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Sunday, November 10, 2019

History at the corner of Kerrville's Main and Sidney Baker streets

The Barker Building, 1950s.  Later this building was called the Kellogg Building.
This corner is currently being worked by earth-moving machines.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Several kind readers, including one who is celebrating a birthday Saturday, asked this week about the lots at the corner of Main and Sidney Baker Street, where crews recently demolished the National Car dealership buildings and began excavating for a new bank building. The sights and sounds of heavy equipment made people wonder about the history of that part of downtown.
It turns out that little corner has been the site of many important parts of our community's story.
Lots 136-143, Block 2, J. D. Brown Addition, all face Sidney Baker Street and the courthouse square across the street, and are part of the earliest map of Kerrville.
When the very first commissioners court decided to place the county seat on land owned by Joshua Brown, they specified he provide a public square of four acres, with streets leading out from the public square to be 80 feet wide.  Sidney Baker Street (then called Tchoupitoulas Street), was one of those 80 feet wide streets.
Secor Hospital, after 
1911 renovations
The lots at the corner of Sidney Baker and Main Street faced the "public square" Joshua D. Brown conveyed to the county government.  The "public square" is the courthouse square today.
The earliest use I can find for the corner of Main and Sidney Baker streets dates from the 1870s, when it was the site for one of the first public schools in our community.
J. J. Starkey, writing in the October 29, 1931 issue of the Kerrville Times, tells this story:
"Sometime in the seventies the school headquarters was located in the stone building...erected, I think by John Ochse, and continued to be used as a school house until the school term of 1882-83."
Starkey was himself a student in that school building, "under the teaching of Mrs. Retta Pottinger, an aunt of Bert C. Parsons. A brother of Mrs. Pottinger, Emerson Parsons, was principal of the school, and taught the higher grades while Mrs. Pottinger taught the beginners.
"One summer, while Mrs. Pottinger was teaching...a bolt of lightning struck the building. It came into the southeast end of the building, ran down the stove pipe, struck the floor which it tore up for a space, and threw the little school into confusion.
"It was raining hard and the doors were closed.  Bert Parsons, who was one of those attending, says the room became dark and smelled like exploded gun powder.
Secor Hospital, 1940s
"In the confusion the doors could not be found and Marion Bess, a big red-headed boy, butted out the lower sash of a window, and the school children escaped, led by Joe Spray."  The children ran toward a house across Main Street in the midst of a downpour and lightning storm.  Two girls whose desks were next to the stove were absent that day, and were thus spared. No one was hurt in the incident.
On the 1898 Sanborn map of downtown Kerrville, the rock school house building which stood right on the corner of the intersection, is marked vacant. Beside it, toward Jefferson Street, is a building marked the Hutchison House hotel, which was run by a E. B. Elam.  A newspaper ad for the hotel says "Nice cool rooms and clean comfortable beds. Table supplied with the best the market affords.  Positively no Consumptives Taken."
Secor Hospital after a snowfall
Later, in 1911, a doctor approached Captain Charles Schreiner with an idea to put a hospital in the vacant rock building.  The doctor offered to "match him dollar for dollar in the expense necessary to establish such an institution.
"Captain Schreiner was skeptical and frankly advised the doctor that he did not think such an institution could be made to pay in this out of the way place... He agreed, however, to spend $200 in improving an old stone building that had been an eye-sore to the town for years and the doctor put in upwards of five thousand in building and equipment and evolved a fairly decent little hospital. The local physicians cooperated and the institution was a success."
About 18 months after the hospital opened a fire broke out in the building, and it looked like there would be no hospital in Kerrville.  The founding doctor thought about leaving town and starting a new hospital in San Antonio.
Schreiner, by this time, had realized how important the hospital was to the community. He worked with several community business leaders and they agreed to build a modern hospital building for the doctor and renting it back to him. The first 20-room wing was completed soon after, and about a decade later the hospital expanded again.  That hospital, the Secor Sanitarium Hospital, named for Dr. William Lee Secor, operated on the corner of Main and Sidney Baker Street until Dr. Secor's death in 1937.
The Kellogg Building, 1980s
In 1920, Schreiner bought out the other investors and deeded the hospital to the City of Kerrville, while providing an endowment to help fund  health care for the "poor and unfortunate."
In October 1937, Dr. J. D. Jackson bought the building and renamed the hospital the Kerrville General Hospital; after Dr. Jackson's death, the hospital was leased by Dr. D. R. Knapp, and operated until the opening of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital in 1949.
From 1949 until 1987 the building housed a variety of offices, and was known first as the Barker Building, and later as the Kellogg Building, and went through a number of owners.  It was torn down in May, 1987.
The lots were most recently the home of John Miller's National Car operations.  A bank building is currently under construction on part of the site.
Until next week, all the best.

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Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wishes Mary Ellen Summerlin a very happy birthday. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 9, 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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