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Sunday, November 17, 2019

A huge hotel in downtown Kerrville

Kerrville's Blue Bonnet Hotel, at the south corner of Water and Earl Garrett Streets,
as it appeared in 1927, when it only had five stories.
Click on any image below to enlarge.
I read a news item here this week which mentioned a proposed hotel in the downtown area, near Spring Street, opposite Water Street from the Notre Dame Catholic Church campus.
It’s hard to believe today, but there was once an eight-story hotel overlooking the Guadalupe River in downtown Kerrville, the Blue Bonnet Hotel. It stood at the corner of Water and Earl Garrett streets; the site is a parking lot today, just across the street from the Weston Building, home of Francisco’s Restaurant.
Schreiner Bank, right;
Blue Bonnet Hotel, left, 1927
The Blue Bonnet Hotel opened to much fanfare in on April 2, 1927, with music during the afternoon, and a dance from 9 pm until midnight.
When it opened, it had five stories and 80 rooms. “Eighty rooms,” an advertisement read, “each with a private bath. A telephone in every room. Rates: $2.00, $2.50, $3.00 and $4.00.” Every room was an “outside room,” with views of downtown Kerrville and the hills beyond. Each room also had a shower, tub, fan, and “circulating ice water.”
Building the new hotel cost $250,000 according to news reports. It was designed by Paul G. Silber & Co., architects, of San Antonio. “In designing the Kerrville Blue Bonnet, the architects have incorporated all of the modern features of hotel construction combined with the beautiful design of Mediterranean architecture. Being strictly fire-proof, the building has been designed to carry three additional stories, thus increasing its room capacity eventually to 140 rooms.”
As it appeared in the 1950s,
with eight stories
That eventuality occurred within one year, when an additional three stories were added to the building, growing from the original five stories to eight.
“In addition to the spacious, bright, well-ventilated lobby, there will be installed a garden terrace, connection with both the lobby and dining room, for the convenience of guests. From the terrace, steps will lead to the garden, which, with its delightful walks, bridges, cascades, rustic arbors and seats, will form an ideal playground for tourists.”
The hotel from south of the
Guadalupe River
The construction firm of Walsh & Burney, under the leadership of local building superintendent P. L. Ragsdale, built the hotel in about seven months, breaking ground on August 25, 1926. Several local subcontractors worked on the building, including W. B. Brown of Kerrville, who installed the plumbing, and Ally Beitel, with Kerrville Lumber Company, “who furnished every foot of lumber used in the construction of this premier hostelery.”
The president and general manager of the Blue Bonnet Hotel Company was Floyd Singleton. The company hoped to build Blue Bonnet Hotels in other cities, including San Antonio. By 1928 it hoped to have six or seven new hostelries open and operating across Texas.
From the area that would later
become Louise Hays Park
The Kerrville Blue Bonnet Hotel, when it opened, had two suites; on the fifth floor was the Governor’s Suite; on the fourth, the Blue Bonnet Suite. Both “exquisite suites, in which no detail of high class hotel facilities and service has been overlooked.”
The street level of the building had a coffee shop, barber shop, beauty parlor, and drug store, complete with soda fountain. Adjacent to the hotel lobby was a writing room, telephone booths, and two high-speed elevators (which had elevator operators, not buttons).
For all its self-proclaimed attention to detail and the comfort of its guests, the hotel lacked an important feature: air-conditioning. That absence, coupled with newer hotels, lead to the end of the Blue Bonnet Hotel.
I remember the Blue Bonnet Hotel from my childhood, when I attended Kiwanis Club meetings there with my father. Over the years I’ve collected items from the old hotel – its telephone switchboard, room keys, doors to rooms, a towel, and even a wrapped bar of soap.
In 1971, when I was about 10 years old, the building was torn down to make room for a drive-through bank for the Charles Schreiner Bank. That bank and the drive-through building are both gone today.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who visited the Blue Bonnet Hotel frequently in its final years. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 16, 2019.

I have two books available, both filled with historic photographs of Kerr County.  Both books are available at Wolfmueller's BooksHerring Printing Company, and online by clicking HERE.

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