by Mike Vargas and Bronsbil EstacionThe Grande Theater on E Washington had a barber shop in the front of it that sponsored a local baseball team called the Grande Barbers. In 1956-57 season they won the Rio Grande Valley and state championships for fast-pitch softball. Guzman was named the team's top pitcher, Armendariz was named most valuable player after leading team in home runs and RBI's, and Zamudio was voted team manager of the year. (source info: Brownsville Herald) Thanks to Mike Vargas for sharing this small part of his family history
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
Sunday, December 6, 2020
If you're from Brownsville, Texas...
...you've heard of Gladys Porter but have you ever heard of Gladys Andreas? Around 1940 this pretty young lady got her photograph taken during the Charro Days celebration and also appeared on a postcard. She may not be known anymore(unless there's someone out there who can tell us?) but we'll remember her today with these images compiled while browsing through the Brownsville Station digital archives. A special "thank you" goes out to Jose Cazares (where you at Joe?) who sent two 8x10 copies long ago while mining for historical gems.
Saturday, December 5, 2020
Here's a post to introduce you to a flock of free roaming ducks I've taken a liking to. I seldom post anything about anything anymore even though I have plenty of historic material and time but maybe we'll get back to that later. For now, it's Muskovy Time:
Band of Brothers
Saturday, November 21, 2020
by Stephen Fox with photos and images compiled by Fernando R. Balli and Javier R. Garcia
J. L. Putegnat & Brother Building, 1141 E. Elizabeth Street, Brownsville, Cameron
18 September 2018-6 October 2018
The historical context for evaluating the J. L. Putegnat & Brother Building involves the theme of Industry, Business and Commerce and the sub-theme of retail: the development of pharmacies in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Brownsville. A second context for evaluating the significance of the J. L. Putegnat & Brother Building involves the theme of Architecture and the sub-theme of commercial architecture as applied to Brownsville at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Another view from top of Hotel El Jardin...
...with emphasis on Eagle Pharmacy (Botica de Aguila)
The J. L. Putegnat & Brother Building is a two-story, three-bay-wide, red brick commercial building capped by a metal cornice. It was built by the brothers, business partners, and pharmacists Joseph L. Putegnat, Jr., and George M. Putegnat in 1904-05 at 1141-49 E. Elizabeth Street on Lot 11, Block 64 of the Original Townsite of Brownsville, Cameron County, Texas. This was one of two adjoining lots that the Putegnat brothers’ paternal grandfather, John Peter Putegnat, bought in 1852. The building was constructed in two phases. The two-story street front, completed in 1905, was built in front of a one- story wood house that existed on the property by 1877, the first year that Brownsville was mapped by the Sanborn fire insurance map company. The house, apparently a one-story wood cottage, was built along the rear lot and alley line. The house is shown in Sanborn’s 1885 and 1896 editions and, in a modified configuration, in the 1906 edition, which also shows the then-completed Putegnat Building. By the time the fifth edition of the Sanborn map was published in 1914, the wood house had been replaced, in 1911, by a one-story brick extension of the 1905 building spanning the rear alley. The Putegnat Building retains this configuration and original brickwork. A tympanum above the metal cornice no longer exists; the entablature with its historic lettering bearing the name J.L. Putegnat & Bro. and two urn-shaped finials have been preserved and remain in tact. The El Jardin hotel photograph and the Putegnat Pharmacy photographs show the upper front facade of the building. The span of six colored-glass windows were reconstructed by hand along with the clear story as seen in the El Jardin hotel photograph in order to protect the interior and preserve the integrity of the structure. The indigenous rusticated stone lintels and sills remain intact. As early as the fall of 1848, as the first buildings in Brownsville were being erected, the New Orleans wholesale druggist and apothecary H. Bonnabel placed advertisements, in both English and Spanish, in the American Flag newspaper offering imported drugs, medicines, and chemicals (glass, oils, paints, dye-stuffs, and surgical instruments) for sale, on credit. The next surviving issue of the newspaper contains a notice announcing a public meeting at Webb & Miller’s Cameron House (subsequently the Miller Hotel). A March 1850 issue makes reference to the Botica de Brownsville on 13th Street, and in a December 1864 issue advertisement for the Brownsville Drug Company, offering various medicines and spices. The Brownsville Drug Store (Botica de Brownsville) at 429 E. 13th Street was operated initially by John Webb, a German immigrant, then, after Webb’s death in 1855, by Joseph Kleiber (1831-1877), an Alsatian immigrant.
