Sherry Thorup . . . Things to do in PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS    

 
 
Easy Driving Tour:    
1-800-235-7822 

Welcome to Port Arthur.  This short and easy self-directed driving tour is an introduction to a variety of interesting areas in the city.   

Rule of thumb guide:  Port Arthur's streets, either numbered or named, run east and west.  Numbered or named avenues run north and south.  Many of the throughfares are named after flowers, trees, southern cities, and famous people, including "Procter Street," named after one of the founders of Procter & Gamble.   

North Port Arthur, 9th Avenue North from Hwy. 73 to Hwy. 365 (not included in this directed tour).  For general references, the area contains "Babe Zaharias Municipal Golf Course; YMCA Fitness Center; shops, restaurants; Central Mall, with over 80 stores; and a recreation center.   
   

Port Arthur Cultural Complex

Let's Get Started . . .    

  • Port Arthur Civic Center, Hwy. 73 Frontage Road, one block west of 9th Avenue is a good place to start your tour.  Maps, brochures, information on historical sites, fishing, water activities, restaurants and events, are provided free by the Visitors Bureau, located by the Civic Center.
  • TAMS (Texas Arts Museum), across from the Civic Center, 3501 Cultrual Denter Drive.  The museum preserves the work of Texas artists and is a working museum.  Open Monday through Friday, 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm;  classes available.  Call during open hour, 409-983-4881.
  • Port Arthur Public Library Gallery, Hwy. 73 at 9th Avenue.  A constant-changing display of art, ethnic displays and historical themes, open to the public free-of charge.
Self-Directed Driving Tour begins at Hwy. 73 and 9th Avenue heading south.    
   
  • HUGHEN SCHOOL, 2849 9th Avenue (14 blocks south of Hwy. 73).  A one-of-a-kind school.  Notice the name "Bob Hope High School" and Drive.  The comedian visits Port Arthur every year, bringing other celebreties to benefit performances for severly handicapped children from all over the world.  The indoor swimming pool was donated by Jimmy Durante.
  • LOVELY OLD HOMES, GARDENS AND SPRING AZALEA TRAIL, 3800 to 4900 Griffing Drive.  Driving tour route from Hughen School:  continue south on 9th Avenue, turn left at 25th Street, which leads into Griffing Drive just past the railroad tracks.  Streets to the left, Las Palmas, Evergreen and Woodrow wind through through the area and the gardens.  Return to Griffing Drive, turn west (right) and follow the curve onto 9th Avenue just north of St. Mary's Hospital.  Continue south on 9th Avenue past Gulfway Drive (Hwy. 87).
  • QUEEN OF PEACE STATUE, 801 9th Avenue, 7 blocks south of Gulfway Drive (Hwy. 87).  This Hoa-Binh Area of Peace, featuring beautiful gardens and edifice built by parishioners of Queen of Vietnamese Martyr's Catholic Church, in gratitude for their escape from Asia, and to the city which welcomed them.
  • ORIENTAL SHOPS, 700 block 9th Avenue.  Curious ornaments, beautiful silk goods and wall hangings, along with exotic oriental fruits and vegetables are offered by friendly clerks, in this single block of shops. 
  • Continue south on 9th Avenue and Procter Street intersection, trun right (west) on Procter Street.

  • CONCH SHELL WALL, Eddingston Court, 3300 Procter Street.  Port Arthur's first apartment units, built in 1929.  Capt. Eddingston brought the 6,000 conch shells from the Cayman Islands for the wall's construction; the only shell wall outside the Caribbean.
  • Continue west on Procter Street.  At Procter and Woodworth Blvd. intersection, turn left.   
       

  • "OLD AURORA" HISTORICAL MARKER, on the Woodworth Boulevard esplanade, marks the original site of the City of Aurora, established in 1840.  In 1885 the settlement was swept by an epidemic that took a heavy toll on children and adults, followed by a severe hurricane.  Discouraged, the families around the lake (Lake Sabine) moved further inland and Aurora became a ghost town.  In 1995, the city of Port Arthur was formed when railroad magnet Arthur Stilwell chose the site in a dream, as the southern terminus of his Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad.
  • ROSE HILL MANOR, 101 Woodworth Boulevard.  This palatial colonial residence, built in 1906, was the home of Rome Woodworth, Port Arthur banker and mayor.  The family deeded the mansion to the city in 1948 and it is used by the public for social gatherings and events.  The beautiful porch and grounds are inviting for a relaxing pause.
  • INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY, at the foot of Woodworth Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive.  This ship channel is a segment of the 1300-mile Gulf Coast Intracoastal system.
  • LAKESHORE DRIVE HISTORICAL AREA.  Turn right and continue west on Lakeshore Drive.  The curving drive, once bordering the shores of Lake Sabine, now runs parallel to the Intracoastal Waterway that carries hugh ocean-going vessels.  It appears the ships are gliding down an adjacent street.

