These days, the word “Boerne” seems to have two distinct meanings:
(1) A mid-sized town in Kendall County, located at 29.7947° N, 98.7320° W, approximately 20 miles north of San Antonio on Interstate 10
(2) The distinct memory of a charming small town, once a well-kept secret but now growing and evolving rapidly
Image Courtesy of FamilyOldPhotos.com
It has been impossible to ignore: Boerne has become inseparable from the phrase, “the good old days.” As newcomers arrive in droves looking for small town charm and Hill Country beauty in developments like Esperanza and Balcones Creek, longtime residents reminisce about the days when Boerne was a hidden gem...still miles and miles away from San Antonio’s urban sprawl
To those who haven’t been to Boerne, this longing for the past must seem like exaggerated nostalgia. I mean...to hear a local Boerne-ite talk about “the way it used to be” makes the Cibolo Valley seem almost too good to be true.
They paint pictures of quiet, sparkling creeks where children dipped their toes; a Main Street where everyone was familiar with everyone else; long mid-summer drives on country back roads; seemingly endless fields filled with wildflowers and Texas sunshine. Boerne, TX was that quintessential place where you didn’t have to lock your doors, children played outside in the dwindling twilight while parents shared long talks on the porch, and drivers still paid the utmost respect to ducks crossing at River Road.
If this sounds too good to be true, keep reading. As we take a look back at a more vintage version of Boerne, you might discover that these descriptions are more than just an old-timer seeing their town through rose-colored glasses. We went through the proverbial attic of Boerne memories, photos, antiques, and old dusty bits of paper to show you a glimpse of “the way it used to be.”
One of our favorite finds was a yellowing travel brochure (circa 1925) promoting Boerne as a destination for everything from an afternoon drive to a spa vacation to a new home. Even back then, Boerne was known and promoted as the “Key to the Hills.” The marketing skills of Boerne-ites must have been impeccable because their promotion worked like a charm! People traveled from far and wide to visit and relocate to “the healthiest climate in the U.S.”
One contributor from VisitBoerne.org explained, “We giggle now because our charming community is no longer a well-kept secret...we have plenty of residents to support our community.”
We had to chuckle a bit at the description of Boerne’s location: “Forty minutes drive over the rock asphalt highway “Old Spanish Trail” to San Antonio, a City with historical interest with a population of 300,000.” Now, almost 100 years later, that forty minute drive over rock asphalt highway has transformed into a twenty-minute drive over I-10, a route to San Antonio’s metropolitan population of over 2 million residents.
The brochure further explains why Boerne is so beautifully positioned: “Good roads radiate in all directions into the Hill Country, guiding tourists to marvelous scenery and fishing, hunting, and camping grounds. Boerne is truly the key town to all of the Hill Country.” It seems that, even over the course of 100 years, that fact hasn’t changed a bit. Boerne is still the seat of Kendall County and the epicenter of Hill Country activity.
Image Courtesy of My San Antonio
Climate and Setting
The gorgeous climate and scenery of Boerne have always brought it to the forefront of Hill Country activity. In fact, towards the end of the 19th Century, the growing ease of travel combined with Boerne’s natural beauty to make it a popular health and relaxation destination! Though the town still claimed just 250 permanent residents in 1884, five health resorts and a myriad of hotels emerged to accommodate the many tourists and travelers.
One brochure boasted that according to “carefully prepared statistics”, Boerne enjoys “the most healthful climate in the U.S.A.” These carefully prepared statistics included the facts that Boerne experiences an average temp of 65 degrees and a water supply that is “pure and inexhaustible”. (Those who have survived sweltering Texas summers and numerous water restrictions may chuckle at these seemingly outlandish claims.) The brochure goes on to describe the scenic beauty, mild winters, cool Summer nights, and splendid soil drainage that make Boerne “the most wonderful place in the world in which to build your home and rear a healthy, vigorous family.”
Boerne’s status as the “Key to the Hill Country” made it an automatic tourist destination. One advertisement promoted: “Boerne has always been a tourist town. Modern hotels, boarding ranches, tourist camps, golf course, swimming in pools and streams, camping, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding: in fact, everything that appeals to tourists is available.” We tend to agree! Added to that list since are attractions like live caves, music festivals, art shows and community events, numerous unique shops on Main Street, The Cibolo Nature Center, and far more.
Architecture + Charm
Image Courtesy of My San Antonio
Boerne’s architecture has always been a point of local pride. In their first days, these pieces were considered the standard of excellence. In one description, we saw the original Boerne High School described as, “absolutely the last word in modern construction!” Now, after they have stood the test of time, these same buildings retain an old-world sense of character. You can find more information about Boerne’s historic churches and buildings by grabbing a Historic Walking Tour online or in the Boerne Visitor Center!
“Plenty of poultry and eggs”
Boerne’s pleasant climate and location in the Hill Country made it an enviable spot to plant crops and raise livestock...especially goats. (Fun tidbit: these West Texas hills were acclaimed as “the natural home of the goat raiser.” If that doesn’t convince you to move to Boerne, we don’t know what will!) A hundred years ago, the main portion of the town’s “industry” was actually composed of small farms and ranches. One paragraph explained, “Each settler owns his farm and enough natural pasture land to raise cattle, sheep, goats, and hogs...Practically every known farm crop will grow, but particular attention is devoted to feed and grain crops for livestock.” Nowadays, Boerne is home to many commuters, with most residents working in occupations like sales, administration, education, and management...however, the farming community in Boerne is far from dead. Simply visit the Cibolo Farmers Market on Saturday mornings to see the blooming variety of farm-fresh vegetables, eggs, meat, and more.
Here are a few more “Then and Now” photos that show just how far Boerne has come over the last century. It’s clear that, although this town has changed drastically along with the rest of the country, it still remains distinctly “Boerne”, holding tight to important to tradition and small-town values.
Main Street way back when:
Image Courtesy of TexasEscapes.com
Main Street today:
Image Courtesy of Takk.com
Ye Kendall Inn way back when:
Image Courtesy of KendallCountyHistory.com
Ye Kendall Inn today:
Image Courtesy of YeKendallInn.com
Boerne White Sox way back when:
Image Courtesy of the city of Boerne
Boerne White Sox today:
Image Courtesy of the Boerne White Sox
Boerne HEB way back when:
Image Courtesy of My San Antonio
Boerne HEB today:
Image Courtesy of Yelp
A Boerne Home from way back when:
A Boerne Home today:
It seems that the very thing that draws people to Boerne is the same thing old-timers are fighting to protect. Though Boerne has changed over the years, we’ve heard residents say that at its core, Boerne is still, at its core, "the small town we know and love.”