This driving tour will guide you past some of our city’s highlights. Begin at our Cultural Center Complex and enjoy our sights!
Basics: Port Arthur’s streets, both numbered and named, run east and west. Avenues, numbered and named, run north and south. Thoroughfares are named after flowers, trees, southern cities and famous people. Jimmy Johnson Boulevard is named for the native son who coached the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. Procter Street is named for Col. William Procter, who founded Procter & Gamble soap manufacturing company.
North Port Arthur: This region north of Texas Highway 73 to Texas 365 includes the Babe Zaharias Municipal Golf Course; the YMCA; Central Mall, hotels, restaurants and shops.
Port Arthur Cultural Complex
- Robert A. “Bob” Bowers Civic Center – 3401 Cultural Center Drive, is adjacent to Texas 73 frontage road and a block west of Ninth Avenue. The Center is home to the Port Arthur Convention & Visitors Bureau.
- Texas Artists Museum – 3501 Cultural Center Drive, is on the north side of the Civic Center. TAM is a working museum, offering classes and striving to preserve creations by Texas artists. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.
- Port Arthur Public Library – 4615 Ninth Ave., one block north of Texas 73. The library houses the Port Arthur History Center, which includes more than 10,000 historic photographs and hundreds of documents on the region’s intriguing history.
- Italian Heritage Monument – By the library, 4615 Ninth Ave. The Port Arthur American-Italian Club dedicated this Immigrants Wall of Honor to recognize families and individuals who sacrificed so much and kept the torch lit for future generations. A marker reads: “We who follow, dedicate this immigrants wall of honor to those who led us to a new country, a new life, and a new beginning.”
Headed for adventure: Begin at the front of the library on Ninth Avenue and turn left (north) onto Ninth Avenue. Drive about 1.2 miles and on the left will be Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
- Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Ninth Avenue, near Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 3648 Staff Sgt. Lucian Adams Drive. The 17-foot high bronze statue is set upon rocks from Mount Tepayac, Mexico, where the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego. Artists Miguel Angel Macias of Mexico City and Douglas Clark of Port Arthur sculpted the statue. Clark also created the artistic design of the shrine, which includes a back wall with stained glass windows depicting symbols related to Our Lady. The Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, near the shrine, envisioned a sacred place of spiritual renewal, peace and solace.
Leave the shrine and turn right onto Ninth Avenue, past the library and under Texas 73. Continue south over the railroad tracks on Ninth Avenue.
- Calvary Cemetery, on the left, has a Texas Historical Marker by the grave of Harry Choates, the Cajun fiddler who performed “Jole Blon.”
- Hoa-Binh – Continue past Christus St. Mary Hospital and through two traffic signals, to the Hoa-Binh, Area of Peace, featuring a large Virgin Mary Statue, at 801 Ninth Avenue. Vietnamese arriving in Port Arthur in the ‘70s created the park to thank residents for a warm welcome, and established Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Catholic Church.
Continue a few blocks south on Ninth Avenue to Procter Street, turn right in a westerly direction. Note St. George’s Episcopal Church, 3505 Procter St., and stately old homes. Continue on Procter to the 3300 block. On your left is a conch shell wall, fashioned from 6,000 shells. Capt. Ambrose Thompson Eddingston brought the shells from the Cayman Islands.
Continue west on Procter to Woodworth Boulevard’s 2900 block. Turn left. A Texas Historical Marker at the end of the esplanade, facing Procter, marks the site of the Town of Aurora. John Sparks and family established the settlement in 1840. An epidemic nearly wiped out the entire community and a severe hurricane followed in 1886. Discouraged, the families along the north shores of Sabine Lake moved further inland and Aurora became a ghost town. In 1895, railroad magnate Arthur Stilwell chose the site for his new railroad terminus to the Gulf of Mexico. Stilwell completed his Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railroad to Port Arthur in 1897 and the city of Port Arthur received a charter in 1898.
- Rose Hill – Travel down Woodworth two more blocks and see Rose Hill on your left at 101 Woodworth Blvd. Rome Woodworth, a Port Arthur banker and mayor, built the colonial residence in 1906. The family deeded the home to the city in 1948. The porch and grounds invite visitors to enjoy the weather and maritime traffic along the Sabine-Neches Waterway. Rose Hill is open for visitors and boasts a Texas Historical Marker and a Recorded Texas Historic landmark rating. The Sabine-Neches Waterway is a segment of the 1,300-mile Gulf Coast Intracoastal System.
