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Vicki Yuan

Craft Call: Hunt Restorations

Posted by on 1/24/13 at 07:10pm

“It was a dark and stormy day, the scaffolding was shaking, Boogie was yelling at Bubba, “The sky’s about to fall!”

The year 1981.

Whiskey Canyon Ranch.

Outside Kerrville.

I was under the influence of the mighty large RED pencil wielded by O’Neil Ford. He was fond of saying, “Ask the mason how the stone wants to be first…, ask Boogie or Bubba…the Hunt Brothers!…” Once Boogie and Curtis were working on the Alamo restoration and expansion with Ford Powell Carson, O’Neil was not happy with the size and shape of the stones, so they went to his home at Willow Way where he drew each stone out – saying not square and rectangular like that darn Villita building we did! About that time a bird jumped on Curtis’ head and O’Neil yelled, “Don’t hurt him, that’s Petey the bird!”  The rest, as they say, is history.

Boogie’s son Curtis took on Whiskey Canyon in 1981. For 31 years we have worked with Curtis and he is the best at his craft….from the Pearl Brewery, to the Briscoe, to the Witte’s HEB Science Treehouse. [Or, it could be that I like him because we share the same birthday, January 15!]

Curtis’ work in restoration is unparalleled because he can hunt down the exact stone or brick match, the mortar and the craftsmanship so the entire assemblage is seamless. For Pearl’s new office building, Curtis and his foreman Nicho worked to create samples for the 14 foot arches with alternating roman brick and “frog out” brick.”

– David Lake

Excerpts from an interview by Vicki Yuan and Brian Korte. This interview has been edited and condensed.

LF: Where do you call home?

CH: I’ve lived in Elmendorf since 1957, the south side of San Antonio. We’ve been here for 120 years, a big family of masons. I spent summers at my grandfather’s in Bergs Mill, a mill right off Presa Street right next to the missions. It was a great place to grow up, right on the river.

LF: What led you to your craft?

CH: My great-grandfather Henry was the first mason. My grandfather [Curtis, the first] started contracting in 1910. At the time he was making $1 a day. He worked on the San Antonio Public Library [now the recently completed Briscoe Western Art Museum, which Curtis worked on]. He put the fourth floor on City Hall, that’s all cast stone at the entrance. My dad [Boogie] and my grandfather were partners in the 50’s. My grandfather retired in 1963. Then my uncle Bubba and my dad partnered after that. Dad worked on a lot of commercial projects in the 60’s, got into restoration: restored San Fernando Cathedral, the missions, homes in King William. So Bubba and my dad were partners til the 70’s, then Bubba split off on his own, what he does now is carve stone, he’s 82. I went into partnership with my dad for a little while, but we weren’t making enough money. We were making $200 a week but a bricklayer was making $300 a week, so I told him, I can’t make it. I wanted to go out and whip the world and he wanted to keep 6-7 people; all he wanted to do was restoration and stonework, I wanted to do brick and block, build commercial buildings and grocery stores. When I started, it was just me and another bricklayer.  I went on my own, started doing a lot of stonework and restoration work.
[Hunt Restorations is currently run by Curtis and his wife Dottie, his 2 sons Michael and Cooter (Curtis the 4th), and his daughter Brandi].

LF: What are you working on now?

CH: One really neat project is a lighthouse in Port Aransas. The lighthouse was built in 1857, it’s got a lot of history to it. The brick originally came from New Jersey, and I finally found the right brick match salvaged in Pensacola, Florida.
We’re working on the brewhouse at the Pearl Brewery – there are 17 miles of mortar joints that need to be repointed! We get about 100 square feet a day, maybe a little more.
We’re just about finished with the Comal County Courthouse, we’re working on a courthouse in Zapata, and we’re waiting to get Rocksprings City Hall. We’ve done 13 or 14 courthouses.
We’re starting right now, any day now, on restoring Alamo Stadium.

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First Image: The Briscoe Western Art Museum. Above: H.E.B. Science Treehouse at the Witte Museum.

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Above: Brick buildings along Pearl Parkway at the Pearl Brewery.

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Above: Details from SK Ranch.