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Architect of the Schreiner Mansion
Alfred Giles was an Englishman born in 1853. At the age of seventeen, he apprenticed with the Giles and Bivens Architectural firm for two years. In 1873, shortly after the completion of his apprenticeship, he immigrated to the United States. He settled in Texas in 1875 for health reasons. Giles started his own firm in 1876 and quickly became one of the most well-known architects in the state of Texas. He was commissioned in the work of over 90 buildings in Texas and Mexico, including courthouses, jails, and residences. Many of these buildings still stand.
Architecture of Schreiner Mansion
The architectural style of the Schreiner Mansion is characterized as a combination of Romanesque Revival and Chateauesque. Romanesque Revival first started in Germany during the mid-1830s and featured simplified, rounded arches and plenty of windows. It was a favored architectural style for Christian churches. The Chateauesque style was based on the French Renaissance architecture of sprawling French country homes. This style is characterized by elaborate towers, spires, and steeply-pitched roofs. Masons were brought from Germany to construct the Schreiner Mansion using native stone. Construction of the mansion was done in three phases: the original house in 1879, a second addition in 1895, and a third addition of porches and archways in 1897.
Adapted from the 1975 NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES Narrative
The Captain Charles Schreiner Mansion at 216 Earl Garrett Street in Kerrville, Texas, is an unusual example of a combination of the Romanesque and Chateauesque styles. Designed by the famous Texas architect of the nineteenth century, Alfred Giles, the house was originally constructed in 1879 of native limestone. Unusual as it may seem since limestone was so readily available for building construction, the house was the first limestone structure built in Kerr County.
In 1879, Schreiner commissioned Alfred Giles to design a house that would befit his wealth. Originally adjoining the Mercantile Store, southwest and across the street from the Kerr County Courthouse, the house was rather plain in ornamentation. Originally a simple two-story limestone residence with a typically rambling Victorian plan, the only distinguishing feature was the interior detailing. A grand hall with front and back stairs separated the parlor and library from the family dining room and servant's dining room. The kitchen was in the rear. Six bedrooms on the second floor also opened onto a central hall.
Desiring a nobler facade, Captain Schreiner commissioned the Giles-Guidon firm to design a grandiose porch for his house in 1895. Craftsmen were brought from Germany for the project with pink granite for the columns from Italy. The resultant facade is an unusual combination of Romanesque and Chateauesque idioms. Twin conical-shaped tile roofs flank either end of the porch, the southeast end being a two-story rounded bay and the southwest being an extension of the porch. Rounded arches with limestone voussoirs pronounce the openings in the facade in rhythmical fashion. A projecting parapet wall with a limestone pediment defines the entrance bay. A similar projection but slightly smaller in scale flanks the entrance projection to the east, further alluding to the random Victorian plan of the house. Windows are typically Victorian, tall and narrow in proportion with two lights per sash. Cornice detailing is well pronounced with projecting brackets. Chimneys are low in height with simple beveled caps. A hipped standing seam metal roof caps the composition.
After Captain Schreiner's death in 1927, his heirs conveyed the mansion to the Kerrville Masonic Lodge for use as a Masonic Temple. Extensive interior alterations were made after the Kerrville Masonic Lodge acquired the property. The central staircase was removed and an elevator installed in the rear of the house. The interior walls that partitioned the six bedrooms and bathroom on the second floor were removed to accommodate a huge meeting room. However, such amenities as the original gas fixtures, mantles, wallpaper, and parquet floor on the first floor are intact.
Bibliography on file in the National Register
Electricity in Kerrville
The exact date of the arrival of electricity in the homes of Kerrville is not known; however, the Schreiner Mansion was likely the first home with electricity when it became available.
In general, electricity was first used in street lamps, hotels, and some businesses. In London, in 1882, electricity became more widely used in homes, especially newer ones. Prior to electricity in homes, the Schreiner family relied on candles and kerosene. Later, gas was pumped up from the basement.
Schreiner Family History
Charles Armand Schreiner was born in France on February 22, 1838. In September 1852, when he was 14 years old, his father Gustave Adolph and mother Charolette (Bippert) moved Charles and his four siblings from their castle in Alsace-Lorraine, France to San Antonio, Texas. Two weeks later his father died of a rattlesnake bite. After his mother’s death in 1857, Charles made his way to Kerrville. He met and married Mary Magdalena (Lena) Enderle, whose family had originated from Baden, Germany, on October 1, 1860. Together they had eight children: Aime Charles, Gustav Frederick, Louis Albert, Caroline Marie, Emilie Louise, Charles Armand, Jr., Walter Richard, and Frances Hellen. Charles’ wife Lena died in 1905. In 1917, Charles divided his assets between all eight children. Aime Charles received the mercantile store, Gustav Frederick received the ranching interests, Louis Albert received the bank and the others each received land in Kerr County from the 566,000 acres he owned at the time.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 48, July 1944 - April, 1945, Journal/Magazine/Newsletter, 1945; digital images, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146055/ : accessed April 11, 2012), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association, Denton, Texas.
