sent to me by Anna Bell Council Roland.
It's a walking tour of downtown Kerrville, and it's fascinating.
Start with our "guide," Ms. Roland, at Pampell's:
Pampells is "perhaps the most interesting building in town from an historical viewpoint. It was built for a hotel by my great uncle, Bill Gregory, in the 1880s. He sold it to Mr. Pampell who put in a confectionery on the first floor with an ice cream parlor at the back for the ladies, an opera house and dance floor upstairs, and in the basement he bottled soda water and made candy. His candy consisted of taffy and boxed chocolates. Access to the upstairs was by way of an outside staircase on teh Sidney Baker side. Here was where we had our first moving picture show. You bought your ticket on the sidewalk and then climbed the stairs. The seats were wooden folding chairs. Just when the heroine in the movie lay on the tracks with the train approaching, some youngster would become so excited and wiggly that the chair would slip out from under him with a terrible crash and many were the screams. Pampell's was originally a frame building, but in 1926 it was remodeled and bricked.
"A few doors down from Pampell's was the Favorite Saloon. The building still stands (cut limestone)." It's the building the Rectors now own, which houses their Hill Country Living Store at 709 Water Street. "The saloon belonged to Ernest Schwethelm. About where the Arcadia is now there was an open area, an entrance to the camp yard between the buildings and the river. Here the freighters who came in with the covered wagons full of wool and mohair camped. It was convenient to the barber shops, all of which had bathtubs for their convenience, it was also convenient to the two large saloons located downtown. Here they stayed until their wool and mohair were weighed and credited to the proper rancher. Then their wagons were loaded with supplies according to the ranchers' lists. These supplies were charged to their credit from the wool and mohair; hence, Schreiner became a banker.
The walk continues past a fire station "with a bell on top which rang out to call the volunteer firemen. Their equipment consisted of a fire hose mounted on wheels which they pulled manually to the fire.
Next was a blacksmith shop. "I believe it belonged to Jake Lawson."
Then Ruff's Cafe and then Schreiner's flour mill.
Heading back to Pampell's, our guide crosses the street: "Here was the St. Charles Hotel, the largest hotel in town and very popular with the summer visitors." This hotel was on the site of the former Sid Peterson Hospital, which was torn down years ago, and is now the Peterson Plaza. "There was a large lawn that extended to the west wall of the wool house."
That wool house was torn down in the 1980s to make way for the surgical annex of the old hospital, but it was "a rock structure," and "the largest primary wool market in the world (circa 1916)."
Next came the Schreiner Store and Bank. "The bank was at the west end of the store. In 1919 they built the bank on the corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets. The entire store was remodeled about 1926."
Across the street, where Francisco's Restaurant is today stood "the Weston Saloon, the largest and most prosperous of the saloons, and likely the busiest. Ladies turned their heads and children were told not to look in that direction, but I can still remember the sour odor."
At that, let's pause in our tour -- to continue again next week.
Until then, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoys finding things in his files, even if it wasn't what he was looking for. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 24, 2016.

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