Monday, April 29, 2013

The Blue Bonnet Hotel in downtown Kerrville

With the downtown parking lot between the One Schreiner Center and the former bank building in the news lately, I was reminded of what stood in part of that parking lot: an eight-story hotel. And, with rumors circulating about a possible hotel being built in the downtown area, I was wondering what, if anything, the story of the Blue Bonnet Hotel might add to the conversation.
The Blue Bonnet Hotel, Kerrville
Consider this: an eight-story hotel once stood on part of that parking lot. What would a new hotel in the downtown area contribute to Kerrville?
There are fewer and fewer of us in Kerrville who remember the Blue Bonnet Hotel. During my childhood, the old hotel was around forty years old, and had obviously seen better days.
My earliest memories of the hotel are of joining Dad as he went to his weekly Kiwanis meetings -- and of those memories, the strongest is of the food served during those meetings. I thought the food was great, and going with Dad to his meeting was very special.
I also remember two ladies who lived, for a time, at the hotel: Miss Thurma Dean Miller, who was in charge of children's ministries at First Baptist Church, and Margaret Beirschwale, who wrote a history of Mason which my father printed. It was a great treat to go to the Blue Bonnet, ride the elevator, and visit them.
The March 31, 1927 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun sports this bold headline: "Blue Bonnet Opening Marks New Era in City's Growth."
Indeed, the late 1920s were a period of growth for Kerrville; a year earlier the Arcadia Theater opened, to much fanfare, in the middle of the 700 block of Water Street, and Kerr County had recently built a new courthouse -- the one still in use today.
"The new hostelry, a triumph of architectural design and mechanical construction, lends a distinct metropolitan atmosphere to the city. The facilities and service offered undoubtedly will attract increased numbers of tourists to Texas' greatest playground," the Mountain Sun reported.
"The present unit of the hotel contains 80 rooms, each equipped with private bath, telephone, fan and circulating ice water. All corner rooms have a shower as well as a tub bath. The guest rooms are of commodious size and papered in pleasing harmonious colors with wood work in natural oak. Furnishings and carpeting are of quality in keeping with the high character of the hotel. On each floor are two-room suites, a living room and a bed room with connecting door. Each room throughout the building has outside exposure.”
The Blue Bonnet Hotel Company had high hopes: it planned to build "six or seven" hotels in Texas, including a Blue Bonnet Hotel in San Antonio, at the corner of Pecan and St. Mary's streets. Other towns identified in the story were Laredo, Corpus Christi, Brownsville and Abilene. Of these, only the San Antonio hotel is listed as under construction.
When the hotel opened, it was only five stories tall; a short while later the building grew to eight stories, going from 80 rooms to 140.
Along its ground floor several shops rented space: a drug store, complete with soda fountain; a barber; a beauty parlor; a coffee shop, and a magazine stand. There was an "enclosed ballroom," and plans for a garden terrace overlooking the Guadalupe below.
How the company's plans were altered by the stock market crash a few years later, along with the Great Depression which followed, is probably a story in itself. I don't know how many hotels the company actually built.
I do remember Kerrville's Blue Bonnet Hotel, though, and I wonder what a new hotel might mean for Kerrville, and Kerrville's Old Town area.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has a few relics from the old Blue Bonnet Hotel in his collection of Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 27, 2013

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  1. I loved that old hotel.

    Previously, I commented on the hotel, including stories of the hotel's residents, so I won't repeat myself.

    However, the hotel does hold a special place in my heart.

  2. Although I no longer live in Kerrville, I can see great benefit to building a downtown hotel.

    The infrastructure is in place to support such a hotel (stores, restaurants, taxi service, beautiful scenery, etc.).

    Plus, the hotel guests would bring a great deal of income to the downtown businesses.

    Remember, prospering downtown businesses = a strong downtown environment.

    No one wants to see Kerrville's downtown area enter into a state of disrepair, the way so many other downtown areas have become over the years.

    Downtown hotel guests would ensure the continued prosperity of the downtown area.


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