Sunday, August 15, 2010

Maps of Kerrville's past, with rich detail

What if you could have a map of Kerrville from 1898 showing not only the streets, but also showing the buildings with labels indicating what the building was used for? What if the maps often told you who owned the building, how the building was constructed, and the actual size of the structure?
Or if 1898 is too old, how about 1904, or 1910, or 1924 - each showing in great detail the layout of the growing town?
If you're like me, that would be a very cool thing.
Click on image to enlarge
Sanborn-Perris map of Kerrville, August 1898
As I go through the hundreds of photographs we're looking through to put together the picture book of old Kerrville photographs, I often wonder "now where is this?" It's gotten so that I often can look at a photograph and see in my feeble mind's eye the building next to it, and next to that one on either side. If you look at enough of these old photographs it often seems you're standing in the middle of the muddy street yourself taking the picture.
But too often the pictures are just of buildings - stacks of stone and brick, glass and wood. It was the maps that helped bring them to life: that filled them with people and purpose.
And such maps still exist; they are the old Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, drawn to help insurance companies rate the risk a town faced. I suppose a map showing a string of wooden buildings tucked closely together would have a worse rating than a row of brick buildings spaced evenly apart. The drawings are done in black ink, with the buildings shown to scale, and filled with colors indicating the type of construction, the number of stories, and the use of the building.
For example, in 1904 there was a small wooden two-story building whose left front corner was 150 feet from the eastern corner of the intersection of Main and Mountain streets, behind the (then) post office. Today, that would be the front door of the Hill Country Caf‚. In 1904 it was listed as 'Vacant.' On the April 1910 map it is now listed as a 'Grocery Store.' Other sources indicate that that small building was the home of Florence Butt's grocery store, later C. C. Butt Grocery, later H. E. Butt Grocery Company.
Or what about the Union Church, the ragged structure now docked on the western island of the Schreiner College campus? Where was it originally? Other sources place it near the present Union State Bank, at 600 Main Street (Old City Hall). Those sources were right, according to the maps: the Union Church was across Clay Street from the bank, in the 500 block of Main Street, facing Clay Street, where the Texaco Station is today. This is confirmed in some of the older panoramic photographs we have today.
Sanborn-Perris map of Kerrville, August 1898
And what of the confusion of street numbers that have changed?
Fortunately the maps identify the buildings by street and number, which is very helpful since often the numbers (and very often the street names) have changed, making information found in old newspapers hard to reconcile with the present grid of streets we all have memorized and carry around between our ears.
The maps, as a full set, exist in four places: at the Sanborn company headquarters, at the Library of Congress,  the Barker Texas History Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, and at our print shop on Water Street. I drug a patient friend to look at the maps on a recent trip to Austin; I'm afraid I was rude to keep her waiting as I studied them all several times. When we returned to the conference we were attending, and were telling what we had done with our break time, they looked at me as if I was from Jupiter. "You spent the afternoon doing what?" their eyes asked with shock.
But to see the maps - and walk around for a few minutes on the new streets of mud looking at the old buildings - was for me time well spent.
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  1. Do you have any old maps marking Florence Butt's original sack and carry grocery store on Earl Garrett?

  2. Marcus, I believe the first store, the C. C. Butt Grocery, was on Main Street. It's on the map above, 609 Main, marked as a "tin shop."


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