Sunday, June 30, 2013

813 Clay Street

I have spent quite a bit of time looking for anything about this house at 813 Clay St. About all I have is a photo taken in 1988 that reads  "1988 owner--James R. Murphy,
built ca 1908-1912
Block G lot 5,6,8 [8 is circled] B. F. Cage add.
Grandfather Garrett purchased in 1919 on Govt. Ck.  Only original left on Clay Streeet from Barnett St. Has fish scale dormers.  Had lattice work on porch which has been changed."
What this means is that the house sits on three lots of Block "G" in the B. F. Cage addition to Kerrville. 
I cannot connect anyone surnamed Garrett to this property.
I have poured through old newspapers, census records, and deed books to try and determine who actually built this house and who the earliest owners were. The house could actually be older than indicated above, but who was the first owner? Do any of my loyal readers know more about the property?

ca 1988

Here's what I do know.
At the 1930 census, Kelley S. White rented this house and lived here with his wife Bessie and children Frank, Lena, Dorris, Mavis, Cecil, Gene, and Bessie J.  Kelley and Frank were newspaper printers.
In 1935 K. W. "Boss" Crawford lived here with his wife.
The 1936 city directory shows A. C. Bernhard now owned it. Nine people lived in this house then.
The 1940 census shows that William M. Murphy was now the owner.  The value was $2,500, and he was the owner/operator of a wood yard. Also living in the house were his wife Ella M., and children Annie, Minnie, Jimmy, Pauline, Douglas, and Martha J. The family still owned the property in 1988.
According to her obituary, Ella Murphy was born in Gillespie County and came to Kerrville in 1937. However, the 1940 census indicated she was already living in Kerrville in 1935. Before coming to Kerrville they lived (in 1930) in the Reservation community in west Kerr.  William Murphy died in 1953, his widow in 1973.
This is all fine, but none of it tells me who built the house, or when.  Any help out there?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

714 Bluebell Road

This ranch-style house at 714 Bluebell Road was built in 1950 or '51. The tax records say 1952, but since the first owners  arrived in Kerrville in 1950 and were settled enough in the house to host the Blue Bell Hills Garden Club in October of 1951, that date is clearly wrong.  George and Roberta S. Harley were the first owners.  I have not been able to learn who built the house, but I do know the Harleys purchased the property from the developer of Blue Bell Hills--realtor G. C. McCoy.  The house has been described as "solid" and well-built.  This house has beautiful shade trees in front, which unfortunately kept me from getting a good clear photo. It's better to take these photos in winter when the leaves are off.

George Foster Harley was a civil engineer with a specialty in hydraulics, supervising the construction of hydro-electric dams in several states.  In 1950 he retired from the Public Works Administration and came to Kerrville where he died in 1957.  Roberta Harley continued to live in this house until 1975 when she moved to Midland. They are buried in a family plot in Columbus, Georgia.

Cleo and Frank Prestwood were the next owners. A local newspaper noted that her collection of Lalique glassware was the centerpiece of the home they had furnished with a mix of antiques and modern furniture.  He worked in the wholesale grocery business, retiring in 1974 and moving to Kerrville. Prestwood married Cleo Burke, who was from Houston, after he retired.  A member of the Texas Rose Growers Association, his avocation was growing roses. Mentions of their home in the newspaper often included a description of the many roses used to decorate. Although it is never stated, I would not be surprised if these were his roses.  Prestwood died in 1989 and is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Tyler.  His widow kept the house three more years before selling. She died in 1996 and is buried in Galveston.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blue Bell Hills Addition

Blue Bell Hills Addition is a subdivision northwest of downtown Kerrville along Jackson Road. It was developed on the old Bluebell Farm property beginning in 1947. The houses are mostly in the ranch-style popular after World War II.
The February 24, 1938, Kerrville Times reported  
Purchase of Bluebell Farm, adjoining the northern limits of the city in Westland, from the Otto Wahrmund Estate was announced Tuesday by G. C. McCoy, Kerrville realtor.  ... The tract includes 160 acres with considerable improvements.  The farm was established by the late Otto Wahrmund, San Antonio brewer, as his country home about 25 years ago.  For the present Mr. McCoy will make his home at the farm.  In the future, he plans to open a new city sub-division of choice building sites.
Two months later, E. H. McCoy arrived from Mississippi to manage the farm for his brother.
In 1940 part of the farm, about 15 acres, was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Guy Griggs. (Griggs was the executive secretary of the Peterson Foundation when it was formed in 1944 and served in that position until he died in 1980.  The now-demolished Gug Griggs office building next to the old Peterson hospital was named to honor him. )
In 1947, almost ten years after his intentions were announced, G. C. McCoy finally began developing the former farm property as a subdivision. 

