Val Verde County Historical Commission

Val Verde County Historical Commission

John Taini
Italian Stonemason of Del Rio

Doug Braudaway
Southwest Texas Junior College

During the 1880s a number of Italian families left Milan and came to the New World—also known as Del Rio, Texas. Their journey to Del Rio may have been precipitated by other Italians at nearby Fort Clark providing much of the masonry work (barracks, officers quarters) done during the 1870s. The Fort Clark/Brackett(ville) settlement was what in modern times is called a diverse community.1 Italian stonemasons “had come as building contractors. [Rev. Black of Del Rio] said several Italian families arrived shortly afterward and helped in the construction [of Fort Clark].”2 Post records indicate that some 31 carpenters, 49 stonemasons and 23 quarrymen were on the payroll though the number of Italians among these is unknown. “Some stayed in Brackett and some went to Del Rio…and made up the Italian colony of Del Rio.”3 The stonemasons knew about Del Rio since they traveled through town frequently “because of [the Fort Clark quarry stone’s] poor quality, stone for later construction was hauled by wagon forty-four miles from a government quarry on the Devils [sic] River.”4 The road from post to quarry came through Del Rio. They would have stopped at the plentiful San Felipe Springs and noted the good soil along San Felipe Creek. It is logical to speculate that word of the land and the work to be found was sent back to Italy.

Some of the Del Rio Italian families actually immigrated first to Mexico. The census records (1910) show an occasional Mexican wife or eldest children born in Mexico while the younger children were born in Texas. Others came to the United States at Galveston. Both groups and scattered others eventually found their way to the small community of Del Rio, Texas, and enough of them did that they were sometimes referred to as “the Italian Colony” of Del Rio.

John Taini was born of Gerolamo Taini and Lucia Prandelli in Rezzato, Brescia, Italy (near Milan) on November 1, 1854 and emigrated from Milan to the United States in 1880.5 According to the “Cassinelli Gin House” state historical marker, “Italian Stonemason G.B. Cassinelli and his partner [Taini] were recruited in their native country by an American contractor who wanted them to build buildings in New York. Shortly after their arrival in the United States, the project failed and they went to work for the railroads. Later, they were hired by the federal government to construct several stone buildings at Fort Clark in Brackettville. When that project was completed, they came to Del Rio to work on the Val Verde County Courthouse.”

Other prominent Del Rio Italians immigrated during that same decade: Seraphini and Qualia in 1881, more Seraphinis in 1884, Bolner in 1882, Molinia in 1879, Gerola and Valiente in 1889.6 Most of these were listed as farmers in 1910, as opposed to farm laborers, meaning that they owned their own land. Some of them and their descendents bought land from Taini or from the company of which he was a partner. Most of the men at some point became naturalized citizens.7

Taini married a wife nearly two decades his junior; Erminia Gerola was born of Peitro Gerola and Angelina Pagani on June 11, 1874.8 The two married July 15, 1889. Family lore states that John returned to Italy, married and brought his bride back to Del Rio.9 The couple had two daughters—Annie born September 23, 1891, and Lucy born June 29, 1893.10 The picture of the family on the Second Taini Home front porch (included in this application) was taken about or after the 1910 census due to the adult appearance of the daughters. The fact that they only had daughters explains why the Taini name is no longer found in Del Rio.

Taini owned land in South Del Rio like many of the other Italians. The Qualias of Del Rio established the Val Verde Winery (for which the VVCHC and THC have established a marker) a short distance away. Taini donated some of his land to the City in order to extend Pecan Street into the southern parts of Del Rio.11 On Pecan Street sits the Cassinelli Gin House (for which the VVCHC and THC have also established a marker). The Cassinellis and Tainis, at one time, lived in the same dwelling.12 The “Italian colony” resided in the southern part of the town extending from the Cassinellis near San Felipe Creek to the Qualia winery to the extreme southern section of town with street names such as Seraphini, Rose and Bolner. Taini does have a street named for him, but it is found across the Creek in the San Felipe neighborhood. Cassinelli has a short street nearby.

Taini was a partner with G.B. Cassinelli. One record says that the partnership began in 1893; other sources state the partnership began in the 1880s. However, a partnership agreement signed in 1899 stated “that we G.B. Cassinelli and John Taini of said state and county do by these presents associate ourselves as equal partners under the firm name G.B. Cassinelli and Company to pursue the business of buying, contracting and selling real estate in Lots, Blocks and acres in said state and county with our office in Del Rio.”13 Business was certainly good. The deed records show a great many transactions—on both sides of the San Felipe Creek. They together (and later Taini singly) did business with the predominantly “Anglo” community leaders remembered on at least four historical markers, and they did business with San Felipe neighborhood Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who have not been so remembered.14 He was also known as “Juan” Taini.15 This, and the fact that Taini Street lies in the culturally Mexican community, suggests that Taini respected the people there during a time that such respect was uncommon.

