Historic Kerr County photographs available!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Two newly discovered photos of Kerrville in 1897

Kerrville, 1897.  On the left, the Gregory Hotel; on the right, the St. Charles Hotel.
These stood at the intersection of Water and what is now Sidney Baker Street.
Click any image to enlarge.
In the winter of 1897 photographs of Kerrville were taken by "Mr. Lowrey, a traveling man.' Two of his photographs survive, and this past week a kind reader shared them with me, and now I can share them with you.
The problem with 120-year-old photographs is this: none of the structures in the two images still exist. By looking closely at the images you'd never find the spot from which they were taken, using modern clues, since the landscape and buildings have completely changed since that time.
This problem makes figuring out from where each photo was taken more of a challenge, and therefore much more fun. In fact, you'd need a bag of tricks to solve the mystery.
I can now confirm both of the images were taken in Kerrville; one from what is now Peterson Plaza, facing roughly west, toward what is now Pampell's; the other was taken from the other side of the river, in what is now Louise Hays Park, near where the footbridge stands today, looking up the bluff to the area between the vacant Bank of America building to the vacant Arcadia Theater.
Neither photograph shows people, though that's probably because it was cold. One of the photos was taken after a snowfall.
That photo, of the side of the St. Charles Hotel (which stood on the eastern corner of today's Sidney Baker and Water Street) shows the Gregory Hotel (which, after many transformations, is now the Pampell's building). I've never seen this photo before.
There are several significant things in the photograph. First, it shows the St. Charles grew after 1897; an addition shown in other photographs of the building is not in this photograph. Second, a building is visible between the two hotels which I've never seen before. It's on the western corner of the intersection of Water and Sidney Baker.
One of the tools I use to help me decipher old photographs is my collection of Sanborn-Perris fire maps, and I have a copy of one from August, 1898. I bought transparencies of these old maps years ago from the Library of Congress, and they've proven useful many times.
The 1898 map shows the St. Charles without an addition, and the 1904 map shows the St. Charles with the addition, so the handwritten date of 1897 on the back of the photographs is probably accurate.
The 'mystery building' shown in the gap between the two hotels is listed on the Sanborn map, and labeled "Notions & Mill'y," and its description on the map matches the photograph. It's a frame building of one story with an awning in front.
Kerrville, from the river, 1897
Kerrville, from the Guadalupe River, 1897.
The buildings shown once stood in the 700 block Water Street

A copy of this image is available HERE.
The other photo taken in 1897 was more difficult to figure out. It was taken from the Louise Hays Park area, near where the footbridge crosses today, and it looked toward the bluff and town. At first I didn't think it was actually of Kerrville, but had been mislabeled years ago. This happens frequently. I didn't recognize a single building in the photograph, and there was a building in the middle with a chimney and sloping roof.
But studying the old 1898 map showed me I was wrong: it was definitely of Kerrville. The photographer waded across the river and pointed his camera north. The building with the chimney in the center of the photograph is the St. Charles Hotel. The building closest to the photographer was the windmill and warehouse shop of Charles Schreiner. The other buildings were a part of the camp yard, where ranchers could park their wagons and spend the night when they brought wool or mohair to market, or when they made a run into town for supplies.
Nothing else is known about the photographer, Mr. Lowrey, beyond the inscription on the back of each photograph. Perhaps additional photographs taken by him will be found.
In 120 years the photos we snap today will likely be as foreign to viewers as are these photographs to us. However, if all of the digital photos we take are never printed on paper, it's possible we'll have more photographs of Kerrville from 1897 than we will from 2017.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical items from Kerrville and Kerr County, and who enjoys a good puzzle. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 17, 2017.







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