Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kerrville's Water Street in the 1950s

Kerrville 1950s Water Street
A look up Water Street in the 1950s,
taken from the roof of the Blue Bonnet Hotel
Click on any image to enlarge
What if you could time travel back to the mid-1950s and look up and down Water Street?
Thankfully, you won't have to fire up your flux-capacitor-equipped DeLorean to do this; an unknown photographer took two photos that show Water Street from above.
These two photos were taken from the tallest structures on Water Street at the time: the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital and the Blue Bonnet Hotel. Both are now gone.
The Blue Bonnet Hotel
(The above photo was taken
from its roof.)
The Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital stood at the eastern corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets, opposite Water Street from Pampell's. The Blue Bonnet Hotel stood at the southern corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets, opposite Water Street from Francisco's Restaurant. Both sites are now parking lots.
The photo taken from the top of the eight-story Blue Bonnet Hotel shows, in the 700 block of Water Street, Schreiner Company, Lehmann's, J. C. Penney, and the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.
The Schreiner Company building is mostly unchanged in appearance from then until today. It's interesting to look at the roof of the old building, because the story of its additions and remodeling is still visible. It has undergone many changes since it was first built.
The building that housed Lehmann's started as Schreiner's wool warehouse, and once had a rail spur connecting it to the rails that ran along North Street and Schreiner Street. When I was a boy, this building housed Winn's, a variety store.
The old J. C. Penney building was built in the mid-1920s on what had once been a part of the grounds of the St. Charles Hotel. I remember shopping for school clothes there when I was a student at Starkey Elementary, many moons ago.
Then, of course, the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital. I notice it still has the Humble Oil gas station on the ground floor, that one wing is only five stories, while the other is six. I believe a roof-top garden was envisioned for the lower wing, but I cannot see any evidence of such in the photograph, aside from what looks like railings around the edge of the lower roof. The hospital was built in 1949, so this image shows it not long after it was constructed.
Beyond Sidney Baker Street, the Peterson Garage is shown, along with the other commercial buildings along the block. I was surprised to see a Texaco station at the corner of Clay and Water Streets.
Various other buildings can be seen in the distance. The sign for H-E-B is seen, when that store faced Quinlan Street; I can see the steeple of Calvary Baptist Church, there on Jefferson Street. City Hall is visible, with the fire station next door; and in the distance the larger Schreiner Wool Warehouse on McFarland Street.
Town looks busy in the photograph, which was taken in the afternoon in the autumn or winter; there are no leaves on the trees.
Water Street Kerrville 1950s
Kerrville's Water Street in the 1950s,
taken from the roof of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital
The photograph taken from the roof of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, looking toward the Blue Bonnet Hotel, looks to be taken in the same season, but in the morning. In it one can see the line of offices along the 700 block of Water Street, including the sign for Central Drugs and the Charles Schreiner Bank. Across the street, in the 800 block, is the Blue Bonnet Hotel, the Vogue, and Reiter's Automotive. In the far distance you can see the outline of the Veteran's Administration Hospital building.
Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital
(The above photo was taken
from its roof.)
The Charles Schreiner Bank portion of the image has two interesting things to mention: the old clock, which was a long-time part of downtown Kerrville, and a guy leaning on a parking meter. In almost every image I have of this corner, people are hanging out, usually in conversation. This must have been a spot where socializing was expected. While this building was sheathed in an space-age aluminum facade when I was a kid, the building underneath was unchanged. I remember walking up the creaking steps to the second floor on an errand for my father. It looked like an old movie set in there. The windows were open, but the facade blocked the view (and most of the breeze).
That building is gone, as are most in the photograph. The site of the Blue Bonnet Hotel and the Schreiner Bank are now parking lots.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wouldn't mind time travel as long as he could get back home in time for supper. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times on July 29, 2017.

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