Monday, May 30, 2011

Saved at the last minute

There has been a lot of talk around town about the old building next to the library, mostly rumors the building is being demolished. I'm happy to report it is not being torn down but rather is being moved by Mark and Linda Stone to a spot near one of their other projects, Rails, a Cafe at the Depot.
433 Water, Kerrville, getting ready to move.
The Stones have a long history of historic preservation and renovation: they worked on the old San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad depot, transforming it into its latest incarnation, Rails. They also worked to renovate what was Hill Country Lumber into an event hall for rails, and they've renovated the old Peterson home on Earl Garrett Street. There might be other projects about which I'm unaware. Now they're working to move the building next to the library.
I heard more than one member of the Kerrville City Council say the old building should be torn down. One suggested it was historically insignificant, the same councilman who, I believe, led the campaign to give away the Arcadia Theater to a local businessperson who is now transforming the beloved old theater into an homage to New York City. Such is the record for historic preservation among the members of the Kerrville City Council.
However, according to Mr. and Mrs. Stone, our mayor, David Wampler, deserves some praise for his role in saving the old building at 433 Water. In an email I've received from the Stones, they say mayor intervened and prevented the building's destruction.
So, what's the story of the old building?
From research done by Mark and Linda Stone, it appears the building is quite old, built sometime between 1884 and 1896 by James Spicer, an English immigrant who was a trained artist, and a part of the Mosty family tree. The Dietert family owned the building later, operating a small general store. Several other families also operated mercantile stores in the building. In the early 1930s the building was transformed into a bowling alley and dance hall. The parking lot we know today once boasted a tennis court as well.
Sometime, too, the building was transformed into apartments by the Morris family, the same family that operated the St. Charles Hotel. In fact, the daughter of one of the owners of the apartments, Belinda Dowd Fleming, recalls seeing St. Charles Hotel memorabilia in the building's basement.
Ms. Fleming's mother, Queen Dowd owned the apartments for a very long time; her father, M. O. Jones deeded the apartments to Queen and her sisters; Queen bought her sisters' share in the 1950s, and lived on the property until her death in 1978.
Ms. Fleming, Queen Dowd's daughter, has happy memories of the old building:
"Living in the apartments provided me with a built in large family," she writes. "Some families lived there for years. Many young couples lived in the apartments after their marriage and before they bought a house. One couple who comes to mind is Jack and Ellen Peterson. Ellen was a niece to Admiral Nimitz. Jack was co owner of the American Creamery Company as I remember. The creamery sold little cups of ice cream (in addition to milk) and on the inside cardboard top was a photo of a movie star.
"My favorite all time renters were Mr. and Mrs. O P Ramsey. They lived in apartment number two for at least 15 years. They later bought a house in Kerrville. Sadly they died in a car accident at Bruno’s Curve coming home from San Antonio. Mrs. Ramsey (and I have no idea of her first name) was an invalid. They furnished their apartment in beautiful oriental carpets and antiques. I visited Mrs. Ramsay frequently as a young child. She would put a Caruso 78 rpm on her record player for me."
Mrs. Fleming sold the property in 1980, and it's been through a series of owners since. My high school classmate, Francisco Espinoza, had his first restaurant in the building, before moving it to the corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets in the 1990s.
The current owner is the City of Kerrville, who, as I've noted, almost tore it down. I'm thankful to the Stones for their hard work, to the mayor for his help in preserving the old place, and to Ms. Fleming for telling its story.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is thankful when historic structures are preserved. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times, May 28, 2011
For more information about Joe's book, please click here.


  1. Thank goodness it was saved.

    I love it when old buildings are saved and restored.

    I wish the old Ice Plant had been saved, and I wish that I could see photos of the interior and exterior of the Ice Plant Buildings.

    Great report, Joe!


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