Kingsville's historic Flato Building has housed everything from a hardware store to an opera house, and apparently there are all kinds of secret vaults and tunnels inside of it.
Located in the city's downtown area, on E. Kleberg Ave., the Flato Building appears to simply house a store, but if you look a little deeper, you will find there is a lot more than meets the eye.
For instance, a secret vault.
"This was in the day that Pancho Villa and bandits were raiding U.S. cities, so they built this to store the merchants' guns," said Alan Turner of Blue Quail Designs. "The merchants, if they heard that someone was coming, they'd come here and get the guns and defend the city."
The merchants never had to use those guns, but apparently they once came close once.
"Of course the closest the bandits ever came was when they attacked Sarita, and the merchants were notified by telegram," Turner said. "They got their guns. They got on the train, and headed for Sarita, and three Texas Rangers had killed all the bandits without any of them getting shot."
The Flato Building, built by Charles Flato in 1903, originally burned down around 1909, as did two adjacent buildings. All three were rebuilt in 1913, and are now the Cactus Flower, Blue Quail Designs and the Saddle Shop. Above Blue Quail Designs is the Flato Opera House, which once was the focal point of the city's social scene.
"And then there was a large room where the young people learned their social graces, dancing and so on and so forth," Turner said.
Down in the basement, there is another vault, which Turner explained would have provided storage for gold and cash from the Kleberg Bank across the street.
"They would have brought it here had they been raided," Turner said. "But as far as I know, it never came here."
One of the coolest things about the building is its secret underground tunnel, which leads to what used to be Kleberg Bank, but is now the Municipal Building where City Hall is located. Turner said that it has been bricked off, and pointed out an old metal door.
"Part of the tunnel is now below the Saddle Shop, and it's been bricked up there too," Turner said. "But they don't know where it came out in Kleberg Bank because it's been remodeled so many times."
No one remembers which wall covered up the tunnel, so no one knows where the exit to the tunnel is.
"I guess you could break into the tunnel here, and then go through and find the entrance over there," Turner said.
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