Several news stories, more like puff pieces really, reported on the work at Blue Bell Hills. For example, in the Kerrville Mountain Sun for September 11, 1947, was the following item:  Blue Bell Hills Showing Signs of Development Soon.   Those who have driven out the Harper Road recently have observed the activity which constitutes the beginning of work on Kerrville's finest residential development.  The project, carefully planned and restricted by Hare and Hare of Kansas City, Missouri, planners of some of the country's finest subdivisions, will offer spacious building sites with all utilities and paved streets, according to G. C. McCoy, supervisor and manager.
(Hare & Hare was a pioneering landscape architecture firm. A number of their works are on the National Register of Historic Places. This neighborhood, which retains most of the original homes, is also eligible for listing on the National Register.)
The story continues: 
Scrapers, tractors and many kinds of heavy equipment have been at work laying underground utilities, channels and grading the curved streets which wind through the beautiful wooded Bluebell Hills.  It won't be long until the public will be invited to inspect the sites and see the outstanding advantages of owning a homesite in this beautiful restricted section adjoining the city limits of Kerrville.
L. A. Lawlor, who was formerly connected with a building and loan association and real estate firm in San Antonio for 18 years, is in charge of the field office which has been erected on the property.
Then on October 23, 1947, appeared the following:  
Building Program Begins Soon in Blue Bell Hills.
Construction of 14 new homes in the Blue Bell Hills will be begun this week by the Traylor-Hill Construction Company, according to G. C. McCoy, director of the estates.  This newest addition to the suburbs of the city lies along the Harper Road, and is on one of the scenic wood hillsides of that area.
Gene C. Traylor and Robert L. Hill, who have recently moved to Kerrville from Houston, will be in charge of the construction of the homes, and their aim is to complete one house each week, weather permitting.  ...
The two and three bedroom homes in the Blue Bell Hills will vary in design and materials. Some will be of stone, with ornamental iron trim, and others will feature the low, rambling roof pitches, materials and exterior designs will be so that the usual "sameness" to a new addition will not be apparent.  The colorful buildings have been due to conform with their locale, and the style takes advantage of the beauty of the natural setting of hills and trees.
And then one more from the Kerrville Mountain Sun on May 6, 1948
Paving Completed in Bluebell Hills Sub-Division.
Paving has been completed in Blue Bell Hills, Kerrville's attractive sub-division, and curbs along Blue Bell Drive, Pecan and Cypress Steets add much to the residential section of the city.  A number of attractive houses have been constructed and sold and owners are now living in them.  Grass plots, gardens, shrubs and flowers have been planted and are beginning to show growth.  L. W. McCoy, one of the owners of the sub-division states that electricity, gas, water and sanitary sewers have been installed and are ready for the builders.
The natural beauty of the plot, with all of its lovely trees and its wild flowers, has been left as much as possible.  The site was named for the Blue Bell Farm, which was purchased from the original owners for the sub-division.
Lots in the subdivision sold quickly. The Kerrville Mountain Sun reported on February 9, 1950, that  three new homes on Blue Bell Drive had been completed and that 88 lots had sold in the previous 2 1/2 years.  There are about 100 lots in the subdivision. As I noted above, the subdivision was designed by Hare & Hare of Kansas City and retains many original characteristics.  This is another unrecognized Kerrville treasure.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