The partnership dissolved in 1904. “G.B. Cassinelli & Co consisting of G.B. Cassinelli and John Taini of said state and county and by mutual consent do dissolve partnership.” The property division account shows that the firm had been successful. Cassinelli received the “cotton gin & now mill,” some $540 worth of stone, some $437 worth of brick, a set of school vouchers and more. The vouchers may have been payment for the six lots of land the partners sold to Val Verde County. Judge C.S. Brodbent, on behalf of Common School District #2 (better known as the San Felipe Schools) bought the land on which Stephen F. Austin Elementary School stands. Taini’s share of the non-real estate property suggests that he is, at the time, continuing and expanding his career in the construction business: 18 horses and mules, 4 wagons, $354 in bricks, brick-making tools, a mowing machine, plows, a hay press, blacksmith tools and more. The substantial tracts of real estate were also divided.16

JT on 1938 City map-s
The arrow points to the Taini Estate. The parcel immedately south of it was Cassinelli land and is the site of the Cassinelli Gin House. The Taini farmland is off the map to the south, nearer the Rio Grande.

In 1905 Taini began advertising himself. “John Tiani, Stone Contractor and Practical Stone Mason, All Work Guaranteed. Cut Stone a Specialty. Concrete and Cement Walks.” Other ads in another newspaper have the same ad, but with his name spelled correctly.17

During the late 1880s through the 1910s, John Taini repeatedly won contracts with Val Verde County and the City of Del Rio to build civic improvements. Taini won the contract to repair and enlarge the County Jail and to build a culvert to drain runoff under (but not into) Del Rio’s canal system.18 After Losoya Street was extended to San Felipe Creek, a bridge over the Creek was declared necessary and useful by the Commissioner’s Court. Taini built the “Rock Bridge,” the bridge that connects Del Rio’s Losoya Street with San Felipe neighborhood’s Gillis Street Bridge. When “high waters” damaged the bridge, he was contracted to repair it and subsequently contracted for “rip-rapping” the creek’s banks near the bridge to prevent further possible damage.19 He took down the fence surrounding courthouse square for the county commissioners and reinstalled it around the county jail.20 He made traveling to Las Vacas (now Ciudad Acuna) easier by building a bridge over an arroyo to level the Las Vacas Road.21

Taini also built two dams across San Felipe Creek. One of the dams has been something of a riddle. The canal that flows from it does not tie in with the rest of the canal system; nor does the dam of the canal appear to be in use. Both the dam and the canal are overgrown with carrizo. However, an inscription on the dam reads “G. Taini” under the date 1904.22

JT--name on third dam in 1904-s

Taini Dam

While no longer in use for irrigation, this dam creates a pool of water larger than those behind the other two dams remaining on the Creek. While it was in use, it channeled water into a canal to water fields and pastures southeast of Del Rio. The part of the Creek behind Taini Dam is the Rincon de Diablo, the deepest part of San Felipe Creek.23

The other dam was built at an earlier time, but it was demolished years ago. One of early Del Rio’s most important businesses was the Ice Factory which went into business in the 1880s manufacturing ice and grinding grain. The grist mill was powered by water dammed and diverted from the nearby San Felipe Creek, just north of the Academy Street crossing. Around the turn of the century, the factory expanded into electrical power production. A booklet published in 1900 notes that the dam for the electric light plant was built by Cassinelli & Co. and then continues with a description of the plant capabilities. The dam, built circa 1886, was substantially damaged during the Flood of 1935 and subsequently demolished by the City as Central Power & Light Company converted the plant to natural gas.24

In 1916, under contract with the City of Del Rio, Taini built a bridge across the Madre Canal (which flows through the center of Old Del Rio) and across St Mary’s Canal on the west side.25 On various occasions he also constructed culverts along the downtown canals for drainage.26 After the City bought the waterworks that supplied water to the town, a major overhaul of the distribution system was initiated. Part of the overhaul was contracted to Taini to remove the old pipes, lay new iron pipe mains, more than a mile of them, to provide all masonry work and pipe support that might be needed.27 Another contract provided for various attachments to the main—hydrants, reducers and smaller pipe.28 The bill to the City was more than $17,000. This work, in his later years, fits the notation for occupation in the 1910 census—“contractor.” He had worked his way up from a junior partner to boss and manager of a variety of construction projects.

Still, Taini is best known in Del Rio for his buildings—residential, commercial, theological and governmental. His earliest work is residential, but very quickly he moved into the other fields. The list of his work includes many of Del Rio’s oldest, most distinctive buildings.

1. Taini First Home—1885.29 This house was at the corner of Barron and Cisneros Streets in San Felipe. This area was also ground zero for the Flood of 1998. The empty lots, on the north side of Cisneros are now part of the new Rotary Park and the creekside greenbelt park being developed by the City of Del Rio.

2. Trodoro Jurdado Residence—1880s.30 This building (like all the others on nearby blocks) is gone, having been destroyed by the Flood of 1998. The site is inside the Andrade Street entrance to Rotary Park. The description in the survey form suggests it was a nicely constructed building. (A 1970s image of a building is included in this application. THC Neighborhood Survey records—also included—identify this home both as Taini First Home and Trodoro Jurado Residence. Perhaps the two buildings were identical.)

Trodoro Jurdado residence--now gone

3. Southern Pacific Railroad House—1885.31 This house at 112 East Martin sits one block from the railroad reserve land. The railroad construction crews arrived in Del Rio in 1882 and, in January 1883, completed the country’s second transcontinental line. Del Rio was a division headquarters with many employees located here. (A photo of this property in included in the application and labeled “JT3.”)

