Discover the history, story of downtown

Lanza Teague, left, leads a walking tour of downtown for some local residents, starting at the Kerrville Arts & Cultural Center and the Chas. Schreiner Mansion next door. Call her at 895-2911 for information.

Lanza Teague, executive director at the Kerrville Arts & Cultural Center, is also using her hometown connections and her interest in history to create walking tours of downtown Kerrville and increase visitors’ and area residents’ enjoyment of their surroundings.

Teague has deep family roots in the Kerrville area, and recently more interest in her own genealogy. And she’s putting all that interest in history to work in this offer of walking tours downtown.

This is her new offer to area residents and visitors to the city.

With advance reservations, Teague will guide either of two kinds of downtown tours.

One is about a 45-minute walk along the sidewalks of downtown Kerrville, and Teague concentrates on the history of many of the downtown buildings - when they were built and by who, what kind of business(es) were or are located there, and any interesting side stories that have been retold down the years.

The other tour can include the same history plus the addition of the ghost stories Teague has collected from family members, friends and past and current tenants of the same downtown buildings. This tour includes more stories and perhaps even more questions from the people on the tour, and takes about an hour.

Teague is recycling some of her “Renaissance festival” clothing to present a more authentic appearance in this historical vein. But she isn’t sure yet how those multiple layers of clothing that Kerrville’s pioneers were used to, in summer heat and winter cold, will be wearable in the Hill Country summer. But she’s hoping it will provide a focal point on the tours for participants.

“We’ll keep a slow pace, and stop and go along the sidewalk, depending on the material we’re talking about,” she said.

“So far, I’m starting at the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center and concentrating on buildings on both sides of the street between there and Water Street. Already I’ve had some surprising things happen. On the first one, one of the people had knowledge about plants. When we stopped in front of the Schreiner Mansion, she gave us a lesson on the varieties of plants that Capt. Charles Schreiner and his family brought from other places to be planted here, like the pinon tree.”

She said when she can verify new pieces of information like that, she can add that into her presentations.

“I hope that keeps happening. It will make the tour richer,” Teague said.

“I grew up hearing stories about a Texas Ranger who was shot at the Weston Building (now Francisco’s). I found the real story, that in April 1893 it was a real person named Tom Carson who was shot in the saloon in that building. And the story is, some of the bullets got imbedded in the building,” Teague said. “I wish I had a chance to investigate the building myself to see if the bullets are still there.”

Then she added another tale.

In the 1870’s there was a live bear chained behind Henke’s Meat Market in the 800 block of Water Street, and one day it got loose, and started roaming around the streets of downtown Kerrville. It scared many shopkeepers and townspeople who encountered it, she said; and several people started trying to catch it or dispatch it with guns.

When it was caught, alive, it was returned to Henke’s and, Teague said, soon after sold for mere cents on the pound as meat for the customers.

On a previous tour or two, she’s also told a local story about how William Gregory, who ran a local hotel, met his wife.

“People love a good story; and they seem to really love a good ghost story,” Teague said.

She said she also heard a story about a local hanging tree, but she’s still working out how best to tell that one.

“I’ve heard and read some legends. But I want to tell the real stories, like a tree that actually was used as a hanging tree.”

Teague said for the first tour, she had 44 people follow her along the streets of downtown Kerrville, but she was allowed too short a time for anything except the highlights.

That one was part of the recent “Cowtown in Downtown” event; and she was allotted 15 minutes to guide people from the KACC to the Arcadia Live Theater around the corner on Water Street as part of the bigger event. But it gave her a taste of how it could be longer and more interesting for people.

So here’s her offer, to learn about Kerrville’s history, legends and lore.

For $10 per person (and children under age 13 free), Teague can lead either straight history tours or ghost tours, after 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday by appointment. The tours start at the KACC, the former U.S. Post Office for Kerrville. Participants can discover how a French immigrant became a captain of industry and put Kerrville on the map; the truth behind the shooting at the Ranch Saloon, architectural details around downtown, the path of the rampaging bear in 1873, the place where a famous war hero spent his childhood, how tuberculosis played a role in the founding of a grocery store empire, and more.

As Teague says, “Kerrville has a unique story. It’s the history of a once rough-and tumble frontier town that transitioned into a thriving community of opportunity. It is also the story of the (slightly crazy) entrepreneurs who made their dreams a reality and the determined underdogs who came here to make a fresh start.”

The Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau provides a brochure titled “Tour of Historical Buildings in Kerrville,” and the KACC has copies of that brochure in their lobby. The current brochure lists brief information about 29 buildings.

Teague also has rack cards for her new walking tours, in the lobby of the KACC.

Call Teague at 895-2911 at the KACC Tuesday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to schedule a tour.

She recommends comfortable walking shoes, though the tour is on even pavement and flat terrain. Free bottled water is available for participants.

The KACC is at 228 Earl Garrett St.; and for more information, visit the website at www.kacckerrville. com.

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