Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Case of the Mystery Building on Water Street

Kerrville Texas mystery building 1908
Wait.  That building is in the middle of what is now called Sidney Baker Street.
Click on any image to enlarge
Last week I was going through a box of old Kerrville photographs and by chance noticed a building which was in a place it shouldn't be, and then, in the very next photograph, it was gone.
In the first photo, the building was there. In the second, it had disappeared.
Kerrville man and dog 1908
Now you see it.
Kerrville Texas child on donkey 1905
Now you don't.
Even stranger, the building appeared to stand in the middle of Sidney Baker Street, next door to Pampell's. If the Sidney Baker Street bridge had existed when the photo was taken, the mystery building would have blocked access to the northeastern entrance to the bridge.
I noticed the building a few years ago in a different photograph, but these newly discovered photographs offered a better angle to view not only the mystery building, but also the building which was behind the mystery building.
That first photograph showed three youngsters posing in the bright morning sunlight on a bench in the front yard of the St Charles Hotel. That hotel stood on the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets, where, until recently, the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital stood. Behind them are two frame buildings: on the left was Pampells, on the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets; on the right, the mystery building, sitting in the middle of Sidney Baker Street; a little farther to the right, a one-story building, which might be a fore-runner of the building that stands today across Sidney Baker Street from Pampell's.
Kerrville Texas children at St Charles Hotel 1908
Three children pose in the bright morning sun, on the lawn 
of the St. Charles Hotel, around 1908
The mystery building is behind the boy on the right.
Pampell's is behind the boy on the left.
One of the newly-discovered photographs show both Pampell's and the mystery building; in this photo a skinny man wearing a straw boater is posing with his dog in the yard of the St. Charles Hotel. Behind the man is Pampell's; behind the dog, the mystery building.
But this photo offers a view of the mystery the first photo did not: a clear view of the upper story of the building, and with that view, a clue.
It was my eagle-eyed sister who noticed something about that second story: it is missing its balcony. That first step out of the upper story door would have been dangerous. Further, she noticed that the balcony itself seemed to have been sawn away, because the ends of the joists can be clearly seen.
That part of the roof of the building over the missing balcony was not supported by posts or columns. It was just hanging there.
The third photograph shows a man, woman, and a child; the child is posing from the back of a donkey, and neither the child nor the donkey seem particularly thrilled about the situation. However, between the shoulder of the man and the shoulder of the woman we should see our mystery building. It has vanished.
I have a theory: I think the mystery building shown in the two photographs was being moved, and I think I know from where it was being moved. I have no idea, yet, as to where it was being moved.
In one of Lanza Teague's photographs of the Gregory House, a building use which preceded Pampell's on the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets, I can see a two-story building which looks a lot like the mystery building. That building stands between Pampell's and the old Favorite Saloon building, about where Cricket's stands today. I also noticed on the 1904 Sanborn map of Kerrville a two-story frame building in the spot, but on the 1910 map, the frame structure had been replaced by a concrete and masonry building, which was occupied by a drug store (Rawson's) and a tailor (Model Tailoring).
Kerrville Texas downtown 1897
Looking from Peterson Plaza
toward what will become Pampell's, 1897
St.Charles on right; Gregory Hotel on left.
No mystery building in the middle.
That masonry building is known today as the Davis Building, and is owned by the Rector family. However, when it was built, it was known as the Rawson Building.
W. H. Rawson arrived in Kerrville around 1890; he was a pharmacist, and he purchased the Peavy Drug Store which was housed in a two-story frame building where the Davis Building stands today. According to research done by Deborah Gaudier, "he operated his business in that building until 1908, when it was torn down and this new...building was erected. Rawson's Drug moved in to the new building in August, 1909."
An ad in the September 4, 1909 edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun says "we are now in our new concrete store building and are at home to the trade. For twenty years we conducted a drug business in the old wooden building. We now have a modern building, equipped for a modern drug business."
I wonder, if, during construction of the new store, business was conducted from the old building, temporarily located a few doors down... in the middle of the street?
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects old photographs of Kerrville and Kerr County. Please share your treasures with him -- he can scan your original and give it back to you.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times February 3, 2018.

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