JT3--112 East Martin

4. Southern Pacific Railroad House—1885.32 Next-door is 114 East Martin. The survey sheet states that this house and a few others in the area were constructed by the Southern Pacific (under the name Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio) Railroad for their workmen. (Photo JT4.)

JT4--114 East Martin-s

5. Southern Pacific Railroad House—1885.33 Across the street from the previous two houses is the back parking lot for the downtown U.S. Post Office. A house once sat there bearing the address 127 East Martin. The house is gone.34

6. Dietart Home—1885.35 This house sits one block up the street at 208 East Martin. It is a larger (and more expensive) house with more showy stonework. The survey form notes that it is constructed of handmade brick, as were the railroad houses. (Photos JT6 and JT6A.)

JT6--208 East Martin-s

JT6a-s

7. Val Verde County Jail—1885.36 The county jail, now converted into office space, actually predates the county courthouse. This is a much larger structure than the previously noted homes, so it is likely he was a subcontractor handling the stonework, since Taini is not the person who won the contract for the complete project. The jail represents a transition for Taini; he must be known in the community and his work respected for he is beginning to work on larger, more expensive, non-residential properties. Incidentally, Taini did not quarry the stone used to build the Old Jail Building but he knew the individual who did and filed an affidavit to support Paul Commollie in a proprietary claim.37 (Photo JT7.)

JT7--County Jail-s

8. Val Verde County Courthouse—1888.38 Taini’s name does not appear on the cornerstone of the structure but the Cassinelli Gin House state marker says that Taini “came to Del Rio to work on the Val Verde County Courthouse.”39 It seems likely that he was a subcontractor. The La Hacienda source notes that Taini hired then unemployed Chinese railroad workers. (Photo JT8.)

JT8--County Courthouse-s

9. Joseph Hyman Building—1889. “444 So. Main Street [sits next to] the Old City Hall, but is a much older building, having been built in 1889 by John Taini, the master stonemason of the town then.”40 The Hyman family lived upstairs with the store at street level. At a later time, the upstairs may have been a hotel or rented rooms. (Photo JT9.)

JT9--Hyman Building-s

(I am removing building number 10. Taini Home—188941 from this list.)42

11. Oasis Café Building—ca. 1890.43 The building (at the corner of Andrade and Guillen) is listed as a hotel in the Taini probate papers (from 1929), though community memory recalls it more recently as a restaurant, bar and billiards room. The limestone is crumbling and the walls have been badly repaired in places, but the structure is the only one in that area to survive the Flood of 1998 and remain habitable. The damage may have occurred as the floodwaters slammed debris into the walls. (Photo JT11.)

JT11--Oasis Cafe-s

12. Sacred Heart Catholic Church—1894.44 Taini has been noted as being partners with Joe Tagliabue and as Tagliabue’s boss during the construction of this building. Taini also quarried the stone for the statue erected next to the church building. Taini was one of the parish leaders whose names were in the records placed in the cornerstone. Taini also did the stonework when the building was remodeled at a later time. Both men were honored at the centennial celebration. (Photo JT12.)

JT12--Sacred Heart Chapel-s

13. Club Café—approx. 1900.45 This badly painted building at 101 South Main across Ogden Street from the passenger depot is one of the oldest in the industrial district of Del Rio. The paint is recent; the building once presented bare limestone of the sort used in the county courthouse. Called Club Café and Scott’s Café during its lifetime, this business was the first 24-hour restaurant in Del Rio. It was popular with railroad crews and passengers. It was also frequented by high schoolers, being a popular post-game hangout.46 (Photo JT13.)

JT13--Club Cafe-s

14. Ortiz Law Office—ca. 1900.47 This residence, at 310 North Main Street, is the first of three buildings known to have been constructed by Taini north of the railroad tracks. It is a one-story stone house with stucco exterior. The stonework around the windows is similar to other Taini buildings. (Photo JT14.)

JT14--310 North Main-s

15. Daniel Chastang Home—ca. 1900.48 Very little is known about the house built at 108 East Second Street. It does sit one block from the Ortiz Law Office. Prior to World War II, very few people lived north of Fifth Street. Consequently, few historic homes stand in this northern portion of town. (Photo JT15.)

[Editor's note: The building in the following picture--at 108 East Second Street--is the Aderhold House. The Chastangs lived in a house situated one block east of this site. Sometimes historical research confirms previous information; sometimes historical research corrects mistakes. The structure is still thought to be Taini construction dating to 1902 or very near that time.]

JT15--108 East 2nd Street-s

16. Old Methodist Church—1904. “The 1904 Old Methodist Church Building stands across from the county courthouse. Once again John Taini was the builder, and the stone was provided from the ranch of Brown Plaza namesake George and Harriet Brown. The building is in great disrepair” and currently used to store furniture.49 (Photo JT16.)

