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Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Blue Bonnet Hotel in downtown Kerrville

The Blue Bonnet Hotel, in downtown Kerrville,
from a 1950s-era tourist postcard
My long-time friend Jan Cannon stopped by our family's print shop for a visit recently, and we shared our memories of Kerrville's Blue Bonnet Hotel. The Blue Bonnet was an eight-story hotel in downtown Kerrville, at the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets; a parking lot is there today.
There are fewer and fewer of us in Kerrville who remember the Blue Bonnet Hotel. During my childhood, the old hotel was around forty years old, and had obviously seen better days.
My earliest memories of the hotel are of joining Dad as he went to his weekly Kiwanis meetings -- and of those memories, the strongest is of the food served during those meetings. I thought the food was great, and going with Dad to his meeting was very special.
I also remember two ladies who lived, for a time, at the hotel: Miss Thurma Dean Miller, who was in charge of children's ministries at First Baptist Church, and Margaret Beirschwale, who wrote a history of Mason which my father printed. It was a great treat to go to the Blue Bonnet, ride the elevator, and visit them.
The March 31, 1927 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun sports this bold headline: "Blue Bonnet Opening Marks New Era in City's Growth."
Indeed, the late 1920s were a period of growth for Kerrville; a year earlier the Arcadia Theater opened, to much fanfare, in the middle of the 700 block of Water Street, and Kerr County had recently built a new courthouse -- the one still in use today.
"The new hostelry, a triumph of architectural design and mechanical construction, lends a distinct metropolitan atmosphere to the city. The facilities and service offered undoubtedly will attract increased numbers of tourists to Texas' greatest playground," the Mountain Sun reported.
"The present unit of the hotel contains 80 rooms, each equipped with private bath, telephone, fan and circulating ice water. All corner rooms have a shower as well as a tub bath. The guest rooms are of commodious size and papered in pleasing harmonious colors with wood work in natural oak. Furnishings and carpeting are of quality in keeping with the high character of the hotel. On each floor are two-room suites, a living room and a bed room with connecting door. Each room throughout the building has outside exposure.”
The Blue Bonnet Hotel Company had high hopes: it planned to build "six or seven" hotels in Texas, including a Blue Bonnet Hotel in San Antonio, at the corner of Pecan and St. Mary's streets. Other towns identified in the story were Laredo, Corpus Christi, Brownsville and Abilene. Of these, only the San Antonio hotel is listed as under construction.
When the hotel opened, it was only five stories tall; a short while later the building grew to eight stories, going from 80 rooms to 140.
Along its ground floor several shops rented space: a drug store, complete with soda fountain; a barber; a beauty parlor; a coffee shop, and a magazine stand. There was an "enclosed ballroom," and plans for a garden terrace overlooking the Guadalupe below.
How the company's plans were altered by the stock market crash a few years later, along with the Great Depression which followed, is probably a story in itself. I don't know how many hotels the company actually built.
The formerly grand hotel was torn down in the early 1970s and was replaced by a drive-through bank for Charles Schreiner Bank. That bank building has since been torn down, too.
I do remember Kerrville's Blue Bonnet Hotel, though, and I enjoyed hearing Ms. Cannon's memories of the place. It was a wonderful hotel.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has a few relics from the old Blue Bonnet Hotel in his collection of Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 11, 2017.








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