| History in
a Sea Shell
La Porte is French for “The Door.” The name was chosen by a real estate
consortium in 1892 in hopes of luring investors and land buyers. The
La Porte, Houston and Northern Railroad Company was chartered in late
1892 and La Porte became the railroad’s headquarters. The proximity
to both Galveston
and Houston was a draw,
but the railroad only managed to lay 12 miles of track before being
absorbed by a larger company. After several sales, it became Galveston,
Houston and Northern Railway Company (1899). Under the direction of
the Southern Pacific system.
In 1900 the town could boast over 500 residents.
That same year St. Mary's Seminary opened and remained there for over
five decades. The downtown section of La Porte was totally destroyed
by a fire around 1915 and shortly thereafter it was struck by a hurricane.
La Porte had its 15 minutes of fame bestowed upon it in the 20s and
30s when it held dances and bathing beauty contests at Sylvan Beach.
Performers included singers Phil Harris and Rudy Vallee and bandleader
/ clarinetist Benny Goodman.
In fact La Porte’s entire economy was driven by the entertainers and
the audiences they drew. Later, refineries and shipyards along the
bay provided jobs for the year-round residents.
The population reached over 7,000 residents by 1949 and La Porte was
now large enough to start absorbing its neighbors. In 1980 the neighbor
was the tiny town of Lomax.
Residents of La Porte still regarded their town as a resort even as
the population grew to nearly 28,000 people. Several hurricanes have
struck Sylvan Beach over the years. The population reached 34,421
for the 2010 census.
La Porte Chrinicles:
the bands played on at Sylvan by
"Baytown's neighbor across the
Houston Ship Channel -- Sylvan Beach at La Porte -- offered so much
fun that it earned the title of "Coney Island of Texas....."
La Porte, Texas
I really appreciate your website, it's very interesting and fun to
read. One small correction about your La Porte, TX section is that
the Washburn Tunnel connects Pasadena with the East End of Houston
(near Channelview) via Federal Rd. The Baytown Tunnel (I don't think
it was ever named after anyone or anything) connected Baytown
with La Porte via 225/146 (where the Fred
Hartman Bridge is located now). I lived in La Porte for about
10 years and my Dad grew up there. If you get a chance, drive down
Main St. in La Porte to see a lot of the great old buildings in town.
The old theater is a church now that my Dad used to go to when he
was a kid in the late '50s. El Ranchero restaurant is some of the
best Tex-Mex you can have on the Gulf Coast. Thanks, Tim Holmes,
Jr., Houston, Texas, July 17, 2008
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