JT16--Old Methodist Chapel-s

17. Second Taini Home—1889.50 No photos of the “First” Taini home are known to exist but a plat map included in this narrative shows a residence near the Creek. (The house in the plat map is not the First Taini Home, so there must have been three; although the exact sequence of their use may only be guessed.) The Tainis built their own home within a stone’s throw of the Cassinelli residence. The map also shows Taini’s ownership of the site for the Second home (at 1100 South Main St.) with only a hay barn on the block. Behind the home, Taini built other facilities, a barn and hayloft, a livestock pen, a blacksmithy and machine shop. A mechanical water pump (one that was heard across all Del Rio when it was fired up) drew water from a well or from the canal to irrigate his crops. The homestead also had a winepress used to capture the juice from Taini’s modest grape vine production. Though unidentified as such, the winepress has ended up in Del Rio’s Whitehead Memorial Museum. Daughter Lucy, for a time, was listed as “Secretary” in the firm “John Taini, General Contractor, Cement and Stone Work.” The address listed for the business was this Taini Home. (Photos JT17 and JT17A.)

JT17--1100 South Main-s

JT17a-s

18. Cassinelli Gin House—1904.51 While this is named for Taini partner Cassinelli, the survey form states that both men constructed it. (Photo JT18.)

JT18--Cassinelli Gin House-s

19. Lacrosse Home—ca. 1905.52 This house, built at 109 East Second Street, across the street from the Daniel Castang Home, suggests that some of the city’s high rollers were moving to the “suburbs.” (Photo JT19.)

JT19--109 East 2nd Street-s

20. Warner Building—1905. “The Old Warner Building (534 South Main and occasionally called the Block Building) figures prominently in old photographs of Del Rio’s Main Street. Since its construction, it has been in nearly continuous use as a variety of retail stores: Norvell-March Department Store, J.C. Penney’s, Rick’s Furniture, and the Mill Outlet. It is currently occupied by Sam’s Boot Corral selling western clothing and accessories. The front has been greatly altered; the second floor windows, door and balcony are gone, but this building, constructed in 1905 by John Taini, one of Del Rio’s most prolific builders, shows its original stone work along the side.”53 Taini made clear the fact he constructed this building by carving his name and date above the door. (Photos JT20 and JT20 detail.)

JT20--Warner Building-s

JT20--detail-s

21. Parker Home—1908. “509 Spring Street. First story [built] by Taini [;] purchased by G.H. Parker in 1911. Upper story added in 1914.”54 Little else was recorded. (Photo JT21.)

JT21--Parker Home-s

22. Miller Home—1908.55 This property at 112 West Martin was recorded in 1978 as one of the sights to see—but is now the parking lot for the Del Rio Municipal Building Annex (at 114 West Martin).

23. John Doak Home—1909.56 “Less than a block away [from the Old Methodist Church] is another John Taini building that has been rescued, restored and put to good use. The John Doak Home, built in 1909, is a residence that has been converted into the Arturo Gonzales Law Offices (313 Pecan). This structure is the only one of several similar Pecan Street homes remaining. Parking lots on either side testify to the city’s loss.”57 Ironically, the Taini grandchildren hired Gonzalez, the occupant of a Taini building, to represent their Del Rio interests many years later. (Photo JT23.)

JT23--Doak Home-s

24. Santos Garza Residence—1906.58 The Data Sheet suggests that Taini built the structure for James McLymont of one of Del Rio’s leading stores, Roach-McLymont’s, and co-founder of one of the earliest banks, Del Rio National Bank. Garza bought the property in 1916 and later organized the creation of the San Felipe Independent School District. The alumni association for that school district, the San Felipe “Exes,” now occupies the residence.

Garza house-s

25. Teatro Juarez—1909.59 The old theater on Brown Plaza had been used for a number of purposes including warehouse, theater, pool hall and drug store. The building was significantly damaged by the Flood of 1998 and subsequently razed as a safety hazard. (Unidentified notes found in the Whitehead Memorial Museum state that at least two other Brown Plaza buildings may have been Taini construction as well.)

Other Del Rio buildings are known to have been constructed by John Taini. Unless he was working for a specific family or contract, he was known to build “serial homes” along a street. The railroad houses are one example of this.

JTquestion--112 East Broadway-s
For example, this house at 112 E. Broadway shares elements of the railroad houses just one street over on Martin Street. This could easily be Taini construction, but no documentation.

The other houses on Pecan Street next to #23, the Doak Home are another. (These appear on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps at the same time the Doak Home does. No clear photos are extant, though.)

Taini’s grandson is certain that Taini built in the (predominantly Mexican) San Felipe portion of town beyond those examples listed as #1, Taini First Home; #2, Trodoro Jurdado Residence; and #11, Oasis Café Building. Unidentified notes from the Whitehead Memorial Museum’s Daughtrey Research Center archives suggest Taini built two or three buildings facing Brown Plaza.

JT--notes about JT in Brown Plaza area-s

However, very few San Felipe structures were noted in the 1976 and 1978 neighborhood surveys (which compose the bulk of the THC Atlas information for Del Rio). THC files do include a survey sheet for Teatro Juarez Building (formerly at 306 Cantu Street on Brown Plaza) as having been built by John Taini. The building was severely damaged by the Flood of 1998 and demolished by the City of Del Rio in 2001 as a safety hazard.

