River Trail Cottages new take on lodging

The interior of the vintage "M-System" trailer being restored at River Trail Cottages features wood paneling and new windows fitting its curved shape, and furnishings to match its roots.

A stretch of Water Street east of downtown Kerrville at G Street has taken on a refreshed and updated appearance and use with the renovation of a former “motor court.”

Manager Blake Bingham said their “new” cottages at 1709 Water St. are open for business, with the added enticement of 750 feet of waterfront on the Guadalupe River.

He said under the direction of owner Larry Howard, the former “motor court” buildings with their connecting single carports were first transformed into mid-century-theme motel rooms.

“The entire property has not been developed yet, and the motor court is Phase I,” Bingham said. “Those motor court rooms were built in 1928, and we’ve kept as true to their heritage as possible, in the design and decor.”

Of the five original motel rooms, a couple were modified by taking in part of the carport spaces to make more room inside, he said,

Then they added a two-story cottage, units 6 and 7, between the south end of the original motor court and the river, with lodging either upstairs or downstairs.

The main draw for visitors in these lodgings is the porch and balcony overlooking the river nearby.

“That’s the best river view here,” Bingham said.

An old house on the property was renovated to become a larger cottage, unit 8, with two bedrooms, one shared bath and a kitchen sink and counter.

Bingham said they limited cooking options to microwaves and installed small refrigerators in each unit. The motel rooms each also have a coffee maker, and coded locks on the doors, but no full kitchens.

They don’t have a restaurant on site, but Bingham pointed out Wilson’s Ice House across G Street as a possible eatery.

Throughout the new development, they’ve furnished the porches with brightly painted new replicas of metal porch chairs.

Bingham said they found a company in Jefferson, Texas, called Torrans Manufacturing that makes new sturdy metal chairs in that style and also a glider style. They’re thinking about adding a couple of gliders, too.

‘Period’ trailers

The other feature passing drivers might have noticed are two restored travel trailers, one painted bright yellow and the other blue and white.

The yellow one is an M-System trailer they found in Austin, and it resembles the old Airstream curved shape.

Bingham said it needed major repairs, but they have an expert working on it so it still sports the curved windows, and wood paneling inside.

The blue one is a 1961 Hicks trailer and had been very well cared for, he said, including the wood paneling inside. They took off the original entrance door and replaced it with a glass sliding door for a better view of the river.

“We have two others we’re working on, too. One is an old Avion,” Bingham said.

“My main question, when people call, is, how many are in your party? We mostly have queen beds, plus a foldout couch or two in that similar furniture style,” Bingham said.

Phase II

Some parts of the property are still under construction.

The owners moved in an old freight depot building on the east side that is being renovated into an event center of about 1,000 square feet. It will include a catering kitchen and restrooms.

Bingham said that old building arrived on the property with its old address still marked as 206 Schreiner St.

It was put on new pilings to elevate it off the floodplain, and stairways and a deck added to the outside.

The same floodplain requirements mean a new row of more cottages between the original units and the depot also will be elevated.

Bingham said this section will be named “Depot Alley,” and they hope to have this section open for business by mid-October.

Recreational vehicle sites

The property also includes about nine recreational vehicle hookups that are almost ready to rent to visitors.

RVs won’t be a big part of their operation, he said, but somebody may have an older style RV and want to come park here for the “atmosphere.”

“We have nightly, weekly and monthly rates for guests, but we’re not looking so much for long-term people,” he said. “Possibly there are people here who are looking to move to the Hill Country, and need a temporary launching pad.”

Phase III

The property extends downstream along the river, behind the auto parts store next door.

Bingham said they plan to add six more cottages and other RV hookups there.

They also plan to create two pavilions down near the river, each 150-200 square feet; and they have signage ordered for the Water Street entrance.

They had as guests recently a few refugees from Victoria for three nights, because of Hurricane Harvey, and those guests brought their Mastiff dog, who apparently loved the access to the river.

“We love people to bring their dogs. As long as they clean up after them and keep them on leashes, we love having them here.”

River Trail Cottages opened for business on Aug. 1. Bingham went to work for owner Larry Howard’s project last May.

“The response has been great. All of our guests so far promise us good reviews. We have rack cards at the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and several other places,” he said.

“We think this is a great idea for groups, and I’ve sent letters to some motorcycle and car clubs,” Bingham said. “And we’ve already taken reservations for a family party for a wedding. Their whole theme will be the 1950s.”

Call Bingham at 928-9002; or visit www.rivertrailcottages.rentals; or email him at blakeb@rtcrentals. com for more information.

He said rates are $169/night weekdays and $249/night weekends for the cottages; and $129/night weekdays and $149/night for weekends for RVs.

Nearby improvements

On the east end of Water Street, Bingham said conversations also have been happening about the former Kerr Crafter business site.

One old house already has been removed and the property cleaned up behind the former business.

Bingham said he doesn’t know the plans for that block between Water Street and Memorial Boulevard.

(4) comments

Cory Schmidt

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MarcioWilges

I think that all over the world, there are a lot of gimmicks that will attract people to take up lodging at special hotels - I've seen quite a number refurbish self storage units into some pretty spectacular rooms. Of course at the end of the day, the hotel needs to have good facilities and a perfect location, but a gimmick helps a lot with bringing the people in!

DavidHamilton

I think that a lot of people are going to be excited to revisit the refurbished cottages when the renovations and upgrades have been implemented. The storage spaces and finishings are going to make a big difference to the guests that are coming to visit the place! If there's anything that people are going to love about a holiday stay, it's how the place looks, so it's great to see the management dedicating themselves to upgrading their facilities every once in a while! The fact that they are thinking about expansions means there's still more to come!

PaulChau

Considering the direction of a lot of boutique hotels, I think that there's a huge trend with using portable storage in Perth to convert into rooms and bunks for people. I reckon that it's got something to do with the whole tiny home thing. People are trying to popularise being able to live in a minimalistic way. I can't say whether it's good or bad, but that's just the way the market looks like its headed!

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