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PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS


Jefferson County, Texas Gulf Coast

29°53'6"N 93°56'24"W (29.884864, -93.939902)

Highway 87
On West Bank of Sabine Lake
17 miles SE of Beaumont
90 miles E of Houston
5 miles E of the Neches River Rainbow Bridge
ZIP codes 77640-77642
Area code 409
Population: 54,280 Est. (2019)
53,818 (2010) 57,755 (2000) 58,724 (1990)

Book Hotel HerePort Arthur Hotels

 Port Arthur, Texas -Grain elevator and ship
Grain elevator and ship at the port
Photo courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast

History in a 55-Gallon Drum

Arthur Edward Stilwell was born in Rochester, New York in 1859. As a teenager he ran away from home to "seek his fortune." His gentile upbringing endeared him to the movers and shakers of the period and they shared their knowledge with the young man. By 1886, he had gone from traveling salesman to belt-line railroad promoter. His first major project was a railway from Kansas City to Sabine Pass, Texas, but Stilwell got sidetracked in Port Arthur.

In December of 1895 Stilwell and Co. acquired property in Jefferson County and began platting a city, which he modestly named after himself.

Port Arthur, Texas livery stable
A livery stable in early Port Arthur.
Photo courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast

The Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (which later became the Kansas City Southern) arrived in Port Arthur in 1897. Late that year Port Arthur had nearly 1,000 residents. To become a seaport, Port Arthur needed a canal, so in April 1897 the Port Arthur Channel and Dock Company began dredging a canal to the to deep water at Sabine Pass (completed in 1899). Stilwell’s railroad went bankrupt in 1899 and he lost interest in his dream.

In 1900 Stilwell announced an even more ambitious project: to connect Kansas City to the Pacific Coast (through Mexico). He founded Port Stilwell in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. After bankruptcy and another quest for a Pacific railroad connection, Stilwell turned to writing books on finance. He then turned to poetry and novels. In his stories he let it be known that his Port Arthur dreams had been advice from "brownies."

Arthur Stilwell bust
Bust of Arthur Stilwell
Photo Courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast

Port Arthur TX - JohnGates
Protrait of John Gates in the Gates Memorial Library
Photo Courtesy Gates Memorial Library

Stilwell was replaced by John W. (Bet-a Million) Gates, a man who had made a fortune in barbed wire and who didn’t believe in brownies. Gates arrived in December 1899 just as Stilwell was leaving. Gates didn’t live too many years longer and in 1918, Gates Memorial Library, was established by his widow as a memorial to her husband (and her son).

Port Arthur became a port of entry in 1906 and two years later the canal was extended up the Neches River to Beaumont and Orange.

Port Saloon, Port Arthur, Texas
A 1902 painting shows that Port Authurians had Business Priorities
Courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast

Stilwell and Gates gave Port Arthur its start, but Spindletop guaranteed its future. On January 10, 1901, the first big Texas oil boom blew in. The household names of Gulf, Magnolia, Humble, and Texaco were all born with Spindletop. Pipelines and refineries were built and their workers required housing and stores. By 1914 Port Arthur was the second largest oil-refining point in the U. S. The population jumped from 900 in 1900 to 7,000 in 1910. By 1930 it was over 50,000.

Port Arthur refineries area employed some 12,000 workers in 1950. Their salaries directly accounted for half of the city’s economy.

After the late 1960s, when the population reached a zenith of 69,000, a decline began.

Port Arthur annexed Sabine Pass in 1978.

Port Arthur Landmarks / Attractions
Photo Gallery


BRIDGES

Neches River Rainbow Bridge (1939) crosses the Neches River on State Highway 87 between Port Arthur and Orange.

The Gulfgate Bridge (since renamed the Martin Luther King Bridge) was built in the 1960s to connect Port Arthur with Pleasure Island and Louisiana.

Sabine-Neches Ship Canal, Port Arthur , Texas
The Gulfgate Bridge over the Sabine-Neches Ship Canal

"The Bridge only has a 136 vertical clearance and is a restriction to the Height of which a ship can safely pass under."

Photo courtesy Capt. David R. Byrnes, Sabine Pilots


Port Arthur TX Draw Bridge

Draw Bridge in Port Arthur
Postcard courtesy Will Beauchamp Collection




Port Arthur TX - Sub Courthouse
Port Arthur Sub Courthouse
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Sub Courthouse
Old postcard of Port Arthur Sub Courthouse


Port Arthur TX - Sub Courthouse
Port Arthur Sub Courthouse
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Sub Courthouse  eagle
Port Arthur Sub Courthouse eagle
TE Photo, May 2003
See Eagle Eyes of Texas


Port Arthur TX - Sub Courthouse  Moses
Port Arthur Sub Courthouse architectural detail - Moses relief
TE Photo, May 2003
Port Arthur TX - Sub Courthouse  boat
Port Arthur Sub Courthouse architectural detail - boat relief
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Sub Courthouse  statue
Port Arthur Sub Courthouse statue
TE Photo, May 2003
More Texas Statues