Another WMM-DRC find is a photo of the old Masonic Lodge Building with this on the back: “The photo of Masonic Hall was taken when Mr. Cassinlli [sic], who built the building, lived on the first floor and Mr. Tiani [sic] lived on the second floor. As half of Cassinelli & Co., Taini probably had a hand in the building’s construction.

old-masonic-hall-s

Following the destruction (by fire and demolition) of an old waterworks pump station in 1977, notes gathered by VVCHC state that the Del Rio Waterworks hired John Taini to build the pumphouse and install the pumps in 1915.60

Other Taini buildings surely exist even if they have yet to be identified. Based on conversations with John A. Garoni, I believe that another house on Second Street, just two blocks from #15, Daniel Castang Home and #19, Lacrosse Home may also be a Taini construction. Taini contracted with Ella Murgrave to build a large eight room house on a four lot tract between West Martin and Dignowity Streets. The brick home had a rock foundation. The 1899 structure appears to have survived into the 1940s but is no longer there. Neither is the old Masonic Lodge building catty-corner from the county courthouse. Taini also built the apparently forgotten Ellis Building on South Main in 1906 for G.W. Brown. This substantial building may have been one of the buildings razed to make way for the 1929 Montgomery Ward & Company building. Neither building is known photographically.61

Taini was a leader in the Italian Community of Del Rio although he very rarely forayed into politics. He was an election judge (along with partner Cassinelli) for the 1892 election and again in 1894 (without Cassinelli), but such seems to be the extent of it.62 The bulk of his dealing with the local government consisted of land transactions for business and affidavits for fellow Italians. For example, upon the death of the Filippones, he testified to the number, age and location of the heirs for purposes of family inheritance.63 (The Filippone Building is now home to the Kinney County Museum in Brackettville.) At least once he served on a trial jury.64 He was also a member of the Board of Directors and, eventually, one of the last survivors of the Italian Cemetery Association who deeded the Italian (Catholic) Cemetery to the Archbishop of San Antonio.65 The cemetery is now part of Del Rio’s Sacred Heart Cemetery.

John Taini died May 6, 1929, leaving his wife a substantial estate of some nine thousand dollars worth of real property: lots adjacent to the Cassinelli Gin House, a series of lots bordering Del Rio’s famous Brown Plaza, and a pair of lots between the two other properties where the Oasis Café stands.66 (A segment of a map from Del Rio’s Tax Office showing the properties is included in the packet.) This property, according to the probate records, had been “improved with theater building.” That statement makes Taini the one-time owner of an important Del Rio/San Felipe landmark, the Palacio Del Rio Building (which no longer exists as it was destroyed in the Flood of 1998). The third property is home to Oasis Café Building.

Erminia Taini lived many more years until November 30, 1955. She continued to live in the family home at 1100 South Main her entire life.67 Her primary means of income appears the be a number of rent houses on Main, Pecan, Ney and Academy Streets, and this was supplemented with the sale and lease of various other properties.68 John Taini’s estate in 1929 suggests that he had retired from the construction business, both masonry and contracting. The rent houses were drawing income before his death, so this was a deliberate effort to take care of himself in his elder years and his wife in the event of his demise.

Mrs. Taini was assisted by her brother-in-law Vincenzo Taini, known to family and friends as Vance. Vance (born April 29, 1868) immigrated to the U.S. in 1911. He was in poor health and thought that he might die soon. John invited him to Del Rio, and in fact returned to Italy to escort him here to see some of the world before he died. John also invited him to manage the family’s farm holdings. Other people have come west for their health, and Del Rio was apparently good for him; he outlived his brother by more than thirty years, passing on February 9, 1961.69

Vance Taini managed the Taini modest farm properties of nearly a dozen acres. The land between the Second Taini Home and San Felipe was farmed and irrigated. The Tainis also owned some 9.5 acres on Rio Grande Road (now Qualia Drive) on which grapes were grown, intercropped with corn, carrots and other vegetables. Three times a week, grand-uncle Vance and (during summer break) John Garoni picked the crops in season, loaded them on a mule-drawn wagon, and sold them to Burdett’s Grocery on (the 100 block of) Main Street. The Tainis made some four-hundred gallons of wine per year, but none for commercial use. Some was given to the Catholic priest in Brackettville for mass, some was bartered for store merchandise, and the remainder was for home consumption. Erminia Taini and her daughters also bottled grape juice, boiling the juice and storing it in sterilized beer bottles sealed with cork. On occasion the bottles exploded, but for the most part the bottled juice served as drink in the same way soda pop does today.70

John and Erminia Taini’s two daughters eventually married. Annie married Teodoro H. Ramirez on August 23, 1916 (or 1917). Teodoro was a musician, composer and bookkeeper.71 Lucy married Italian-born Philip Garoni in Eagle Pass on October 14, 1929, and they had daughter Catherine Erminia Garoni on August 6, 1930 and son John Anthony Garoni on September 29, 1933. Interestingly, Taini’s son-in-law Phil listed his occupation as “mason” at the birth of his first child—but listed it as “cement worker” at the time of the second.72 Stonework was less and less common in Del Rio in the 1920s and 1930s. Phil remained a builder but had to switch to work associated with the more common brick masonry.73

Both of the Taini grandchildren have had children of their own. This small, but close, Italian-American family still lives in Texas.

