By Moses Leos III
Two of Kyle’s most famous women will soon be remembered in downtown as city officials work to incorporate Katherine Anne Porter and Mary Kyle Hartson into the historic area.
According to City Manager Scott Sellers, incorporating the two women into the downtown sector could provide a story to build around.
“As we researched the history of both of these women, we realized that they had extraordinary histories – very fun to learn about – and could provide a story for the downtown, and unique aspects that we could capitalize on in the form of walking tours, events, sales promotions, etc.,” Sellers said.
Katherine Anne Porter lived in Kyle with her grandmother as a young girl and grew up to be a famous writer of American literature.
A collected series of Porter’s stories won the Gold Medal for fiction from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
Porter lived with her grandmother from 1892 to 1901 in a home located on Center Street, otherwise known as the “heart of downtown.”
Sellers said Porter’s connection with Kyle has proved to attract tourists interested in both Texas history and American literature.
Mary Kyle Hartson, who already has the old city hall named after her, will also be recognized downtown. The city of Kyle was named after her father, Fergus Kyle, in the mid 1800s, according to the TSHA.
From 1901 to 1925, Hartson served as the city’s postmistress and later went on to become the mayor of Kyle from 1937 until 1941. She served as Kyle’s mayor again from 1944 until 1946.
Hartson served on an “all woman council” that made Ripley’s Believe it or Not. She was the only female mayor in Texas at the time.
Stacey Pfefferkorn, an intern working with the city of Kyle, has led the effort in coming up with ways to incorporate the two women into the downtown sphere.
These ideas include painting a mural, naming a pie after Porter and Hartson at Texas Pie Company, incorporating their names on street signage, conducting walking tours and ceremonially renaming the pavilion at the public library to honor Hartson.
“Every city looks for a unique brand, and every downtown does the same,” Sellers said. “Downtowns that are successful are anchored around a primary lure or primary attraction. As we looked at what the primary lure was for Kyle, there were two prominent women from the city’s history that emerged very clearly.”
Part of the plan to incorporate Porter downtown is already in action. Residents can find a book display in the Kyle Public Library featuring her work.
As for other future incorporations, officials are still in the planning process.
“We’ve got like four or five ideas queued up and are in the exploration process to see which idea takes shape first,” Sellers said.
The initiative will be funded by part of the hotel occupancy tax fund, Sellers said. Signage could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000, while establishing walking tours could cost approximately $2,000.
“I don’t know if there’s an upper limit,” Sellers said. “Each idea will have its own little budget.”
Ultimately, Sellers said the city hopes that by incorporating Porter and Hartson downtown, the area will become richer and the economy will be boosted.
“(The idea) came from analyzing the city’s downtown and looking for ways to create a unique and sustainable attraction feature that would not only generate more foot traffic, but more sales for the merchants,” Sellers said. “(We hope it generates) more interest for those who are interested about the city’s past and character, and provide opportunities for additional tourism and a unique identity for downtown.”