Milo Kearney and Anthony Knopp wrote in The Historical Cycles of Matamoros and Brownsville that so intense was partisan political sentiment in Brownsville that in 1861, the Irish immigrant William Douglas (1819-1889) opened the New Drug Store to siphon off customers from the pharmacy of Kleiber, a political rival.
1895 Botica de Aguila ad in Brownsville Herald
In 1906, John Webb’s granddaughter, María Webb, married her pharmacist cousin José Angel Martínez Webb (1879-1946), who operated an apothecary located on Market Square in the twentieth century that he called the Brownsville Drug Co. The progenitor of the pharmacy dynasty of Brownsville was the Alsatian immigrant Jean-Pierre Putegnat. J. P. Putegnat, his Virginia-born wife Eliza Butt, and their six children were enumerated twice in the U.S. Census of 1850, once in Mobile, Alabama, and again in Brownsville, apparently several months later, since four of the children are listed as older in Brownsville than they had been in Mobile. Between the Cameron County Tax Roll enumerations of 1851 and 1852, Putengat bought a pair of lots, 10 and 11, in block 64 of the Original Townsite, facing Elizabeth Street. These lots were highly valued in subsequent tax renderings, although by 1877 only Lot 10 had a two-story brick commercial building on it. By that time, Lot 11 contained the small, one-story wood cottage.
A profile of J. P. Putegnat’s grandson, Joseph L. Putegnat, Jr., published in 1893, states that he inherited ownership of a pharmacy, La Botica del León, founded in 1860 by his father, the senior Joseph L. Putegnat. In 1891, the Botica del León moved from its long-standing location at 1201 E. Elizabeth Street to the newly constructed Brown Block at 1142 E. Elizabeth Street. Joseph L. Putegnat, Jr. (1863-1905), was in business with his brother, George Mifflin Putegnat (1865-1943). The brothers were married to sisters Eliza Willman (1864-1941) and Kate Willman (1869-1944), the daughters of a Brownsville grocer and one-term mayor, George Willman (1838-1891), and the sisters of another pharmacist, William G. Willman (1875-1958), a graduate of the St. Louis College of Pharmacy. The Putegnat brothers were the eldest of the nine children of Joseph L. Putegnat (1838-1882) and George M. and the youngest was Rosa Vidal (1843-1904). The senior Joseph L. Putegnat was the eldest of the six children of Eliza Butt and J. P. Putegnat. Rosa Vidal de Putegnat was one of the three daughters of Doña Petra Vela, wife of the steamboat captain turned cattle rancher Mifflin Kenedy.
"Willmans' Drug Store - W.G. Willman Ph.G"
1908 ad from Brownsville Herald
Joseph L. Putegnat, Jr., died in November 1905, eleven months after moving into his new building. George M. Putegnat carried on the business until the early 1920s, when he merged the Putegnat Pharmacy with Willman’s Pharmacy, which his brother-in- law, William G. Willman, started in 1905. With this merger, Willman’s Pharmacy moved from its prior location to the Putegnat Building. The pharmacy occupied the east half of the ground floor at 1149 E. Elizabeth. Hargrove’s Stationery and Book Store occupied the west half at 1141 E. Elizabeth Street, a space occupied in 1913 by the Walker Brothers Hancock Company, a furniture store. City directory listings from the mid-1920s through the mid-1950s indicate that space on the second floor, above the pharmacy, was rented as office space. The prominent Matamoros physician, Dr. Alfredo Pumarejo, and the lawyer Emile L. Kowalski were listed as tenants in the 1929-30 city directory. The real estate dealers A. C. Glemert and E. G. Anguera were tenants in the 1938-39 and 1940 directories, with Dr. J. B. Gutiérrez replacing Glemert in the 1942 directory. Lee Martin and R. L. Stell occupied the office space by the time of the 1948 directory, and Lee Martin in 1951. In 1930, George M. Putegnat’s son, George Willman Putegnat (1907-1991), a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the pharmacy program of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, joined his father and uncle as a pharmacist at Willman’s Pharmacy. George W. Putegnat was called into military service in March 1941. Following George M. Putegnat’s death in 1943, William G. Willman closed Willman’s Pharmacy. In February 1945, Den-Russ Pharmacy announced that W.G. Willman had joined its pharmacy staff. George W. Putegnat is listed as a pharmacist in Brownsville city directories of the late 1940s and early 1950s, although his place of employment is not listed. By 1955, he was listed as a special agent for the Prudential Insurance Co.