501 Lois Street

1934.  Kerr County Historical Commission collection.
These two photos do indeed depict the same house. Look carefully at the decorative edges on the front of the house and the arrangement of the windows.  At some point the flat roof was replaced with a pitched roof. Flat roofs are notorious for leaking. Perhaps that is why the roof was changed.
The house was built by E. L. Spence, a local homebuilder.  In February 1934, he sold the house to William J. and Ruth Franke. After Ruth died in 1936, W. J. Franke tried to sell his stucco home in Westland "all modern conveniences".  In the end he kept the house and remarried. His second wife, Margaret, was17 years younger. He died in 1968.  She lived here five more years before selling to Herbert and Lucile Brehmer who owned Brehmer's Jewelers.
This block has had slow commercial encroachment. Businesses have operated out of this house since Kirby Vacuum sales opened in 1980. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

343 West Water Street

This house may be one of the last built in Westland Place.
In June 1947 Mrs. Theresa Heimann sold the lot to John R. Saucier, an electrician at the Legion (VA) hospital. The next month he obtained a building permit for a residence at 343 West Water Street to cost $4,950.  In January of 1948 he sold the house to D. L. McEachern. In September 1949, Earl B. Starr purchased the house and based his business--fitting and repairing Acousticon hearing aids--from home. In April 1951 he sold many of his household possessions and left town. Miss Annie Mae Morriss was the next owner. Her family ranched on the Divide where she taught school for a while.  She later lived in San Antonio for some time before returning to Kerrville, purchasing this home where she lived until her death in 1957.  Two years later the Kerrville Times reported "Mrs. Paul (Frances) Wilson has moved into the former Morriss and Burleson home on West Water St., which she purchased.  Col. and Mrs. G. D. Burleson have moved to their ranch in the Junction area, and Mrs. Hadda Morriss has gone to the ranch home near Mountain Home of Dora Sproul and Mrs. Gus Sproul."  In March 1961 she married Alex M. Holekamp. They owned the house ten more years before selling to Harvey Stone. During at least part of that time it was a rental.
The property changed hands a couple more times.  It remained residential until 1999 when a home health care service moved in.  It has housed an assortment of small businesses ever since.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

345 West Water Street

This house in Westland Place, at 345 West Water Street, has had only two owners since it was constructed in 1939.
The lot, which changed hands several times early on, had more owners as a vacant lot than the house has had.

The Kerrville Mountain Sun reported June 1, 1939, that the Kerrville Realty Company had sold this lot to J. M. Johnston and wife.  A couple of weeks later he obtained a permit to erect a seven room frame resident at 345 West Water Street. When the house was completed the Mountain Sun ran the following story on August 8, 1939: "J. M. Johnston's New Home Ready for Occupancy.
One of the most complete and comfortable small homes to be constructed in Kerrville during the past few years is the new residence of Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Johnston at 338 [sic] West Water Street.  The attractive five-room Colonial style frame home has hard-wood floors throughout, with colorful stipple finished walls.  The new wall construction lends the appearance of plaster, but in many ways is more to be desired.
Other features of the home is the use of Venetian blinds throughout, the sightly tile drain boards in the spacious airy kitchen, the unusual design of the beautiful rock mantle in the large living room and the attractive electrical fixtures.
J. G. Rosson was the contractor, Temple Lumber Company supplied the materials, Henry Storey was the painting contractor, and W. B. Brown Company installed the plumbing."
J. M. Johnston was the proprietor of the Central Service Station at 904 Main Street. "Phone 13".

Mary Johnston lived here until 1988. In February 1989 a conditional used permit was granted for a real estate office, which opened May 1989. In a transitional area between residential and commercial, the property remains in commercial use today.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

328 West Water Street

ca 1932, Kerr History Center Collection.  Note the sidewalk in front.

This little Tudor style cottage in Westland Place was erected in the fall of 1929 by P. M. Wright, a local developer.
In November 1928, R. Holdsworth and his wife sold this lot to William Auld for $575. A few months later he sold the lot to P. M. Wright for $400, taking a loss. Wright then erected the house.  The first owners of the house were Harry and Estanislada? Gordon, who purchased it in February, 1930, for $3,250.  A native of Lithuania, he was a local businessman, who initially ran a grocery store in Legion, but by this time was in the automobile business, selling Durants.  Within the year he expanded to Hudsons and Essexes.
His wife, also foreign born, was from Mexico. Her name is difficult to read on the 1920 and 1930 census, but it appears to be Estanislada. 
The next owners were Ludwig and Estelle Rickels, who lived here from 1932 until October 1939 when they sold to Doris Johnson.
This property changed hands often, but remained a residential property until March 1987 when the City of Kerrville approved a conditional use permit for a dentist office. It has seen commercial use since then.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Westland Addition

There are still buildings closer to downtown to research and write about, and I'll get back to those, but today I'm going to move further afield and explore the Westland Place Addition, which runs northwestward more or less between Junction Highway and Town Creek.  Some of the streets are West Main, West Water, Cox, Elm, Cottage, Lewis, and Woodlawn.

