Sunday, July 23, 2017

Kerr County as seen in Postcards

Kerrville, approaching on State Highway 16, from south of the Guadalupe River
Kerrville, approaching on State Highway 16, from south of the Guadalupe River
Click on any image to enlarge

Heart o' The Hills Inn
A poet once suggested it would be a gift to see ourselves as others see us, though I would likely want to leave that gift unopened, locked in a closet, underneath a tarp or two.
Schreiner's Mill in downtown Kerrville
Schreiner's Mill
Since its earliest days our county has worked to transform how others see it, whether from the exaggerated language of various newspapermen or the efforts of chambers of commerce, service clubs, and even sermons from local pulpits. Like every other community, we want to look good!
One method used to make Kerr County look good is quite clever because it presents a picturesque view of our county and asks others to endorse that view as they share it with others. I enjoy collecting samples of this method, and they do make our community look better.
Postcards showing life here tend to illustrate the good things about our part of the world: the river, examples of local industry, various civic monuments, grand views of hills and sky.
Starr Bryden shot of Texas Highway 16 near Medina
Bryden's of SH 16
Kerrville Cascade Pool
Cascade Pool
The earliest postcards in my collection are printed in black and white, or in a sepia color. Some were printed in Germany, which must have caused a controversy, because others are marked "Not Printed in Germany." Those were printed at the turn of the last century, and they were printed right here in Kerrville. As a printer this made me chuckle, because all of the local printers I know still want everything to be printed here in town.
Inn of the Hills
Postcards showing lodging facilities are quite common in my Kerr County collection of postcards, though even these can tell a story. I have several postcards showing the St. Charles Hotel, which once stood on the corner of Sidney Baker Street and Water Street, opposite Water Street from Pampell's. Until recently the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital stood there; today the site is a parking lot.
Kerrville from Tivy Mountain
Kerrville from Tivy Mountain
The postcards showing the St. Charles are interesting because they document the changes made to the building over time. Built in 1883, the hotel was originally a two-story frame structure. Frame additions were made over time, and then around World War I a third story was added, and the exterior was covered in stucco and made to look more modern. The building was gone by 1936, having stood for around 53 years.
Postcards showing the building range from black and white images to colorized images; some are photorealistic and some are almost abstract, as if they represent the idea of the hotel rather than how the structure actually appeared.
Water Street in Kerrville
Water Street
a poster of this scene is available
by clicking HERE
The Blue Bonnet Hotel in Kerrville
The Blue Bonnet Hotel
Pioneer photographer Starr Bryden also published postcards of the area. While he did offer shots of local landmarks like the post office and various churches, he also published many scenic images of the hill country. Many of his shots were made at great effort, taken from the very top of hills or from the edge of cliffs. Knowing that Bryden had some physical limitations after a fight with tuberculosis, and also remembering the technology with which he worked, these photographs are amazing.
Kerr County Courthouse in 1907
Kerr County's 3rd Courthouse
Early postcards also show local industry. I have several postcards showing wool wagons, where three wagons were hitched together and pulled by a team of oxen or mules. This was the most efficient way to get wool to market from the outlying ranches of our county (and counties nearby); Kerrville was the marketplace for these fibers and also was the railhead for transporting the clips to national markets. I cannot imagine the difficulties the drivers of these wagons faced, traveling over unpaved roads, carrying a ton (or tons) of freight, trying to control the movements of many animals.
West Texas Fair 1907 in Kerrville
West Texas Fair 1907
Many of the local postcards in my collection were never mailed. I suppose they were bought as keepsakes.
Others, though, have short messages to a loved one; with limited space they read like tweets on Twitter. Most of them say a variation of "this place is lovely and I wish you were here, too."
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical Kerrville and Kerr county items. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 22, 2017.

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