During the period that the Putegnat Pharmacy and Willman’s Pharmacy occupied the Putegnat Building, the number of pharmacies in Brownsville expanded. The Botica del Aguila, subsequently known as Eagle Pharmacy, went through a series of owners in the early twentieth century. During the late nineteenth century, the Botica del Aguila was owned by Emile Kleiber (1839-1894), the younger brother of Joseph Kleiber. After Kleiber’s death, the Eagle was acquired by the Matamoros physician, Dr. Miguel Barragán. By 1922, it had become an incorporated company with Herbert G. H. Weinert as vice-president and manager and Ford S. Lockett as secretary and pharmacist.
section of c1935 photo (location unknown) building with "Martinez Drug Store" on it
In 1907, José Martínez Webb, formerly an employee of the Putegnat Drug Store, opened the Brownsville Drug Company with the assistance of the Matamoros pharmacist Jesús Calderoni. In 1914, Calderoni’s son, José Luis Calderoni, opened the City Drug Store at 1144 E. Washington. Manuel Cisneros, also from Matamoros, began his career in Brownsville in 1911 working at the Eagle Pharmacy. In 1919, he opened the Cisneros Drug Store / Botica Cisneros facing Market Square in the same block as the Brownsville Drug Co. and half a block from the City Drug Co. The City Drug Co. backed up to the Willman and Eagle pharmacies in the 1100 block of E. Elizabeth Street. By the end of the 1920s, new pharmacies tended to locate in West Brownsville, outside downtown. The Terrace Drug Company at 707 W. Elizabeth was the pioneer suburban pharmacy in Brownsville. In 1937, Dennis Elliott and Royce Russell opened the Den-Russ Pharmacy at 714 W. Elizabeth Street and W. A. Rasco, formerly of the Eagle Pharmacy, opened Rasco’s Drugs at 556 W. Elizabeth. Most of the new downtown pharmacies between the late 1930s and early 1950s—the Botica Guadalupana at 1113 E. Washington Street, the Botica Herrera at 640 E. 11th Street, Sámano’s Drug Store at 1042 E. Elizabeth Street, the González Pharmacy at 1200 E. Washington Street, and the Maldonado Pharmacy at 533 E. 12th Street—were oriented to a Spanish-speaking clientele. In 1946, Eagle Pharmacy moved from downtown to a new drug store that was constructed at 416 W. Elizabeth Street in West Brownsville. By the mid 1950s, even newer pharmacies were located near Ebony Heights, in Palm Village, and at El Centro, all locations well outside downtown Brownsville. The J. L. Putegnat & Brother Building represents the transition that Brownsville’s retail trade began to undergo after construction of the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railway line in 1904 linked Brownsville to the rest of Texas. With the expansion of Brownsville’s population, and especially of its middle-income, English-speaking population in the first decades of the twentieth century, retail trade downtown began to divide between businesses oriented primarily to English speaking clients and those oriented to Spanish speaking clients. In dropping the Botica del León name in 1909, the Putegnat Drug Store reoriented itself to an Anglophone clientele, even though the Putegnat brothers were of Mexican descent. By the end of the 1920s, a gradual shift of middle-income-oriented retail away from downtown to suburban West Brownsville locations began to occur, a trend that culminated in 1979 with the opening of Sunrise Mall, Brownsville’s second shopping mall. Sunrise Mall completed the process of draining retail trade oriented toward a middle-income clientele (including affluent Mexican nationals) out of downtown.
George W. Putegnat inherited ownership of the Putegnat Building at 1141-49 E. Elizabeth Street from his father. In August 1946, the Parisian, a women’s ready-to-wear clothes store, opened in the Putegnat Building at 1141 E. Elizabeth, with Perl Brothers men’s clothing store occupying the space at 1149 E. Elizabeth until it moved to the new Fashion Center building that Sam and Leon Perl constructed at 957 E. Elizabeth in 1950. Under a succession of managers, the Parisian remained in business at 1141 E. Elizabeth until at least 1981, when it consolidated in the space it had opened at Sunrise Mall in 1979. By 1983, another women’s clothes store, Stewart’s, had opened at 1141 E. Elizabeth. George Putegnat retained ownership of the property until his death in 1991, when ownership passed to his son and daughter, Virginia and Larry Putegnat, the fifth generation of the family to have owned this property. Virginia and Larry Putegnat remain owners of the J. L. Putegnat & Brother Building.
