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Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Secret Life of Kerrville's "Trailhead Beer Garden" building

Trailhead Beer Garden Kerrville
The newly renovated "Trailhead Beer Garden," on the 
Schreiner University campus.
Click on any image to enlarge.
It’s no secret I love a good history mystery.
My friends Jeremy and Maia Walther, working together with Schreiner University, have created an interesting campus and community amenity at one terminus of the city government’s recently expanded “River Trail” system.
The project is called the Trailhead Beer Garden, and it’s housed in an old building on the periphery of the Schreiner University campus.
While the pandemic has prevented the grand opening of the beer garden, it will eventually serve not only Schreiner students and staff, but also the rest of our community. There will be more on tap than just beer: a full menu of beverages will be available; a stage for performances has been built; and a food truck will anchor at the location. I’m sure it will become a spot for gathering community together, a place for laughter, discussion, and a story or two.
Barbara Dullnig Building Kerrville Texas
The postcard found on eBay.
Here’s the mystery, though: what is the history of that old building?
I remember seeing it for many years, of course, most recently with a worn sign saying “Dan Swensen Faculty Club.” Looking through the windows several years ago, it was obvious the building had seen better days.
When the Walthers became involved, my son and I stopped by to see the inside of the old building. By then the rafters were exposed, showing wobbly old-time framing supporting both a wooden shingle roof and a metal roof placed on top of the old shingles. The building had a steep hip roof stretched beyond a pyramid into a rectangle, with a short ridge line at its crest. The wrap-around porch was uneven, and floor boards had seen decades of uneven repair.  It needed lots of work, which it received.
I was pretty sure the building had once been part of the Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, which was founded in 1906 and continued operations until 1950, when the Presbyterians purchased Mo-Ranch, making it their camp operation. 
I believe Westminster was the first summer camp in Kerr County, and it attracted visitors from all over the southwest. It offered a place of spiritual and physical rest, with access to the Guadalupe River. By 1935 “over 100 buildings and cottages accommodated an annual series of summer conferences,” according to the Texas State Historical Association’s website.
During construction, 2019
Old maps showed a network of streets in the encampment, with names like Zeus, Medina, and Atlas streets. The 1930 Sanborn map of the encampment area shows the Trailhead building near the dining hall, with a band stand between the two. I was disappointed when I noticed the building was not labeled like several of the others. It seemed like I’d reached a dead end.
I may not be speedy, but I am persistent. One day I noticed a postcard for sale on eBay which seemed to show the old building. “The Barbara Dullnig Building, Westminster Presbyterian Encampment, Kerrville, Texas.”
I shared the image with Jeremy Walther, and he agreed. The Dullnig Building was the building now housing the Trailhead Beer Garden.
Now that I had a name, the rest was comparatively easy.
Barbara Weber Dullnig was active in Presbyterian mission work, being elected president of the Foreign Missionary Union of the Presbyterian Churches of the Texas Synod in 1906. She was born in San Antonio in 1874, and died there in 1947 at the age of 72. She was the daughter of immigrants; her father was born in Germany; her mother, France.
According to the “Pioneer Women of the Presbyterian Church, United States,” the Barbara Dullnig Building at Westminster was constructed in 1920. If that’s accurate, the building is 100 years old.
“The Dullnig Building,” that book reports, “is a lasting testimony of the love and appreciation which the women of Texas bear for their former Synodical President. She had had splendid training for the office as a Bible teacher in her home church, then when Western Texas Union was organized she was made the first treasurer, serving for two years, then became president of the Union… Over and over again she toured the State, visiting all of the Presbyterials, strengthening and encouraging weak organizations and getting that personal touch which enabled her to direct the growing work of this tremendous Synodical in a most efficient manner. How she made these long journeys over the State in the early years is past explanation, but they were made by train, buggy or ambulance, and often afoot for many miles, making connections at all hours of the day and night.”
Another local religious group can trace their early days to the same building. In the spring of 1950, Trinity Baptist Church met in the building when the weather was too “inclement” for the Baptists to worship in the open-air Robbins-Lewis Memorial Auditorium just across the street from the Dullnig Building.
I found one news article, from the May 4, 1950 issue of the Kerrville Mountain Sun interesting: members of Trinity Baptist’s “Women’s Missionary Union” met in the Barbara Dullnig Building to discuss the Baptist’s missionary efforts. This was not unlike the efforts of the building’s namesake, a few decades earlier.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who remembers various WMU programs and services at First Baptist Church here in Kerrville when he was a boy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 11, 2020.

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