Monday, March 20, 2017

It doesn't look a day over 79

Kerrville History Photo
The Mystery Photo of Kerrville
Click to enlarge
As you know, I really enjoy a good mystery, especially one which involves an historic photograph of Kerrville or Kerr County.
This a kind reader brought by a nice panoramic image of Kerrville, taken from south of the river, looking northeast.
Like most of the panoramic images of Kerrville, this one was taken from one of the hills opposite Kerrville, and roughly in a line with Earl Garrett Street. The earliest shot from this vantage point I have in my collection is dated 1903; the latest was taken in the late 1970s.
I believe there is a special type of camera that took panoramic photos in those days; this was before our cell phones could take panoramic images easily and quickly. Two of the panoramic photos of Kerrville in my collection also have the name of the photography company in the lower right hand corner. I think they may have been taken and sold to members of the community; I've seen several exact matches to the late-1970s one I have on display behind my desk at work.
The panoramic photograph brought by this week, however, is different. It was taken decades before the one I have on display, but it contains a mystery.
In the center is a title "Kerrville, Texas," and underneath "Approx. 1930-1933." That date was added later.
It's definitely Kerrville, but the date doesn't seem right.
First off, the Sidney Baker Street bridge with the three arched steel supports is in the center of the photograph. I thought that bridge was built in the mid-1930s, so I started to look for clues which might narrow down a more exact date when the photograph was taken.
I know it's before 1941, because Antler Stadium is not shown in the photograph. And I know it's after 1938, because both the Rialto Theater on Water Street and the Schreiner Wool and Commission building is seen on McFarland Drive.
However, all of the other clues are not within that range: 1938-1941. The Saint Charles Hotel is missing from the photograph; it was torn down in 1936. Notre Dame Catholic Church is shown, when it was a stucco structure facing Main Street; it was built in 1935. Jimmie Rodgers house is visible, but it dates from 1929. First Baptist Church is shown in its old location, at the intersection of Washington and Jefferson streets; the current church building won't be built until 1953. There is no Louise Hays Park in the photo; that comes in 1950.
I wish I could find something that would narrow that range; 1938-1941 is a pretty big gap for me.
Otherwise, the photo is quite interesting. It shows the eight-story Blue Bonnet Hotel, at the intersection of Earl Garrett and Water Streets; the old Ice Plant at the river bluff at the end of Washington Street; the steel bridge I remember from my boyhood; the Kellogg Building is pictured; it was the community's hospital before Sid Peterson Memorial was built in 1949. Louis Schreiner's home, Tulahteka, is shown; it dates from 1921.
South of the river, that home is about the only thing shown. All else is plowed farmland, though it looks like the river has filled many of the fields with stones.
I've stitched together a copy of the photo using my computer, and I've enjoyed studying it closely. I'm thankful to the kind reader who brought it by the print shop.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerrville and Kerr County historical items. This column appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times March 18, 2017.

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