Port Arthur TX - Port Arthur Savings Building Doorway
Port Arthur Savings Building Doorway
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Port Arthur Savings Building Gargoyles
Port Arthur Savings Building Gargoyles
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Port Arthur Savings Building Gargoyles
Port Arthur Savings Building Gargoyles
TE Photo, May 2003
More Texas Gargoyles | Texas Banks


Port Arthur depot, Texas
The Port Arthur Depot today is in use as a residence.
TE Photo, May 2003
More Texas Depots


Port Arthur TX - Port Arthur Middle School
Port Arthur Middle School
TE Photo, May 2003

More Texas Schoolhouses


Port Arthur TX - Kress Building
Port Arthur Kress Building
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Kress Building Sign
Kress Building Sign
TE Photo, May 2003
See Kress Buildings Across America


Port Arthur TX - Building
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Greyhound Station
Port Arthur Greyhound Station
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Greyhound Station
Port Arthur Greyhound Station
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Worker Silhouettes
Worker Silhouettes
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Keyhole Club Old Neon
Keyhole Club Old Neon
TE Photo, May 2003
More Texas Old Neons
Port Arthur TX - Three Sisters sidewalk sign
Three Sisters sidewalk sign
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX -  Richard's sidewalk sign
Richard's sidewalk sign
TE Photo, May 2003
See How to Explore a Small Town


Port Arthur TX  - Unlawful to possess
Unlawful to possess ...
TE Photo, May 2003
More Texas Signs


Port Arthur TX - Goodhue Hotel, Dick Dowling Hotel
Goodhue Hotel, Dick Dowling Hotel
Old Postcard


Port Arthur TX - Goodhue Hotel  site
Former Goodhue Hotel site
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Vaugham Hotel
Vaugham Hotel
Old Postcard


Port Arthur TX - Hotel Sabine
Vaugham Hotel now Hotel Sabine
TE Photo, May 2003
More Rooms with a Past


Port Arthur TX - Museum Lighthouse Light
Lighthouse light displayed in museum
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Eagle
TE Photo, May 2003
See Eagle Eyes of Texas


Port Arthur TX - 1929 Eddingston Court
1929 Eddingston Court
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Ghost Sign
Downtown Port Arthur
Port Arthur's Past as seen by Carl Owen



Sparks Settlement Cemetery

Port Arthur TX - Sparks Settlement Cemetery Historical Marker
Sparks Settlement Cemetery Historical Marker
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Baby Arthur Stilwell Smith Tombstone
Baby Arthur Stilwell Smith Tombstone
TE Photo, May 2003


Port Arthur TX - Baby Arthur Stilwell Smith Tombstone
TE Photo, May 2003
More Texas Cemeteries



PEOPLE

  • Tulip Transplants To East Texas: The Dutch Migration To Nederland, Texas, 1895-1915 by W.T. Block
    To the East Texas of 1900, whose non-native population can be delineated as the overflow of the Anglo-Saxon Lower South, a Dutch colonization scheme must have appeared somewhat phenomenal. To the promoters...

  • "Babe" Didrikson by Archie P. McDonald
    The outstanding woman athlete of the twentieth century.

  • The Port Arthur/Lapland Connection by Christy Nilluka Broussard
    "Great Grandpa MIK Nilluka did not just herd reindeer; he made two incredible journeys with the reindeer."

  • Looking for Grandfather in Port Arthur

  • Port Arthur TX -
    TE Photo, May 2003

    Port Arthur TX - Janis Joplin portrait
    Janis Joplin
    Perhaps Port Arthur's most famous personality, Janis Joplin now has a memorabilia display in the Museum


    Photo courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast
    Port Arthur TX - Captain Michael Kendrick

    Captain Michael Kendrick

    TE Photo May 2003



    Port Arthur Chronicles
    The Eagle Befriends the Stork

    Port Arthur's legend of F. B. Wright

    A Hurricane Story

    by John Troesser

    Port Arthur TX - Post Office Building
    Port Arthur Post Office Building
    TE Photo, May 2003



    Port Arthur, TX - Cotton Docks
    Port Arthur Cotton Docks, postcard circa 1910
    Courtesy The Will Beauchamp Collection


    TX - Jefferson County 1907 postal map
    Jefferson County 1907 postal map showing The Neches River, Sabine Lake,
    Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange and Sabine Pass

    Courtesy Texas General Land Office

    Port Arthur Tourists Information
  • The Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce
    4749 Twin City Hwy, Suite 300
    Port Arthur, TX 77642
    (409) 963-1107
  • The Port Arthur Convention & Visitor's Bureau
    3401 Cultural Center Drive Port Arthur, TX 77642
    1-800-235-7822
    Website - http://www.portarthurtexas.com/



  • Take a road trip

    Texas Gulf Coast

    Port Arthur, Texas Nearby Towns:
    Sabine Pass | Beaumont | Houston
    See Jefferson County

    Book Hotel Here:
    Port Arthur Hotels | More Hotels

    Anyone wishing to share photos of Port Arthur after flooding from Hurricane Harvey, please submit here
    Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, landmarks and recent or vintage photos, please contact us.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


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