Friday, August 6, 2010

The St. Charles Hotel -- a grand place in the Heart of Kerrville.

The St Charles Hotel in 1907, on the corner of
Sidney Baker and Water Streets, Kerrville
(Site of old Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital)
When Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital was at work constructing an expanded emergency room about a decade ago, its construction project was halted when workmen found a pit that contained bits of bone and broken china. The foreman was concerned that he had dug up a biohazard. The administration of the hospital reassured the construction crew, and a few local archeologists investigated the find, reportedly between the main hospital building and the Guy Griggs office building, and determined that the crew had unearthed the remnants of an old pit used by the St. Charles Hotel.
It’s hard to wander around Old Town Kerrville without stumbling across history.
The St. Charles Hotel figures in our community’s history as the most elegant hotel of her era; many of the other ‘hotels’ were actually places for boarding people ill with tuberculosis, but the St. Charles, as far as my research can tell, was always strictly for travelers, although a few rooms were rented to ‘bachelors’ for extended periods. It was the place where the prominent visitors to our community stayed, including William Jennings Bryan, United States senators Joseph Weldon Bailey and Charles Culbertson, and numerous Texas governors. Admiral Chester Nimitz, who gained fame during the Second World War, lived at the hotel when his stepfather and mother managed the facility.
St. Charles Hotel, Kerrville, 1905
The hotel was constructed in 1883, reportedly by Charles Schreiner. I could not find the reason for its interesting name. The hotel was razed in the summer of 1936. During its height it had 63 guestrooms, a large lobby, and a dining room that could accommodate 125 people. Because of the size of its banquet facilities, many of the community social events were held there, including the Tivy High School junior-senior banquet. It was the original home of the Business Men’s club, an organization that later became the Kerrville Rotary Club, and both organizations had their first meetings in the elegant St. Charles.
St Charles Hotel, Kerrville in the 1920s.
The old frame structure has been stuccoed.
The building went through a series of owners and managers. Starting with Captain Schreiner, the next owners were Mr. & Mrs. Lee Mason. George Morris purchased the hotel from the Masons in 1907, and it was sold by his widow to Mr. J. V. Davis in 1930. Mr. Davis was then the operator of the new (and comparatively huge) Blue Bonnet Hotel. Mr. Davis then disposed of the property to Schreiner Institute, and the St. Charles was no longer in operation. In fact, the board of the Institute ordered the hotel torn down for materials that were used in the construction of a ‘two story barracks’ on the campus, to be added to the south end of the barracks known as the ‘Show Boat.’ Materials from the old structure found there way into other buildings, as well. Until our print shop’s fire in 1995, several of the interior doors were most likely ‘recycled’ from the St. Charles Hotel.
The St Charles Hotel from a 1920s Postcard
Growth in the popularity of Kerr County as a tourist destination allowed for numerous expansions to the original hotel, the last addition being raised in 1918, where a third floor was added to the building. Its stucco exterior is shown in many photographs of the era. Prior to the addition, the St. Charles was a two story frame building, with scrollwork on the eaves and balconies. There was a courtyard that held a badminton court and a bench glider, in the space between the main hotel building at the corner of the present Sidney Baker and Water Streets, and the old wool warehouse of the Charles Schreiner Company. Color postcards suggest that the original frame building was white with green trim. The addition in 1918 transformed the look of the building into a more modern looking structure that still retained its porches and balconies.
And what ever happened to the pit that the construction workers found this last summer, with its dusty pork bones and broken china?
It was covered over and buried under a new foundation, to be found again, years from now, silently waiting all the while, a physical echo of a grand old lady, the St. Charles Hotel.  I wonder if they'll unearth it during the current demolition of the old hospital.

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1 comment:

  1. Does anyone remember an Alice's Restaurant on Water street? ( early 70's) We would eat there because of the song!


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