History of the Schreiner Mansion
After serving in the Confederate Army in the Civil War for 3 ½ years, Charles Schreiner returned to his family ranch on Turtle Creek. A few years later, the family moved to town. The original Schreiner home was a frame building where the mansion now sits. In 1879, he commissioned San Antonio architect Alfred Giles to design his new home. The mansion was constructed in three phases, reaching completion in 1897. The original six-bedroom, two-story home, constructed by expert German masons, was the first limestone home in Kerrville. It was also the first home in Kerrville to get electric lights. The light fixtures, which began as candles & kerosene, were later converted to gas, which was pumped from the basement, and then to electric fixtures. Although the mansion has changed ownership throughout the years, the Schreiners were the only family that ever resided there. After Charles’ death on February 9, 1927, his heirs transferred ownership to the Kerrville Masonic Lodge. In 1972, it was sold to a private owner. In 1974, the Hill Country Preservation Society purchased it from the private owner. And finally, in the fall of 2009, the Preservation Society donated the mansion to Schreiner University. The mansion became a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1962 and in 1975 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
As you walk through the entrance gate of the mansion, an old piñon tree stands on your left. This tree started as a seed planted by Charles Schreiner’s son, Gustav Frederick (Gus). Even as a young boy, Gus, who would one day inherit his father’s ranching interests, was fascinated by cattle and ranching. Kerrville was one of the many small towns found along the Great Western Cattle Trail. The Trail originated from several small South Texas feeder trails which came together to form the Great Western Trail. It came through Kerrville and headed north along what is now Harper Road, through Dodge City, Kansas, and on to the final destination of Ogallala, Nebraska. Gus would watch the cattle as they stopped for water at the Guadalupe River and then they would travel through downtown Kerrville on their way north. As a young man, Gus had an opportunity to go a little further west than Kansas. He rode on a cattle drive to Colorado. It was in Colorado that he picked up some piñon seeds. He brought them home with him and planted them in his family’s front yard. Although the exact date is not known, Gus probably planted the seeds in the 1880’s. One small seed turned into one big tree that is over 100 years old and still standing strong.
Coming soon: Audio File (MP3) of DoDo Parker discussing the Mansion property and the Pinon Tree; Josephine Schreiner Parker interview; July 15, 1998 Schreiner College campus; Kerr County Historical Commission Oral History Project
Further information: TSHAONLINE
Until 1929, the area where the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center is now located was the family’s rose garden. The family loved roses! Over the years, as the original rose bushes died, they were not replaced; however, visitors and residents may remember the one surviving pink thorn-free rose bush that dominated the front yard until 2009. Josephine (Dodo) Schreiner Parker, Charles’ great-granddaughter, created the Hill Country Preservation Society in 1976 and served as its president until her death in 2009. She was the driving force behind the mansion’s restoration and the birth of the Hill Country Museum. As the story goes, Dodo loved the pink rose bush in the front yard. On a happier note, the water fountain which now sits in the back yard was originally located in the middle of the family’s rose garden. Although later sold to a private owner, the fountain was eventually returned to the mansion. It is home now and still works perfectly!
A partnership between Captain Schreiner and D.H. Comparette brought telephone service to Kerrville in 1896. Kerrville was known for the cattle industry, and for the mohair produced by local Angora goat farmers. In fact, Kerrville was once the largest producer of mohair in the United States. It is natural, then, that the first connection of the local switchboard was made between two wool warehouses in Kerrville. Phone service started with local businesses and soon spread.
(senior thesis held at Logan Library)
Charles Schreiner’s Wheelchair
Charles Schreiner was confined to a wheelchair for the last seven years of his life (ages 82 to 89). Most of those days were spent on the second floor of his mansion. Occasionally, he would have his manservant carry him down the stairs for an afternoon drive around town in his carriage or car. The mansion has six floor-to-ceiling windows facing the balcony. Mr. Schreiner had one of these windows modified so he could access the balcony in his wheelchair. Each afternoon he would sit on the balcony and watch the street. At 5:00pm, he would have his employees from the mercantile line up in the street so he could wave to them. It was a daily ritual that he and the employees thoroughly enjoyed. More than 80 years later, Mr. Schreiner’s empty wheelchair still sits by a window in the mansion.