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Sunday, June 9, 2019

An immigrant who helped design old Kerrville

Alfred Giles architect
Alfred Giles, architect, who designed hundreds of buildings
in Texas and northern Mexico, including several in Kerrville.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
You might be surprised to learn an immigrant from England helped shape the outlines of our community, as well as in other communities all over Texas, and even parts of northern Mexico.
The immigrant was Alfred Giles, born in Hillingdon, Middlesex, England, in the mid-1800s. He was an architect who designed hundreds of buildings, many of which still stand today.
Third courthouse Kerr County Texas
Third Kerr County courthouse
in Kerrville
He studied the 'arts of construction' at King's College, of the University of London, while an apprentice at the architectural firm of Giles and Bivens in London.
In 1873 Giles moved to Texas for his health. He found employment at the contracting firm of John H. Kampann in San Antonio, where he learned about the use of locally available building materials, especially stone.
In 1876 Giles opened his own firm in San Antonio, which designed a wide variety of buildings over the years -- from plain residences to showy mansions, from courthouses to banks.
Giles also designed many buildings in Kerrville and Comfort, and a few in Fredericksburg, Boerne, and Bandera.
Schreiner store and bank Kerrville Texas
Schreiner store and bank, 1890s
In Kerrville, Giles designed the Schreiner store and bank, though that building was extensively revised in 1919 after its construction in 1882 and 1893. He was the architect of the St. Charles Hotel, built in 1884, and torn down in 1936, which once stood on the east corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets. He also designed the third county courthouse in Kerrville, in 1885, which was torn down in 1926. He designed the Charles Schreiner Bank building at the corner of Water and Earl Garrett, complete with a row of brick office buildings, which stretched from the corner to near the Arcadia Theater, around 1914. These were torn down in the 1980s.
Home of Charles and Lena Schreiner Kerrville Texas
Charles and Lena Schreiner's home
A few of Kerrville structures Giles designed are still here: the home of Charles and Magdalena Schreiner on Earl Garrett Street, the Masonic Building just opposite their home, and the home Giles designed at 405 Water Street for one of Schreiner's sons.
The Schreiner Mansion on Earl Garrett Street was built in several phases. The original home was designed in 1879, and then revised in 1895 when the impressive stone porches were added. Giles designed both phases.
Masonic Building Kerrville Texas
The Masonic Building, 1890s
The Masonic Building, just across the street, was for many recent years the home of Sheftall's Jewelry. It was designed by Alfred Giles in 1890. The building was occupied by Kerrville Lodge No. 697 A.F.&A.M. from April 1891 until Charles Schreiner's death in 1927, when the Masons moved their lodge across the street to the Schreiner Mansion. In the Masonic Building, the Masons held their meetings on the second floor, while the ground floor has served many tenants. The first tenant was the U. S. post office. Around 1918 the ground floor was leased by Florence Butt and housed her grocery store until about 1926. (The Butt family has another connection to a Giles-designed building; Florence Butt's grandson, Charles, also a grocer, lives in the restored Carl Wilhelm August Groos House in the King William neighborhood of San Antonio, a house which Giles designed in 1880.)
405 Water Street Kerrville Texas
405 Water Street, Kerrville
The residence at 405 Water Street here in Kerrville was designed by Alfred Giles, and built in 1897 by Captain Charles Schreiner as a wedding gift for his son, Charles Schreiner, Jr. The younger Schreiner and his bride, Kitty West of San Antonio, lived in the house until the summer of 1912, when they sold the home to his brother, A. C. Schreiner.
A. C. Schreiner then sold the home to his son, A. C. Schreiner Jr., who married Nellie Elizabeth Ganter later in the summer of 1912. The sales price was "in consideration of love and affection." The younger A. C. and Nellie lived in the house for the rest of their lives.
In 1927 the couple had Adams and Adams design changes for their home, adding a second floor, arched porch, and tile roof to the original structure. These changes transformed the home.
Alfred Giles designed many buildings which are now landmarks. He also left another landmark.
Alfred Giles, in partnership with his brother-in-law Judge John Herndon James, began purchasing land near Comfort in 1885 to form Hillingdon Ranch, which consisted of over 13,000 acres. Hillingdon Ranch is still in operation, and is owned and operated by members of the Giles family, who raise cattle, sheep and goats.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who admires talented architects. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times June 8, 2019.

If you enjoyed this column, you'll enjoy my two books, which are collections of my columns from 1994 to 2018.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.


  1. It's a shame so many were torn down, beautiful buildings!! Really enjoyed this!!

  2. It is absolutely sickening that so many old buildings in Kerrville have been destroyed over the years. No respect at all for the towns history!


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