Monday, November 8, 2010

Searching for Charles Schreiner's Tunnel

Schreiner Bulding, Kerrville
An opening now sealed
in stone.

I traipsed around the old Schreiner department store building this week, taking a quick tour of the renovation project, and, of course, visiting the basement to see if I could find Captain Schreiner's tunnel which has eluded me for so long.
Several friends, members of long-time Kerrville families, have talked about the tunnel as fact.  The story, according what I've heard, tells of an underground passageway connecting the home of Captain Charles Schreiner with the store, a tunnel whose entrance was covered with a stone wall years ago, during one of the many remodeling projects the old building has endured.
Indeed, several months ago I was shown an archway in stone on what was once an exterior wall there -- but the archway was about at ground level, suggesting a passageway underneath.   The other side of that wall, in the basement, had been covered with a thin insulating coating, when the basement room was used for cold storage.  It was my hope when the insulation came down, the entrance to the passageway, though rocked in, would be visible in the old wall.
And so this week I asked to visit the basement and see.
Spectral light was not
visible to the naked eye
The project, I found as I entered the building, is still going at full tilt.  Workmen were working in the old mezzanine area, where, when I was a child, Schreiner employees would wrap your Christmas presents for you.  A rock wall has been constructed between the old men's department and what was once the home goods department.  The entire building is being reconfigured for new uses. 
Interesting old tin ceilings have also been exposed -- original to the 1919 renovation of the building, probably.
Whatever goes in the old building will benefit from the attention to detail and care being given its renovation.  Undoubtedly it would have been cheaper to start over from scratch, building a modern building on the site.  It is, after all, a structure that's been undergoing almost constant change since the 19th century.  I do not know what the next chapter for the building will be, but I am confident its future is bright, and the enterprises which make their home there will profit from the history preserved in its old stone walls.
But I digress. The tunnel.  Is there evidence of a tunnel in the basement of the old Schreiner building?
Here's what I found during my quick visit Tuesday: a lot of evidence of change.  The building has been remodeled and refitted over and over and over.
In the area I thought most promising for signs of a tunnel were two rectangles in the wall which indicated openings long since closed up, but they were not at the level of the floor of the basement.  They were above the floor, like windows.
In the front of the building, on the Water Street side, two windows still exist; one has light coming through. 
Perhaps when you've walked on that side of the building, on the Water Street side, near where the shoe department was during the final days of the old store, you noticed a grate in the sidewalk.  Looking through that grate you can see a little light well; there is a window there still, letting a bit of precious light into the old basement.
I wonder if the two openings I saw in the back of the store, toward the old home of Captain Schreiner, were once windows like the ones which still exist in the front of the building.  If so, I found no new evidence of a tunnel.
At least I have not found the evidence yet.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who often seeks things which cannot be found.  This column was originally published in the Kerrville Daily Times November 6, 2010

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if you could contact a local college/university to see if they have a sonar system used in geology/archaeology for finding geological formations. Perhaps they could use it to find a tunnel?


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