The Putegnat Building reflects Brownsville’s transition to mainstream American architectural practices once it was connected by railroad to the rest of Texas in 1904. Brownsville’s post-Civil War commercial architecture conservatively perpetuated the practices of the Border Brick style, the transborder architectural vernacular that took shape in Matamoros in the 1820s and ‘30s and was transmitted to Brownsville in the aftermath of the U.S.-Mexico War in 1848, and remained dominant along the Texas-Tamaulipas border between Matamoros-Brownsville and Laredo-Nuevo Laredo until the first decade of the twentieth century. The Putegnat Building represents a decisive break with the Border Brick style in its use of red face brick, its sidewalk-level plate glass display windows with recessed entrance bays, its second-floor, rusticated limestone window sills and lintels, its use of colored art glass panels in ground-floor transoms and framing second-floor sash windows, and its cast iron cornice. Like the Putegnat Building, other Brownsville buildings from this period perpetuate late Victorian architectural practices, which appeared modern in Brownsville because no Victorian commercial buildings had been constructed there during the nineteenth century. The two- story V. L. Crixell Building at 1112 E. Washington Street (1911) retains a cast iron cornice and storefront. The no-longer-extant, three-story E. Puente Building at 1043-45 E. Elizabeth Street (1908, A. Goldammer, architect) was also capped by a substantial cast iron cornice. The no longer extant Vivier Building at 1100 E. Elizabeth Street (1910, H.C. Cooke & Co., architects) was another late Victorian commercial building, as are the still extant José Besteiro y Hermano Building at 1155 E. Adams Street (1907), the three-story Brownsville Drug Co. Building at 1024 E. Adams Street (1909, A. Goldammer, architect), and the three-story Brownsville Herald Building at 1200 E. Washington Street (1910). An article in the August 10, 1911, edition of the Brownsville Herald announced completion of “many improvements” to George Putegnat’s pharmacy. This is possibly when the rear one-story addition to the two-story front portion of the building was constructed. The Putegnat Building exemplifies the efforts of Brownsville businessmen at the beginning of the twentieth century to catch up to the U.S. cultural mainstream and compensate for the isolation that their city and region experienced during the last three decades of the nineteenth century because of the lack of railroad connections.
The J. L. Putenat & Brother Building is significant as the location of a retail pharmacy that during the first half of the twentieth century perpetuated a family-owned business that began in 1860. Through its iterations as the Botica del León, the J. L. Putegnat & Brother Pharmacy, Putegnat’s Pharmacy, and Willman’s Pharmacy, this drug and sundries business was identified with a multi-generational family network of pharmacists who contributed to the commercial and civic life of Brownsville almost from the time of the city’s founding in 1848.
It is also significant for its belated Victorian architecture, which represented aspirations to modernity in a city whose commercial elite felt isolated from the mainstream of American culture during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
In 2016-18, the J. L. Putegnat & Brother Building was rehabilitated by the Ballí
Management Group LLC for the owners, Virginia and Larry Putegnat.
J.L. Putegnat made notable contributions to the scientific and medical community.
J.L. Putegnat is credited for two U.S. Patents in the area of medicine. A Patent for a medical compound amaragosa U.S. Patent No. 136,937, was granted March 18, 1873. This herbal remedy for dysentery is compounded from an indigenous herb native to the Rio Grande Valley. An additional patent for the J.L. Putegnat Syringe U.S. Patent No. 545,817, was granted September 3, 1895. The Brownsville Herald featured Putegnat Pharmacy apothecary bottles that were found in the space between the J. L. Putegnat Bro. building and the adjacent building during the restoration.
Chatfield, Lt. W. H. Jr., The Twin Cities of the Border, Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico, and the Country of the Lower Río Grande, New Orleans: E. P. Brandao, 1893.
George, W. Eugene, Master Builder of the Lower Río Grande Border: Heinrich Portscheller, College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2016.
Kearney, Milo, and Anthony Knopp, The Historical Cycles of Matamoros and Brownsville, Austin: Eaklin Press, 1991.
Monday, Jane Clements, and Frances Brannen Vick, Petra’s Legacy: The South Texas Ranching Empire of Petra Vela and Mifflin Kenedy, College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007.