It is surprising that John Taini is not already remembered with a historical marker. Perhaps the fact that his name did not appear in the partnership’s company name gave the appearance that he was a less worthy individual. However, his contributions to the community are clearly substantial and deserving. The Val Verde County Historical Commission’s only problem with this application is where to place the marker. So many examples of his work remain, and so many sites would be worthwhile. Since the City of Del Rio has become a Main Street City, the county historical commission has decided to place the marker in a small park across from Club Café Building at Ogden and Main Street. This location will put the marker at the north entrance to Del Rio’s historic downtown area, a downtown that exists substantially due to his work.

 

The map shows the Taini marker to be placed near South Main Street and Odgen Street at the head of South Main and the Main Street District. Three photos of the site area are included:
1. the view of the marker site from the little park; the building in the background right is the Club Café Building; the reader can see the marker and one of Taini’s buildings in the same view;
2. the marker will be placed in the ground at the edge of the concrete between the posts;
3. this block includes the park, the bus station immediately to the west (left) and the 1920’s Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, now used by Amtrak and the City of Del Rio’s Mobility Impaired Transportation Department offices; the marker will be easily accessible but protected from the worst of the elements.

 

Bibliography—
Bureau of the Census, 10th Census, 1880, Volume 120, Kinney County, Texas
-----, 12th Census, 1900, Val Verde County, Texas.
-----, 13th Census, 1910, Volume 131, Val Verde County, Texas.

City of Del Rio, Birth Certificates.
-----, Death Certificate for Erminia Taini.
-----, Main Street Application, 2001.
-----, Minute Book Volume 1.
-----, Ordinance Book Volume 1.
-----, Tax Records.

Texas Historical Commission Atlas, Neighborhood Survey Data Sheets, Val Verde County.
Texas Historical Commission, marker for “Brown Plaza.”
-----, “Canal System of Del Rio.”
-----, “Cassinelli Gin House.”
-----, “Old Perry Building.”
-----, “Taylor-Rivers House.”
-----, “Val Verde Winery.”

Val Verde County, Commissioners Court Minutes, Volumes 1-4.
-----, Deed Records.
-----, Marriage Certificates.
-----, Probate Records.

Val Verde County Historical Commission, Neighborhood Survey Data Sheets not filed with THC
-----, “A Guide to Historical Del Rio,” 1978.
-----, “Old Pumphouse,” circa 1977.
-----, “Walking Tour,” 1996.
-----, Historical Survey Notes.

“A Century of Faith: Sacred Heart Parish, Del Rio, Texas, 1895-1995,” Del Rio, 1995.
Frank Cheaney of the Fort Clark Historical Association, “Fort Clark Tour Guide Notes.”
John Anthony Garoni, “Family Notes.”
John Anthony Garoni, Personal Interview, September 15, 2001.
Kinney County Historical Society, Kinney County: 1852-1977, 1977.
H. Muenzenberger, Del Rio, Val Verde County, privately published, 1900.
Ben Pingenot, “Fort Clark, Texas: A Brief History,” The Journal of Big Bend Studies, Volume VII, January 1995.
Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery, Del Rio, Texas.
Whitehead Memorial Museum, La Hacienda, 1976.

 

Attachments—
Picture of John Taini in his later years. This image was restored digitally by grandson John Anthony Garoni from the only surviving print from a house fire. Picture of the Taini Family, found in La Hacienda.
Plat from 1938 showing the Taini property on San Felipe Creek.
Picture of either 1. Taini First Home—1885 or 2. Trodoro Jurdado Residence—1880s.
VVCHC data sheet stating the building is 1. Taini First Home—1885.
VVCHC data sheet stating the building is 2. Trodoro Jurdado Residence—1880s.
Two photos: 3. Southern Pacific Railroad House—1885 and 4. Southern Pacific Railroad House—1885.
Two photos showing possible Taini Southern Pacific Railroad House and 6. Dietart Home—1885.
Two photos: 6. Dietart Home—1885 (second view) and 7. Val Verde County Jail—1885.
Two photos: 8. Val Verde County Courthouse—1888 and 9. Joseph Hyman Building—1889.
Two photos: 11. Oasis Café Building—ca. 1890 and 12. Sacred Heart Catholic Church—1894.
Two photos: 13. Club Café—approx. 1900 and 14. Ortiz Law Office—ca. 1900.
Two photos: 15. Daniel Castang Home—ca. 1900 and 16. Old Methodist Church—1904.
Two photos: 17. Second Taini Home—1889.
Two photos: 18. Cassinelli Gin House—1904 and 19. Lacrosse Home—ca. 1905.
Two photos: 20. Warner Building—1905 and a detail from the side of the building.
Two photos: 21. Parker Home—1908 and 23. John Doak Home—1909.
Data sheet filled out in 1976 for the Santos Garza Residence.
Photo of the Santos Garza Residence, now occupied by the San Felipe ‘Exes,’ an alumni organization for the old San Felipe Independent School District.
Data sheet filled out in 1981 for the Teatro Juarez building. The misspelling of Taini’s name is common.
Photo from THC files of east side of Brown Plaza. The building in the center is the old Theater (which was gutted in the Flood in 1998).
Photo (with back of photo stapled) of Del Rio’s downtown area in 1914. The building in the lower right-hand corner is the old Masonic Hall, long since razed. This is an example of the assertion that many other Taini buildings once stood in Del Rio, but are no longer standing.
Picture postcard of old Del Rio Electric Plant. The dam in the foreground was built by Taini and Cassinelli in the late 1800s.
Photo of the Taini Dam; built in 1904, the dam is the third dam of the important Del Rio canal system. This photo was shot by Charles Carlson in the mid-1970s.
Photo of detail on Taini Dam. The date and name are clear but now surrounded by Carrizo.

