Sunday, April 29, 2018

At least one of the tunnels in downtown Kerrville

Kerrville Texas Ice Plant
The tunnel in the basement of the old Kerrville Ice Plant.
Click on any image to enlarge.
If you were to drive down Washington Street, toward the river, cross Water street, enter the parking area of One Schreiner Center, and walk to the edge of the bluff, you'd find a little deck-like area, overlooking the river. My long-time friend Ed Hamilton owns the property and has spruced up the deck, adding a wall and a guardrail several years ago. It offers a good view of the dam in Louise Hays Park, of the Sidney Baker Street bridge, and, if you're not too afraid of heights, a glimpse of the crumbling old millworks below.
Kerrville Texas Ice Plant
Kerrville Ice Plant
note boy on
window ledge.
The deck-like structure is all that remains of the Kerrville Ice Plant, which was originally a three-story building. What most don't realize as they stand there: the building's old basement is directly beneath them.
Further, a 75-foot long tunnel extends from the basement toward Washington Street, and along the tunnel, to the left, is a 600 square foot room, far beneath the surface.
Recently Mr. Hamilton had a team of engineers check out the old structure, and they took a lot of photos of the basement, the tunnel, and the hidden room. Mr. Hamilton was kind enough to share them with all of us.
Just a note, adventure seekers: the basement has been sealed up, again, after these photos were taken. Those seeking to climb around down there should probably call 911 before starting. I think the only people who could rescue you from the old basement today are members of the Kerrville Fire Department.
Kerrville Texas Ice Plant by Bryden
Mill Dam and Ice Plant
In the mid-1970s, when I was a middle-school student, there was a fairly safe way to get into the building, and I've been inside the basement more than once, most recently in the 1990s. That (kind of) safe entrance was sealed up many years ago.
The recent photos show the building as I remember it, with debris and dirt scattered on the floor, and with bare concrete walls and columns. There's a lot more graffiti than I remember, but it's been decades since I was down there.
According to an article by Michael Bowlin, published in the February 10th, 1991 edition of this newspaper, the ice plant building was constructed during the time Seaborn Eastland owned the mill. In the early 1920s, Eastland bought the mill and tore down most of the buildings, except the ice plant, which was a three-story red brick building atop the basement still standing today. The Eastlands leased or sold the building to a San Antonio firm in the late 1950s, and operations continued as a cold storage facility until 1965. The building was abandoned in 1965 and ordered torn down in 1968 by order of the fire marshal.
Kerrville Texas Ice Plant
The basement today
While the upper stories were torn down, the basement, tunnel and inner room remained.
In the 1980s a historical marker was dedicated near the site, to commemorate the old Dietert Mill, traces of which can still be seen below the ice plant basement.
Kerrville Texas Ice Plant
Another view of the basement
In the days before most homes had a refrigerator, ice was an important commodity. Homes displayed a blue diamond in their front window, to indicate to the ice company how much ice they needed.  The ice was delivered and placed in the icebox by men with strong backs.
The ice plant also did a brisk business during hot Texas summers selling chilled watermelons.
While I don't have a clear memory of the old Kerrville Ice Plant, I do have a childhood memory of exploring its basement with other free-range kids my age. I'm thankful to Ed Hamilton for sharing these photographs with us, and for the memories the photographs brought to me.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who spent a lot of his childhood in the downtown area of Kerrville. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times April 28, 2018.






No comments:

Post a Comment

Please remember this is a rated "family" blog. Anything worse than a "PG" rated comment will not be posted. Grandmas and their grandkids read this, so please, be considerate.

AddThis

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails