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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Postcards of downtown Kerrville -- from 1907

The Charles Schreiner Mansion, 1907.
Click on any image below to enlarge.

In 1907, Charles Apelt, of Comfort, Texas, published a series of postcards featuring buildings from downtown Kerrville.

They’re interesting because they show Kerrville as it was just before automobiles became common here, in 1908, and because they have been ‘colorized,’ making black and white photographs look like full color images. The postcards were printed in Germany.

I suppose Mr. Apelt hoped to sell these postcards locally, though the ‘printed in Germany’ part of the postcard annoyed at least one local printer. J. E. Grinstead, who had a print shop in conjunction with his newspaper, the Kerrville Mountain Sun, published a series of postcards about the same time. These were labeled ‘NOT printed in Germany.’

Regardless of that little controversy, these postcards offer a small walking tour of downtown Kerrville as it appeared 117 years ago, though it’s a walking tour with a few hiccups.

Two of the postcards feature the ‘Charles Schreiner Residence,’ known as the Charles Schreiner Mansion today, and can be found in the 200 block of Earl Garrett Street. Charles Schreiner’s wife, Magdalena, had passed away in 1905, and Capt. Schreiner never remarried. By 1907, the big house must have seemed awfully empty.

The colorized postcards give a few hints about the home, including the color of the window blinds in the right-hand tower, and the landscaping in the small front yard. 

A closer look at the two picture postcards of the residence shows changes, too, aside from the snowfall – the trees and shrubs in the front yard have changed, and the power line pole is missing. More on that, later.

At the end of Earl Garrett Street, where the pavilion overlooking Louise Hays Park stands today, and just downstream, once stood a mill. It milled grains, sawed lumber, and even generated electricity. Originally built by Christian Dietert, by 1907 it was owned by Charles Schreiner. Some of the original mill structure along the river is still down there – and might be the oldest man-made structure in downtown Kerrville.

At the corner of Water and Sidney Baker Street once stood the St. Charles Hotel, which was still a two-story frame building in 1907. (It would later be renovated and enlarged.) This postcard shows an electric power pole right in front of the hotel – which may have been added to the photograph, later, to demonstrate how modern downtown Kerrville was at the time. I say this because there are no wires shown on this electric power pole – or the one shown in front of the Schreiner home.

The 1907 Kerr County Courthouse was the third courthouse built for our county. It stood in front of the present-day courthouse, in the lawn area, and wasn’t replaced until the late 1920s by the present building. One reliable source says this courthouse was infested with bats – and could be smelled from blocks away.

The postcard showing the wool wagon at ‘Chas. Schreiners warehouses’ was likely taken about where the Arcadia Live! Theater stands today, looking toward Sidney Baker Street. I think it’s mislabeled. The wool warehouse was actually across the street, in the parking lot next to today’s city hall.

Lastly, there’s a 1907 postcard showing a game being played at the West Texas Fairgrounds, which stood between today’s Guadalupe Street and Junction Highway. The caption reads “Foot Ball Game…” But given the two backboards and the basketball hoops, I’m pretty sure the teams are playing basketball. In 1907, basketball would have been less than 20 years old, but the game was already popular in Texas.

The haste with which these postcards were published – and the mistakes in grammar, spelling, and even descriptions – suggest, at least to me, something was lost in translation when they were produced in Germany.

Another good reason to shop locally.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who still mails postcards to friends when he travels. This column originally appeared in the Kerr County Lead February 22, 2023.

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