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  • WHITE HAVEN, 2545 Lakeshore Drive, is open to the public.  Wide porches and spacious rooms bring back memeories of relaxed times by the lake.  Build in 1915, the two-story Georgian Revival-style home displays the collections and furniture of Stella White, who bequeathed the home to the DAR.  Open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., tour is $2 per person.  Group tours and special arrangements, call 727-7544.
  • At Lakeshore Drive and DeQueen Boulevard intersection, a tiny, lone tombstone on the boulevard's grassy esplanade marks the grave of the first baby born in Port Arthur in 1896.  Named after the city's founder, Baby Arthur Stillwell Smith died the same year.
  • POMPEIIAN VILLA, 1953 Lakeshore  The pink villa, styled after Italy's Pompeii homes, was built in 1900 as the winter home of Issac Ellwood, the "barbed wire king."  The second owner was James Hopkins, president of the Diamond Match Company, who traded the property to Banker George Craig for 10 percent of his stock in the Texas Company, now Texaco.  The stock, worth $10,000 at the time, would now be valued at $3 billion dollars.  Later Craig explained the trade by saying, "Oil companies were a dime a dozen then.  How did I know Texaco would survive?"  The Port Arthur Historical Society operates the villa, open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.  Fee, $2 per person.  Special arrangements may be made by calling 409-983-5977.
  • MASONIC TEMPLE, 1901 Lakeshore Drive, is located next door to the Pompeiian Villa.  The temple was build in 1928 in the Spanish Gothic design.  Parts of the ornamentation show the influence of acient Egyptian decoration.
  • FEDERATED WOMEN'S CLUBHOUSE, 1924 Lakeshore Drive, is across the street from the Masonic Temple.  This structure build in 1915 is the first women's clubhouse in Port Arthur and is still in use by the Federated Women's Clubs.  Continue west on Lakeshore Drive.
  • VUYLSTEKE HOUSE, 1831 Lakeshore Drive, is a Dutch colonial home build by the first Dutch Counsel in 1905.  The home, now owned by Lamar University, carries out the style and decor of early Dutch immigrants to the area.  Toured by special arrangements with Lamar University, 409-983-4921, the Vuylsteke House along with Pompeiian Villa, White Haven and private homes on Lakeshore Drive, offers special Christmas tours and hospitality.
Continue to the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and Stilwell Boulevard (next stop light).  
  
  • GATES MEMORIAL LIBRARY, at Lakeshore Drive and Stilwell Boulevard, constructed in 1915 as a library in memory of John "Bet-a-Million" Gates.  The building was designed by the architect of Grand Central Station in New York.
After leaving Gates Memorial Library, continue west on Lakeshore Drive to 1600 block, turn left, drive toward waterway.  
  
  • WALKING WALL AREA:  Drive back east to Woodworth Boulevard.  Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays to vehicle traffic, the drive tops Port Arthur's $89 million hurricane protection system, a virtual dike arround the city.  The spectacucular sight of an ocean-going vessel only a stone's throw away is a visitor's favorite.  Across the Sabine-Neches Waterway is the city-owned Pleasure Island, which is bounded on the south by Lake Sabine.  Exit on Woodworth Boulevard, go north two blocks to Procter Street.  Turn left (west) at Procter Street.
  • BUU MON BUDDHIST TEMPLE, 2701 Procter Street.  The four-tier pagoda tower symbolizes tenants in the Buddha faith.  Although only 5 percent of the Orientals in Port Arthur are Buddhist (the other 95 percent are Catholic), the cultural impact in the community has been great.  The drama of Dragon dancers moving in a dramatic struggle agains evil, and the ritual rice harvest promenade struggle against evil, and the ritual rice harvest promenade follow drum and gong signals of awakening by temple priests.  The public is invited to attend Sunday services.
From the Temple, continue west to 1500 Procter Street, at Stilwell Boulevard turn left, Lamar University Port Arthur Campus on left, Gates Library on right.  At intersection of Stilwell and Lakeshoer turn right (west).  
  
  • SEAMEN'S MEMORIAL SUNDAIL, 1045 Lakeshore Drive.  The dial was built in tribute to the men of the Texaco Oklahoma, lost at sea in 1971, and to all others who go down to the sea in ships from the Port of Port Arthur.
Continue on Lakeshore to Beaumont Street.  
  
  • MUSEUM OF THE GULF COAST, Corner of Lakeshore Drive and Beaumont Street.  What do singer Janis Joplin, a 13-foot-5-inch alligator, Spindletop, former Dallas Cowboys football coach Jimmy Johnson, artist Robert Rauschenberg, and an ancient Clovis spear have in common?
  • All hail from southeast Texas, and all receive recognition in Port Arthur's Museum of the Gulf Coast.  