Westland Place, a planned automobile suburb, was developed northwest of downtown Kerrville beginning in 1925. Kerrville was booming, with the population increasing from 2,300 in 1920 to 4,000 in just five years.  Much of this growth was undoubtedly due to the new VA hospital at Legion. In addition, as automobiles became more affordable, more and more people owned them. It was easier for people to get around and they began to move away from the commercial area. Folks no longer needed to be within walking distance of their place of business. The time was right for this new project.

The new subdivision was heavily advertised in the local papers. As you see here, the first lots were sold at auction Thursday, May 7, 1925.  The Kerrville Mountain Sun, April 30, 1925; reported its development this way, "This addition, called 'Westland Place', is a part of the Lewis tract, recently purchased from D. R. Lewis by a party of Kerrville men, composed of E. Galbraith, W. A. Fawcett and J. L. Pampell, who have since then taken E. H. Prescott and Hal Peterson in on the proposition. Only a part of the tract is being placed on the market at this time, the balance to be developed later." The men organized as Kerrville Development Company. The newspaper reported that one contract had already been let for a home, which was to begin construction the end of the week.
The auction was conducted by Auctioneer A. Harris, known as "Last Minute Harris".  He had a reputation of selling 237 lots in 180 minutes in a similar event and planned to conduct this auction with similar vigor.  Automobiles shuttled buyers to the development and back, a band provided music, and $300 in gold was given away.
At first access was from the extension of Water Street.  The subdivision featured gravel streets, sewers, water, electric lights, and telephone service. Early photographs also show sidewalks.
Commercial development is encroaching on the edges, but there are many original homes, some nearly 90 years old, still standing.

This neighborhood has enough architectural integrity and age to qualify for listing--as a neighborhood--on the National Register of Historic Places. 
When I say that, it makes people nervous, because they believe they will lose property rights.  In fact, there are no Federal or state laws limiting property rights if your property is on the National Register.  In some cities, there are local regulations, but I don't think that is the case in Kerrville. Listing does not even prevent demolition, but the historic designation would be lost in that instance. 
Click here to learn more about National Register listings. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

816 Earl Garrett Street

On October 2, 1915, Robert and Ida Insall sold the two lots of land this house sits on to H. C. Geddie for $400 who immediately began construction of his new residence in anticipation of his upcoming marriage to Maud Hart.
This was his home while Geddie was Mayor of Kerrville 1917-1919.  He appointed the committee that decided which streets in Kerrville should be renamed for three young Kerrville men who died in World War I (Francisco Lemos, Earl Garrett, and Sidney Baker). An attorney and judge, he was elected chairman of the Kerr County Democratic Convention in 1920. The Geddies moved to Abilene in 1929.
ca 1988
On November 11, 1919, the Geddies sold the house to Robert C. Saner for $3750 and moved to a house on Main Street. On May 6, 1931, Robert C. Saner and wife gave the house to Maggie Lowrance, "their cousin", "reserving a life estate for themselves and the survivor, as well as all rents, issues and and profits during the natural life of the grantor dying first."
R. C. Saner's wife was Mary A. Lowrance before her marriage. It appears Maggie cared for them in their old age, and this was their way of thanking her. Mary Saner died in 1931, R. C. in 1941. They  are buried at Glen Rest Cemetery.
Although R. C. Saner was still living, by 1935 the house is referred to the newspaper as "Miss Maggie Lowrance's home".  She frequently advertised for renters, offering furnished rooms. She lived here until her death in December, 1963.

A later occupant, from 1970 to 1982, was George L. Fordtran, who died in 1982 at age 88. His sister Jesmyr was the wife of L. D. Garrett.
The city directory indicates that by 1983 the house had been divided into three units. It continues so today.