 

Endnotes--
1 The Census records list many nationalities including a Polish tailor, an Irish barber, Scottish civil engineer, Saxon baker, an English butcher, a Prussian laborer, a French shoemaker, a Mexican hotel keeper and a Canadian tailor among the scores of foreign born. The area also boasted people from most of if not all of the American states. The records only note two Italians, but this may be due to the fact that Italy did not exist as a nation-state at this time. Many words listed as place of birth are illegible and/or unfamiliar and may represent Italian localities in the same way Saxony and Prussia were German principalities at this time. Bureau of the Census, 10th Census, 1880, Volume 120, Kinney County, Texas. Later censuses listed some of the Del Rio Italians as having been born in Austria and Switzerland with the word “Italian” in parenthesis.
2 Kinney County Historical Society, Kinney County: 1852-1977, 1977, page 89.
3 Frank Cheaney of the Fort Clark Historical Association, “Fort Clark Tour Guide Notes.”
4 Ben Pingenot, “Fort Clark, Texas: A Brief History,” The Journal of Big Bend Studies, Volume VII, January 1995, page 109.
5 Family Notes, John Anthony Garoni; Gravestone, Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery.
6 Bureau of the Census, 13th Census, 1910, Volume 131, Val Verde County, Texas.
7 However, their wives almost never did, at least according to the 1910 Census. Perhaps the prohibitions against women from voting and from engaging in business made citizenship irrelevant at the time.
8 Family Notes, JAG; City of Del Rio, Death Certificate for Erminia Taini.
9 Family Notes, JAG; Historical Survey Data Sheet, Val Verde County, Texas Historical Commission Atlas; JAG, interview. This means that a date recorded in the census (1888 for her immigration) was incorrectly recorded, as were many of the data fields. Erminia’s father’s family apparently immigrated that same year.
10 Family notes, JAG; Census and gravestone information is contradictory.
11 Val Verde County Commissioners Court, Minutes, Volume 2, pages 507. Technically, the transaction was a one-dollar sale, in effect, a civic contribution.
12 Bureau of the Census, 12th Census, 1900, Val Verde County, Texas.
13 VVC, Deed Records, Volume 8, pages 101-102, November 27, 1899.
14 The notables include Paula Losoya Taylor Rivers on the “Taylor-Rivers House,” Randolph Pafford of the “Canal System of Del Rio,” G.W. Brown on the “Brown Plaza,” and John Perry of the “Old Perry Building” which also became the first building in Del Rio’s Whitehead Memorial Museum.
15 A.E. Gutierrez, “A History of San Felipe,” Del Rio: Whitehead Memorial Museum, 1978, pages 22-24.
16 VVC, Deed Records, Volume 13, pages 144-145, January 7, 1904; Vol. 5, pages 577+.
17 Advertisement, Del Rio Daily News, December 4, 1905, no page number; Advertisement, Val Verde County Herald, January 6, 1905, no page number.
18 VVCCC, Minutes, Volume 2, pages 507-508.
19 VVCCC, Minutes, Volume 3, pages 8, 31, 349, 372.
20 VVCCC, Minutes, Volume 3, pages 314-315. While this was small contract, it explains what happened to the ornamental fence appearing in the last courthouse photo before its extensive remodeling in 1915.
21 VVCCC, Minutes, Volume 4, pages 107-108.
22 The first and second dams on the Creek are called Madre and Tardy Dams. No similar name has been assigned to this structure; although, some people in the neighborhood call it “the Waterfall.” I am going to refer to the structure as Taini Dam.
23 The photo of the inscription is my own, but I would like to share photo credit with Charles Carlson of Hondo who informed me of the existence of the inscription.
24 More details of the Ice Factory are in my Val Verde County photohistory and my upcoming Del Rio: Queen City of the Rio Grande text history. H. Muenzenberger, Del Rio, Val Verde County, privately published, 1900, page 19. Page 18 of the same has a strategically placed advertisement for G.B. Cassinelli & Co. as “Dealers in General Merchandise, Wood, Hay, Lime and Brick. Contractors and Builders.”
25 City of Del Rio, Minute Book Volume 1, page 246, April 11, 1916.
26 City of Del Rio, Minute Book Volume 1, page 284, November 14, 1916.
27 City of Del Rio, Ordinance Book Volume 1, (pages attached to) page 190, March 23, 1922.
28 City of Del Rio, Ordinance Book Volume 1, pages 182-188, March 23, 1922.
29 Historical Survey Data Sheet, Val Verde County, Texas Historical Commission Atlas; Val Verde County Historical Commission, “Guide to Historical Del Rio,” 1978.
30 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
31 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
32 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
33 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
34 Nearby are two other railroad company houses, listed at 110 East Martin and 112 East Broadway. The house at the former address has been replaced; the AARP Foundation occupies the house at the latter. It sits between the Del Rio Police Department and the aforementioned Post Office. The survey forms do not label them as having been built by Taini, but they are said to be Italian in style. (A photo of the house on Broadway is included and labeled as “JT?”.)