Woolridge, Ruby A., and Robert B. Vezzetti, Brownsville: A Pictorial History, Norfolk: The Donning Co., 1982
American Flag Cameron County and Matamoros Advertiser
Centinela del Río Grande
Valley Morning Star-Herald-Monitor
1913-14, 1927, 1929-30, 1938-39, 1940, 1942, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1955-56, 1968
Sanborn Maps of Brownsville, Texas: 1877, 1885, 1894, 1906, 1914, 1919, 1926, 1930, 1930/1949
 “Local Items,” Brownsville Herald, 26 January 1905, p. 4.
 “An Attractive Drug Store,” Brownsville Herald, 10 August 1911, p. 2.
 “The Town of Brownsville,” American Flag Cameron County and Matamoros Advertiser, 6 December 1848, p. 2; “Natchez Drug Store / Droguería de Natchez,” American Flag Cameron County and Matamoros Advertiser, 22 November 1848, p. 4.
 “Notice,” American Flag Cameron County and Matamoros Advertiser, 29 November 1848, p. 3.
 Advertisement for Wentz y Mauk, carpinteros y mueblistas, Centinela del Río Grande. 13 March 1850, p. 1; “Brownsville Drug Store,” Weekly Ranchero, 17 December 1864, p. 2.
 Milo Kearney and Anthony Knopp, The Historical Cycles of Matamoros and Brownsville, Austin: Eakin Press, 1991, pp. 72-73; Ruby A. Woolridge and Robert B. Vezzetti, Brownsville: A Pictorial History, Norfolk: The Donning Co., 1982, p. 39.
 Kearney and Knopp, p. 118.
 “Joseph Webb Succumbs at Family Home,” Brownsville Herald, 13 February 1933, pp. 1, 2.
 “J. L. Putegnat,” in Lt. W. H. Chatfield, Jr., The Twin Cities of the Border, Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico, and the Country of the Lower Río Grande, New Orleans: E. P. Brandao, 1893, p. 23.
 Jane Clements Monday and Frances Brannen Vick, Petra’s Legacy: The South Texas Ranching Empire of Petra Vela and Mifflin Kenedy, College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007, 94-97, 302.
 “Funeral of J. L. Putegnat,” Brownsville Herald, 25 November 1905, p. 4.
 “George M. Putegnat Dies Here Friday,” Brownsville Herald, 21 February 1943, pp. 1, 2.
 “Yesteryear in the Valley,” Brownsville Herald, 29 September 1950, p. 4; “Enters Army,” Valley Morning Star-Herald-Monitor, 23 March 1941, p. 4.
 “Cut-Rate Specials,” Brownsville Herald, 8 February 1945, p. 2
 Chatfield, p. 11.
 “Old Business in New Hands,” Brownsville Herald, 22 January 1910, p. 9; “Obituary: Herbert G. Weinert,” Brownsville Herald, 5 May 1978, p. 2.
 “Local Items,” Brownsville Herald, 22 May 1907, p. 5; 5 November 1906, p. 4; and 22 May 1907, p. 5. “The Herald Is Informed,” Brownsville Herald, 5 January 1907, p. 4.
 Joe Oliveira, “Veteran Druggist Came Here From Mexico To Set Civic Mark,” Brownsville Herald, 27 November 1949, p. 12.
 “Cisneros Drug Store No. 2 on Elizabeth Street To Be Opened on Monday,” Brownsville Herald, 7 June 1928, p. 1 special Cisneros section.
 “We Take Pleasure in Announcing the Grand Opening of The Parisian of Brownsville,” Brownsville Herald, 9 August 1946, p. 8; “Perl Brothers Realize Ambition of Life with New ‘Fashion’ in Shopping Center,” Brownsville Herald, 6 September 1950, p. 6B.
 “Parisian Preview Sale,” Brownsville Herald, 29 August 1979, p. 8B.
 W. Eugene George, Master Builder of the Lower Río Grande Border: Heinrich Portscheller, College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2016, pp. 70-77.
 Joseph L. (United States Patent Office, 1873) Improvement in Medical Compounds. Patent No. 136,937 filed/issued March 18, 1873).
 Putegnat, Joseph L. (United States Patent Office, 1895) Syringe. Patent No. 545,817 A filed July 26, 1894, and issued on September 3, 1895).
 “Time in a bottle,” Brownsville Herald, 28 January 2018.