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Digging for a story: Sometimes you just have to mine your own business
by Jeff Latcham
Mar 28, 2014 | 76 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeff Latcham photo 

Lorenzo Portis looks into the hole in the floor in the advertising office of Beeville Publishing Co. while Chad Martinez offers a light and looks on. The two employees of Allen Foundation and Remodeling of San Antonio made quick work opening up the mystery cavern lying beneath the office flooring.
Jeff Latcham photo Lorenzo Portis looks into the hole in the floor in the advertising office of Beeville Publishing Co. while Chad Martinez offers a light and looks on. The two employees of Allen Foundation and Remodeling of San Antonio made quick work opening up the mystery cavern lying beneath the office flooring.
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Truth is, most times life is not like TV. And most times a hole is just a hole.

Television shows exploring underground vaults, catacombs, burial chambers, etc., litter the science and history cable channels. They’re compelling stories where intrepid hosts take viewers along to explore the world unseen beneath cities or buried within eyesight of normal comings and goings

So, it was with a bit of excitement that the Beeville Publishing Company staff awaited Saturday’s excavation of our advertising department. The front offices at 111 N. Washington St. are housed in a building that dates back into the 1800s despite its facade.

Anecdotal reporting through multiple generations of ownership are that the building was originally a saloon. The long-standing joke amongst the staff has been that a bar was the “highest and best use” of the facility.

Regardless, a roughly two-inch wide hole appeared under the carpeting in the concrete slab floor some two decades ago. Nothing big, but it was a hole.

Once the carpeting split, inspired staffers had tried pouring sand down it to fill it, but after some years, the hole reappeared.

So, another attempt was made to pour mortar into the hole and plug it before replacing the flooring. Again, that lasted for a few years before the hole opened again.

No one was more concerned than Kathy Taylor, the advertising sales representative whose desk and chair sat atop the recurring hole. Taylor entertained visions of a sinkhole swallowing her up – desk, chair, phone and all.

Having tried unsuccessfully to plug the hole over the years, Beeville Publishing contracted with Allen Foundation and Remodeling of San Antonio to examine the mystery hole.

In February, a crew from the foundation company came for some reconnaissance, dropping a scope down into the hole. From the scope’s view, the cavern appeared to extend across the office, which caused even more concern and speculation. Suggested uses included a wine cellar or root cellar, depending upon one’s temperance.

Scheduling being what it is, Allen couldn’t send a crew back to open the hole up with a jackhammer until Saturday when Chad Martinez and Lorenzo Portis showed up to open a hole into which they could actually look.

While Beeville Publishing staff fantasized about dropping down into the hole and spelunking, alas, it was not to be. It turns out the cavity is roughly five-foot square and about 6-10 inches deep.

Lying at the bottom of the mystery hole were a few bricks, sand and mortar from previous attempts to fill the hole, and some rotting tongue-in-groove boards.

Apparently, the boards had either once been part of a Washington Street sidewalk, or flooring for the original bar. It would appear that workers had skipped backfilling this particular area before the concrete pour more than a century ago, and simply poured on top of the wooden deck. Subsequently, the wood rotted and collapsed, leaving the small cavern.

No treasure was found... no Native American burial ground... no Hefferman family graves.

Perhaps a dozen or two bottles of wine could be stored in it if the decision wasn’t to backfill the hole later this week and cap it with some fresh concrete.

As any editor would note, it’s not a bad story... but it has a hole in it.
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