35 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
36 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
37 VVC, Deed Records, Volume 35, pages 254-255, August 8, 1916.
38 Whitehead Memorial Museum, La Hacienda, page 310.
39 Cassinelli Gin House historical marker.
40 VVC Historical Commission, historical survey notes.
41 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
42 A THC data sheet on the Atlas says this property was once a Taini property; however, Taini grandson, John Anthony Garoni remembers no home at that location. It is our speculation that two data sheets were erroneously created for the single property labeled “Second Taini Home” sitting at a location exactly one block south on Main Street. That home was built 1889 despite a data sheet entry of 1904. The property in question is now occupied by vacant commercial buildings (at 1000 and 1002 South Main). The data sheet records that a Taini daughter owned the property, but the same could also refer to the Home at 1100 S. Main. I am not changing the number sequence because the photographs have already been marked. It is possible that Taini-owned rent houses at the 1000 Main St. location may have prompted the data sheet creation with the “Taini Home” heading.
43 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
44 “A Century of Faith: Sacred Heart Parish, Del Rio, Texas, 1895-1995,” Del Rio, 1995, page 5; JAG, interview.
45 Val Verde County Historical Commission, “Walking Tour,” 1996. The Walking Tour information is based on historical surveys done in the 1970s.
46 City of Del Rio, Main Street Application, 2001. This slide did not actually make it to the 25 slides submitted to the THC, though all agreed it would make a good office for the Main Street Manager.
47 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
48 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
49 City of Del Rio, Main Street Application, 2001.
50 JAG, interview; VVC Historical Commission, “A Guide to Historical Del Rio,” 1978 and “Walking Tour,” 1996; La Hacienda, page 310 includes a picture of the Taini family standing on the porch of this house.
51 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
52 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
53 City of Del Rio, Main Street Application, 2001.
54 VVC Historical Commission, “Walking Tour,” 1996.
55 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC, THC Atlas.
56 VVC Historical Commission, “Walking Tour,” 1996.
57 City of Del Rio, Main Street Application, 2001.
58 VVC Historical Commission, Neighborhood Survey Data Sheet.
59 Historical Survey Data Sheet, VVC; not in THC Atlas.
60 VVCHC, “Notes Concerning the Pumphouse on San Felipe Creek,” in file “Old Pumphouse,” circa 1977. No pictures of the building are extant. When the city bought the company and relocated the pumping station, the old pumphouse building was used by civic clubs for meetings. Newspaper reports state that the brick was of the highest quality—from D’Hanis.
61 VVC, Deed Records, Vol. 7, pages 476-478; VVC, Mechanics Liens, Vol. 1, pages 184-185; Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, 1900, 1905, 1909, 1924, 1930 & 1949. 62 VVCCC, Minutes, Volume 1, page 596; Volume 2, page 76.
63 VVC, Deed Records, Volume 28, page 384 and Volume 53, page 304.
64 Untitled article, Del Rio Daily News, December 4, 1905, no page number.
65 VVC, Deed Records, Volume 67, page 155, 1927.
66 VVC, Deed Records, Volume 102, page 313; Gravestone, Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery; City of Del Rio, Tax Records, 1920, page 63; ibid, 1928, page 111; ibid, 1929, page 117; ibid, 1930, page 115, ibid, 1933, page 45.
67 City of Del Rio, Death Certificate for Erminia Taini.
68 VVC, Probate Records, Volume 9, pages 76-80, 215-216; Volume 23, pages 454-458; Volume 24, pages 61-62.
69 JAG, interview; Gravestone, Sacred Heart Cemetery.
70 JAG, interview.
71 VVC, Marriage Certificate, Volume 3; JAG, interview. Ramirez was about two years older, born April 1, 1888. Gravestone, Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery. John. A. Garoni’s Family Notes states that the year was 1917. No children resulted from this marriage.
72 Phil Garoni contributed to the building of Del Rio as well. Among his works are the decorative cement work on the roofline and around the doors of the old Federal Building during remodeling, brick work on the city’s railroad depot and the old Del Rio High School building, the parsonage at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, statuary at Brinkley Mansion, the infamous swimming pool at Fort Clark and brick and tile work at the Officers’ Club. JAG, interview.
73 City of Del Rio, Birth Certificates for CHG and JAG; Family Notes, JAG. Lucy died March 28, 1955; John and Catherine inherited Lucy’s portion of the estate. VVC, Deed Records, Volume 144, page 248. Garoni was born September 22, 1889 and died September 25, 1946. Gravestone, Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery; Family Notes; JAG.