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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Time Travel, UFOs, and Two Photographs of Kerrville

Kerrville Texas, around 1920, with Union Church
Kerrville, around 1920, taken from the roof of the St Charles Hotel,
looking roughly north
Click on either image to enlarge
When I learn to time travel, I am going to ask several local photographers to frame their shots in a different way.
"Nudge over a little to the left, please. I don't have a photograph of that building," I'll ask in my kindest voice. "You know, while we're here, why not take photos of every building on this block for me?"
I'm sure they'll do this for me, a stranger from the 'future.'
This week I studied two photographs in my collection for clues, trying to figure out what the photographer was hoping to capture.
Both are labeled "Kerrville, 1921," though those dates were added much later.
First question: from where were the pair of photographs taken?
I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this one -- they were both taken from the roof of the St. Charles Hotel, which stood for decades at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets, with about the same footprint as the old Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.
That old hotel was three stories tall -- so the roof was about four stories from the ground. There are several other photos in my collection taken from up there.
Then, as now, folks like to take photographs from a height, from a vantage point. At the time these photographs were taken, the St. Charles was one of the tallest buildings in town.
Both photographs show the hills in the distance. Since those have not changed, I could figure out which direction the photographer was facing. In one, the photographer is facing roughly south; in the other, roughly north.
It's what's in the middle distance in each photograph that I find interesting.
Kerrville, Texas, around 1920
Its sister photograph, taken from the same spot, facing roughly south.
In the photograph facing south, across the river, I notice the top of two buildings, the Favorite Saloon, and the old Schreiner Wool Warehouse. The wool house is gone, but the Favorite Saloon building still stands in the middle of the 700 block of Water Street. It's owned these days by the Rector family. It was built in 1874 and is the oldest building still standing in the downtown area.
In that same photograph, looking across the river, in the 'middle distance,' between the river and the hills, there is nothing but plowed fields. Louis Schreiner has yet to build his mansion 'Tulahteka" on one of the hills, which is a problem for the date handwritten on the photograph. That building, which was most recently the headquarters for the LDB Corporation, was actually built in 1920.  Since it's not there, the date for the pair of photographs has to be before 1920.
The other view, toward the north, is interesting, too for what you can see in the middle distance.
In the center of the photograph is the Union Church, which moved several times, finally finding a nesting site on the far western edge of the campus of Schreiner University. What's unique about this image of the old church is this: a clear view of its steeple. Another church is visible in the photo, too: the old Calvary Baptist Church, with its distinctive striped steeple.
Of course, as with any nearly 100 year old photograph of Kerrville, the photograph holds at least one mystery: a bell tower I've never seen before, but which appears to be near the old train depot.
Neither photograph is particularly well-framed, unless the photographer was attempting to photograph something flying in the sky. Both images do have interesting marks in the sky, but both marks are most likely dust or lint on the camera or film.  Or a cigar-shaped UFO.
There is a simpler solution than traveling through time and bugging earlier photographers to take different photographs, of course. When I time travel, I'll just take along my own camera.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects old photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County.  If you have one you'd like to share with him, please bring it by.  He can scan it and give you back the original, if you'd like. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times January 13, 2017.

Kerrville StoriesThere are still a few copies of Joe's second book available.  Click HERE for more information.

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