    Housed in a three story, 39,000-square foot former bank, the museum's entrance hall features a 23-foot-by-125 foot mural by famed Kerrville artist Travis Keese.  The work depicts five scenes from area history:  imagined landscapes of the Paleozoic epoch; early Native Americans hunting a mammouth; Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca's shipwreck; the Civil War Battle of Sabine Pass; and the Spindletop Gusher.  

    A music hall of fame features more than 40 Gulf Coast musicians including Janis Joplin, Tex Ritter, Johnny and Edgar Winters, and the Big Bopper, to name a few.  The sports exhibit showcases Babe Zaharias, Little Joe Washington, and more than 90 other local notables, while the natural history collection includes rare fossils and an extensive avial collection.  

    Additional sections include the Robert Raushenberg Art Gallery, the Snell Decorative Arts collection, a maritime and petorleum chemical hall, and a social and cultural history area.  

    The museum lies on the ship channel in downtown Port Arthur.  Hours are Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission costs $3.50, $3 age 65 and older, $1.50 ages 6-15, 50 cents age 5 and younger.

Lakeshore Drive becomes 4th Street at Waco Avenue (corner between 500 and 600 block).  Lakeshore Drive turns to the left.  For your tour, continue straight on 4th Street, west.  
  
  • PORT OF PORT ARTHUR, 100 Lakeshore Drive.  The Port's gate guard will arrange for a guide into the dock area, featuring "Big Arthur," a 75-ton gantry crane.
Return to Houston Avenue, turn left, travel 9 blocks to the intersection of Thomas Boulevard and Houston Avenue.  Turn left (west) on Thomas Boulevard, travel 14 blocks to Hwy. 82.  
  
  • TEXACO AND CHEVRON TANK FARMS, PETROCHEMICAL COMPLEXES.  From Thomas Boulevard and Hwy. 82, visitors travel adjacent to some of the world's largest refineries.  Oil giants like Exxon, Gulf and Texaco were born here when the famous Spindletop gusher blew in 15 miles north of the city in 1901.
At the intersection of Thomas Boulevard and Hwy. 82, turn left (south) on Hwy. 82 to cross the M. L. King Gulfgate Bridge to Pleasure Island.  the beautiful curved span stretches 5,034 feet from bank to bank, 138 feet above mean low tide.  From the top of the bridge, viewers can spot sailboats on Lake Sabine, Pleasure Island stretching left and right, and Louisiana, visible across the lake.  The bridge curves down to an intersection of the T. B. Ellison Parkway to the right, Hwy. 82 to the left. 
 
  • PLEASURE ISLAND, stretching 17 miles along the shores of Lake Sabine, once a secret anchorage of Pirate Jean Lafitte.
At Ellison/Hwy. 82 intersection, turn right and travel approximately 4 1/2 miles to developed resort area on Pleasure Pier Boulevard.  Along Ellison Parkway, publich pinic areas, 10-acre fenced concert park, free fishing piers and stone revetment walls can be found on the south (Lake Sabine) side of the island.  Left of the road, viewers can look across Sabine Neches Waterway to the Port of Port Arthur and the city's government complex. 
  • A marina, condos, Yach Club, restaurants, bar and beach club are adjacent to Pleasure Pier Boulevard, and Ellison Parkway.
Turn right at Pleasure Pier Boulevard, heading south toward the lake.  Vehicle parking area is near the condos, restaurant, beach club and public board walk adjacent to the marina and lake.  For additional stores, fishing and sailboard areas, continue northeast on Ellison Parkway to the end of the road. 

Retrace Ellison Parkway Drive to M. L. King Bridge/Drive and Hwy. 82 intersection. 

CHOICE OF:  Continuing south on Hwy. 82, which is part of the Canada-to-Mexico "Hug the Coast" highway system.  Pass shipyard and dry dock to Causeway Bridge and entrance to State of Louisiana.  Return on Hwy 82 to exit Pleasure Island at M. L. King Bridge intersection  After crossing bridge to mainland Port Arthur, continue straight north on Hwy. 82 to Hwy. 73.  Turn right on Hwy. 73, head east approximately 10 miles to your starting place at the Port Arthur Civic Center. 

ENJOY OTHER DRIVING TOURS:  Directions to Dick Dowling State Park, Hwy. 87 south at Sabine Pass; Sea Rim State Park, Hwy. 87 south; the Dutch Windmill and La Maison Acadienne, Hwy 69 north, plus restaurants, hotel, activities and charter fishing/hunting guides available at the Visitors Bureau, (409) 985-7822, located in the Port Arthur Civic Center, 3401 Cultural Center Dr., Port Arthur, Texas  77642. 
 

We're happy to "SEE YA" IN  PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS.
  
Welcome to Port Arthur Easy Driving Tour.   
Convention & Visitors Bureau.   
3401 Cultural Center Drive  
Port Arthur, Texas  77642   
(800) 235-7822  
(409) 985-7822.
 
Send comments and questions to sherry@thorup.com
Copyright 1996 by Sherry Thorup. All rights reserved.

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