Monday, February 6, 2012

A new city hall for Kerrville

This past Tuesday I got to attend a rather historic little event, one that's only happened once before in Kerrville, and then back in the 1930s.
Through the ether an invitation arrived by email: "We would like to invite you to the groundbreaking on the new city hall on Tuesday, January 31 at 8:30 a.m."  Given my life-long trade, email invitations are less than desirable, but I was flattered enough to be invited, and, given our digital world, I suppose such invitations are now the norm.
I showed up and was impressed yet again by our mayor, David Wampler, whose brief remarks were nicely thought out, respectful of the history of the site, and remembered those who served in office before him who helped make the moment under commemoration possible. (I'm thinking of those who served recently, not us mossbacks who served before the current mayor was shaving.)
In fact there were several former mayors in attendance, at least two of which oppose the construction of the new city hall.
Kerrville mayor David Wampler
But on that cloudy Tuesday morning we were all there as citizens, a part of a community we love.
The event only has one precedent in our community. Pulling out my old Sanborn maps of Kerrville I see that our municipal office space has moved several times since the community was organized in 1889.
My earliest map, drawn in 1898, does not list a place where city business was conducted, though at that early date there were few options. Lore suggests city hall was on the 2nd floor of the Weston building, there on the corner of Earl Garrett and Water Streets, where Francisco's Restaurant is housed today. By 1910, however, "City Hall" was shown on the map, occupying the 2nd floor of the Guthrie Building, at the corner of Main and Earl Garrett Streets. (Earl Garrett Street was then called 'Mountain Street.'). This spot was also listed on the maps of 1916 and 1924. These municipal offices were rented spaces; the city was a tenant.
In the summer of 1937, during the Great Depression, our community built its first City Hall. On the corner of Main and Clay streets, it is now home of Union State Bank.
That City Hall was built by a local contractor, Bruno Schott, and cost the taxpayers $20,000, plus $9,000 for the land on which it was built. Not a bad price for the building that served our community until 1984, a span of 48 years.
That is the building I remember as City Hall from my boyhood.
In those days the fire department was attached to the building, with living quarters upstairs. Once, as a member of a boy scout troop, we got a tour of the building, and I (and all the boy scouts) got to slide down the brightly polished brass pole from the bunkhouse above to the fire trucks below. Quite a memory.
The police department was also connected to the building, in the back, away from Main Street. We boy scouts also visited the one prisoner cell they had there, where bad guys were locked up until later.
Around 1985 the community decided to buy and renovate the Lower Colorado River Authority building on Junction Highway. The city council budgeted around $750,000 for the project, but newspapers from the time suggest the final cost exceeded $1 million. There were many in the community who opposed the move and expense, fearing an expansion of city government (as well as an increase in taxes).
That city hall is the one I remember from my service in city government a generation ago. It was an exciting time in my life.
The Junction Highway city hall served our community for about 27 years.
Now we will have a new city hall, back where city offices belong: in the downtown area. It has been a puzzle of many moving parts, with advocates and opposition, each shifting their various parts, ending with this result.
The event Tuesday morning was nice. Our mayor spoke well. Hopefully this city hall will last a good long time, and all those who serve there will do so wisely.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr is a Kerrville native who is seldom right but frequently sure.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 4, 2012

1 comment:

  1. Joe,

    I agree with you; City Hall belongs downtown.

    I believe this for a number of reasons, including that people taking care of city business in the downtown area might also spend money with the downtown merchants.

    I live far from Kerrville, and have no vested interest in the town, other than I lived there for many decades, and to this day, love the town very much.

    However, I do not enjoy how, over the years, stores moved out of the downtown area, of all towns, taking walking traffic (customers) with them.

    Please keep us posted, with photos, as the new building takes shape.

    Thank you.


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