New Kerr County History Book Available!

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Join me for some local time travel -- free admission

How has downtown Kerrville changed since 1880?
Click on any image below to enlarge.
If you could travel back in time, would you?
Such a journey would be dangerous for so many reasons. (We’ve all seen the movies.) Worse, there would be no guarantee you could make it back to our time, to your family and friends.
A closer look will
solve a riddle.
Fortunately, the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center, on the corner of Earl Garrett and Main streets in downtown Kerrville, has a way for you to time-travel without the risk.
A few months ago they asked if I would curate a show about downtown Kerrville and how it’s changed over time. The result is a museum-quality display of historic downtown Kerrville photographs and items which will allow you to time travel from the 1880s through the mid-1950s, seeing the people and streets of Kerrville during those eras, to see how much has changed, and how much has stayed the same.
I’m very thankful for the crew at the KACC – for their kind invitation, of course, but also for their hard work as they installed the show in the little Derby Gallery right at the front of the center.
As you walk through the display, with over 30 historic photographs, some images will seem very familiar, but some images will be completely foreign. Some of the buildings in the photographs were gone before any of us arrived on the scene. Almost all of the people, too. Even the street names have changed since those earliest photographs.
Meet her?
The show’s title, “Before You Got Here,” was a playful way to say downtown Kerrville is constantly changing – and has been changing since its earliest days.
If you stop by the exhibit, there are a few things I hope you’ll take time to really study.
On the far wall you’ll find two panoramic shots of downtown Kerrville, taken from a hill just southwest of downtown, across the Guadalupe River. Nestled between them is a small photograph taken from the same spot.
The panoramas, 1940 on top,
the little 1903,
and the 1970s on bottom
The small photograph was taken in 1903. Downtown Kerrville was tiny. Of the buildings captured on film that day, only a few remain; several others have undergone such extensive renovations they’re hard to recognize. See if you can find the Weston Building, which today is the home of Francisco’s Restaurant, in that little photograph. Mark that spot in your mind, because that will be a helpful reference as you explore the two panoramic photos.
The panoramic image hanging above the little photograph dates from around 1940; the clue is the football stadium, which appears to be under construction in the upper part of the photograph. Find the Francisco’s Restaurant building in the photo, and from there you can navigate your way around the rest of downtown. Many people who have seen this photograph think, at first, that the tall building in the photograph is the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital, but it’s not. SPMH was built in 1949; the tall building in the photograph is the Blue Bonnet Hotel, an eight-story beauty which once stood in the middle of the downtown area.
Some artifacts.
The smaller panoramic photograph displayed below is from the mid-1970s. I know, it’s really too recent to be included in this show, but I thought it might help viewers interpret the older photographs presented above. (And this time, you’d be right: the tall building in that photograph is the old Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital.)
The oldest photograph on display was lent to the show by my longtime friend, Lanza Teague. This photo, from around 1880, shows the Gregory House Hotel, which was operated by some of her ancestors, William and Julia Gregory. Parts of that old building formed the basis of what later became Pampell’s, today the home of the Humble Fork Restaurant, at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets.
For me the photograph with the most unanswered questions is that of a cowboy pedestrian diagonally crossing the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets. He is wearing a western hat and has on a vest, decorated with a shiny watch chain. He looks like an old-west movie character, puffing on a cigar as he strides toward the camera. Then you notice he’s carrying a roll of printed materials in his right hand, possibly newspapers. And then you notice his boots. They look impeccably clean, even as he crosses the dusty, unpaved street; they’re just not the condition of footwear you’d expect to find on a trail hand. I have no idea who he is.
The Kerr Arts & Cultural Center is at 228 Earl Garrett Street in downtown Kerrville. Admission is free. The center is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm.
There are also two shows of art by local artists currently on display in the larger galleries – for a welcome rest after your time travels.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who would not like to time travel. However, if you make such a trip, he’d certainly like to hear about your journey. Be sure to take a lot of photographs.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 11, 2020.

I have two books available -- each is full of historic photographs and stories about Kerr County.  For more information, click HERE.

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