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Sunday, September 8, 2019

The last 19th-century church building leaves Kerrville's Jefferson Street.

First Presbyterian Church, as it appeared in 1918, at the corner
of Earl Garrett and Jefferson Streets.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
There was a time when Kerrville's Jefferson Street had a nickname: Church Street.
Methodist Church
This week the demolition and salvaging of Kerrville's original First Presbyterian Church building was front-page news. The old building has served many years as a family's home, and that family is dismantling the structure for use elsewhere.
I'm glad the materials will find new use. It's true the building started out as a church, but in truth it served as a home much longer than as a church sanctuary. And the family who owns the structure made an honest effort to have the building moved and restored; in fact, I contacted several organizations on their behalf to see if anyone had an interest in restoring the building as it originally appeared. None did.
The old building had to come down: the property has been purchased by the H. E. Butt Grocery Company for expansion of their store here.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Here's a list of the wooden churches which stood along Jefferson Street during the decades of the first half of the last century, going from west to east: Our Lady of the Guadalupe, at Francisco Lemos Street, which was also a school; the Mexican Baptist Church, at Houston Street (later Rodriguez Street), which later became Calvary Baptist Church; the First Methodist Church, at Sidney Baker Street; First Presbyterian Church, at Mountain Street (later Earl Garrett Street); First Baptist Church at Washington Street; and St. Mary's Catholic Church, between Washington and Tivy streets, which moved and later became Notre Dame Catholic Church. You can see why Jefferson Street had the nickname.
St Mary's Catholic
Today, only one of these congregations remains on Jefferson Street: First Presbyterian Church. The site of the Baptist church is now the home of the First Assembly of God. All of the other places of worship have either moved to new locations or have been torn down.
Baptist Church
The Presbyterians had their start here with four other congregations which shared the Union Church in 1885. (The Presbyterians had use of the Union Church on the second Sunday of each month.)
In 1888 the group began raising funds for their own church building. According to the Kerr County Album, "the Reverend William B. Buchanan, an evangelist of the Austin Presbytery of the Northern Presbyterian Church assisted the small congregation of less than a dozen in their efforts to build their first church."
The church they built on Jefferson Street was moved down the street in the early 1920s and for more than nine decades has served as the home to several families.
First Presbyterian, 1923
In 1923 a new church building was constructed for the First Presbyterian Church, a gift of A. C. and Myrta Schreiner, for a congregation of about 160. This building is now called the Schreiner Chapel and stands at the corner of Earl Garrett and Jefferson. Additions over the years have grown to a campus which covers most of that block, including a former 'manse,' or pastor's home, an educational and office wing, a gymnasium/ multi-purpose building, and most recently a new sanctuary with beautiful stained glass, exposed beams, and an outstanding pipe organ.
Now all of the wooden churches of Jefferson Street are gone. One was repurposed as a church, and one was repurposed as a home, and the rest were torn down, moved, or salvaged. The congregations simply outgrew the older buildings.
I'm thankful to the Garcia family who are moving the materials of their home to a new site, and who made a good effort to have the building preserved and restored as a historic building. I'm thankful, too, for the dozen Presbyterians here who built their first church building in the late 1880s, having faith their flock would grow.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who was predestined to write this particular story, though the paradox of free will was quite confusing. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 6, 2019.

Did you know I have two books about Kerr County history available?  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.






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