Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Grand Hotel in the Heart of Kerrville

Courtyard St Charles Hotel Kerrville
Courtyard of the St. Charles Hotel, Kerrville, around 1917
Click any image to enlarge
A poster of this image is available HERE
Recently a kind couple gave me an album of historic photographs and I've enjoyed sharing a few of the images with you here each week.
Among the photos are a cache of photographs of the St Charles hotel, many of them images I've never seen before. While many photos of the exterior of the hotel are in circulation, there are very few I can absolutely confirm were taken of the interior of the hotel. This album has several interior photos.
Kerrville's St Charles Hotel, around 1923
Kerrville's St Charles Hotel, around 1923
A poster of this image is available HERE
The St. Charles Hotel stood on the eastern corner of the intersection of Water and Sidney Baker streets. It was across Water Street from Pampell's, and across Sidney Baker Street from the city's parking building. Today the site is called Peterson Plaza; in recent memory it was the site of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.
Why are photos of this long-ago hotel so important?
The St. Charles Hotel figures in our community’s history as the most elegant hotel of her era; many of the other local ‘hotels’ were actually places for boarding people suffering from tuberculosis. The St. Charles, as far as my research can tell, was always strictly for travelers, although a few rooms were rented to ‘bachelors’ for extended periods.
Kerrville's St Charles hotel, around 1907
Kerrville's St Charles hotel, around 1907
A poster of this image is available HERE
In Kerrville, it was the place where the prominent visitors stayed, including William Jennings Bryan, United States senators Joseph Weldon Bailey and Charles Culbertson, and numerous Texas governors. Admiral Chester Nimitz, who gained fame during the Second World War, lived at the hotel as a youngster through his teen years when his stepfather and mother managed the facility.
In short, for several generations the St. Charles was a center of social life here.
The hotel was constructed in 1883, reportedly by Charles Schreiner. I have not discovered the reason for its interesting name, though I've tried. The hotel was razed in the summer of 1936, so it stood for around 53 years.
During its height it had 63 guestrooms, a large lobby, and a dining room that could accommodate 125 people. Because of the size of its banquet facilities, many of the community social events were held there, including the Tivy High School junior-senior banquet. It was also the original home of the Business Men’s club, an organization that later became the Kerrville Rotary Club, and both organizations had their first meetings in the elegant St. Charles.
Kerrville's St. Charles Hotel veranda, around 1920.
Kerrville's St. Charles Hotel veranda, around 1920.
A poster of this image is available HERE
The building went through a series of owners and managers. Starting with Captain Schreiner, the next owners were Mr. & Mrs. Lee Mason. George Morris purchased the hotel from the Masons in 1907, and it was sold by his widow to Mr. J. V. Davis in 1930. Mr. Davis was then the operator of the new (and comparatively huge) Blue Bonnet Hotel, at the corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets. Mr. Davis then disposed of the property to Schreiner Institute, and the St. Charles was no longer in operation. In fact, the board of the Institute ordered the hotel torn down for materials to be used in the construction of a ‘two story barracks’ on the campus, to be added to the south end of the barracks known as the ‘Show Boat.’
Materials from the old structure found their way into other buildings, as well. Until our print shop’s fire in 1995, several of the interior doors were most likely ‘recycled’ from the St. Charles Hotel.
Mrs. Mattie Morris at the front desk of the St. Charles Hotel, Kerrville, 1909
Mrs. Mattie Morris at the front desk of the
St. Charles Hotel, Kerrville, 1909

A poster of this image is available HERE
Growth in the popularity of Kerr County as a tourist destination allowed for numerous expansions to the original hotel, the last addition built in 1918, where a three-story annex was added to the building. Its stucco exterior is shown in many photographs of the era. Prior to the addition, the St. Charles was a two story frame building, with scrollwork on the eaves and balconies. There was a courtyard that held a badminton court and a bench glider, in the space between the main hotel building at the corner of the present Sidney Baker and Water Streets, and the old wool warehouse of the Charles Schreiner Company. Color postcards suggest that the original frame building was white with green trim. The addition in 1918 transformed the look of the building into a more modern looking structure that still retained its porches and balconies.
I'm truly thankful for these historic photographs because they offer a glimpse of the grand hotel that once graced Kerrville's downtown area.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historic Kerrville and Kerr County items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 1, 2017.

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