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Sunday, September 10, 2023

Wait. Is this story correct? Where exactly did the Kerrville City Council meet in 1909?

Is this the Newman Building?
Click on any image to enlarge.

In Kerrville, in 1909, a civic club was often in the news. It was called the “Kerrville Business Men’s Club,” and its mission was to promote Kerrville and sponsor projects which helped Kerrville grow.

While reading about the club, I ran across an interesting story which I had to double-check because it didn’t seem plausible. Turns out the story was true.

The club itself had an impressive membership list. Kerr County’s premier businessman, Captain Charles Schreiner was a member – as were three of his sons: A. C., Louis, and Charles. Five ministers were also members, though I don’t know what classification of businesses they represented. Several future mayors of Kerrville were also members: H. Remschel; George Morris; W. H. Rawson; A. T. Adkins; and W. A. Fawcett. And there were members’ names still recognizable today: J. L. Pampell; Charles Real; D. H. Comparette; and J. E. Grinstead.

In 1909, the men in this club represented the ‘movers and shakers’ of our community.
The club supported ‘good roads,’ community clean up days, published maps and souvenir booklets, which told of the beauty of Kerr County and the charms of her people.

They even had guest speakers. In 1910, they heard from T. S. Brackenridge, of St. Louis, who was spending time in Ingram. While in Ingram, Mr. Brackenridge invented an ‘aeroplane’ which he claimed ‘would excel all others.’ During his talk, he showed the club a model of the airplane. (A quick Google search did not find anything of Mr. Brackenridge, or of his aeroplane.)

The article about the Kerrville Business Men’s Club which intrigued me was published in the Kerrville Mountain Sun on April 24, 1909.

“New Club Room,” was the title of the short article. “City Council and Business Men’s Club jointly, have leased Second Story of the Newman Building.

“In accordance with instruction given him at the last regular meeting of the Kerrville Business Men’s Club, President Carpenter, of the club, called upon the [Kerrville] City Council with a proposition to join in securing new quarters for the two organizations. At a regular meeting of the City Council held Tuesday night, the Council instructed Mayor Remschel to act in cooperation with Mr. Carpenter in an effort to secure desirable quarters.

“The result of this action was that on Wednesday a deal was put through by which the second story of the Newman Building becomes the Business Men’s Club and Council chamber.

“The School Board is cordially invited to make the new Club Room headquarters and their meeting place.”

This presented a problem. I had no idea where the Newman Building was in downtown Kerrville. It took a bit to find it.

In 1909, there was a retail store called R. S. Newman’s which advertised in the Kerrville Mountain Sun. It sold women’s clothing items and sewing notions. “Dress goods: we have not heretofore carried this line, but now have in a strictly new and in every way worthwhile stock of Women’s Wearables,” one such ad read, continuing, “including all the newest and neatest things in dress fabrics, trimmings. RUNCHINGS. RIBBONS. Laces, Embroideries, White Goods.”

I looked up ‘runchings,’ and learned they are ‘a gathered overlay of fabric strips that are pleated, fluted, or gathered together to create a ripple-like effect.’

Newman’s store took up the bottom floor of the Newman Building, and the Kerrville Business Men’s Club and the Kerrville City Council shared the upper floor with one other tenant, Dr. A. F. Thigpen, a dentist.

And where was the Newman Building? It was on the corner of Main and Mountain streets. (Today Mountain Street is called Earl Garrett Street.)

Today, that same building is known as the Guthrie Building, and is currently the home of the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country.

I double-checked an old map, and it’s true: the Guthrie Building was labeled “City Hall” on maps from the 1910s until the 1930s.

If you think today’s Kerrville city council chambers are small, consider the chambers in 1909: Upstairs, without access for handicapped citizens, in a space shared with a civic club and a dentist’s office. Those council chambers were, quite possibly, an actual smoke-filled room.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has served on the city council in two separate city council chambers. The current chamber is the best so far.  This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times September 2, 2023.

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