- White Haven – Turn right to enjoy the Lakeshore Drive Historic District. The curving drive, once bordering the shores of Sabine Lake, now runs parallel to the waterway. Note White Haven, 2545 Lakeshore Drive. Wide porches and spacious rooms bring back memories of relaxed times by the lake. Built in 1915, the two-story Southern Green Revival-style home displays the Victorian collections and furniture of Stella White, who bequeathed the home to the Daughters of the American Revolution. Lamar State College-Port Arthur now owns the home. The home has a Texas Historical Marker and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
The next intersection, with DeQueen Boulevard, is the site of Sparks Cemetery, plotted for the Sparks family. Diseases and a severe hurricane in 1886 prompted the Sparks’ to abandon Aurora and move northward. The cemetery holds the first baby to be born and to die, the same day, in 1896, in Port Arthur. The baby had been named for the city’s founder, Arthur Stilwell. A Texas Historical Marker honors the site.
- Pompeiian Villa – The grand, pink Pompeiian Villa, 1953 Lakeshore Drive, will come into site. Isaac Ellwood, the “barbed wire king” built it as a winter home in 1900. It’s modeled after a 79 A.D. Pompeiian home, with a peristyle, or three-sided courtyard. Ellwood’s wife refused to live in the home, so he sold it to James Hopkins, president of the Diamond Match Company. Hopkins later traded it to banker George Craig for 10 percent of the Texas Company (Now Motiva Enterprises). The stock, worth $10,000 at the time, now would be worth a vast sum. Craig later 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 for tours. The Villa has a Texas Historical Marker, a coveted Texas Historical Building Medallion and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
- The Masonic Temple, 1901 Lakeshore Drive, is adjacent to the Villa. The temple, built in 1928, is home of Cosmopolitan Lodge No. 872 and Eastern Star Chapter No. 262. The Spanish Gothic design is accented with ornamentation from ancient Egyptian decorations.
- The Federated Women’s Clubhouse, 1924 Lakeshore Drive, is across from the Villa and Masonic Temple. Built in 1915, it became the first women’s clubhouse in the city. It is now used for social events. The building is honored with a Texas Historical Marker and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
- Vuylsteke Home – Continue west on Lakeshore Drive to the Vulysteke Home, 1831 Lakeshore Drive. This colonial revival home was built in 1905 for the first Dutch Consul in Port Arthur, J. M. Vuylsteke, and reflects his heritage. The high-ceiling, spacious rooms and veranda extending across the side of the house help capture cool breezes blowing in from Sabine Lake. Lamar State College-Port Arthur now owns the home that was awarded a Texas Historical Marker and is a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.
Continue past Lamar State College-Port Arthur to:
- Gates Memorial Library, dedicated in May, 1918. Dellora R. Gates gifted the library as a memorial to her husband, John W. Bet-a-Million Gates, and son, Charles. Warren and Westmore, architects of Grand Central Station in New York, designed the library, which was awarded a Texas Historical Marker and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
The Sea Wall
After leaving Gates, continue west on Lakeshore Drive one block to the first street turning left, which is an up ramp to the top of Port Arthur’s $89 million Hurricane Protection System parallel to the Sabine-Neches Waterway in this area. It is open daily to vehicular traffic. Drive carefully along and enjoy the fascinating sight of ocean-going ships only a stone’s throw away. Across the waterway is the city-owned Pleasure Island, which is bounded on the south side by Sabine Lake. Continue on this drive back to the end of Woodworth Boulevard, retrace your way to Procter Street, turn left on Procter.
- Drive two blocks to the Buumon Buddhist Temple, 2701 Procter St. The four-tier pagoda tower symbolizes tenants in the Buddhist faith. The community hosts a Garden Festival in June inviting visitors to stroll through towering bamboo, lotus and koi gardens with a view of a golden Buddha.
From the temple, continue west on Procter Street, passing Lamar State College-Port Arthur and Gates Memorial Library. Turn left on Nashville, go one block to Lakeshore and turn right. Proceed to Seamans’ Memorial Sundial, 1401 Lakeshore Drive. The memorial honors men of the “Oklahoma,” a Texaco oil tanker lost at sea in 1971, and to all who have gone down in ships from Port of Port Arthur.
Continue down Lakeshore to the 700 block, at Beaumont Avenue.
- Museum of the Gulf Coast is on your right. What do singer Janis Joplin, a 13-foot, 2-inch alligator, Spindletop, former Dallas Cowboys football coach Jimmy Johnson, artists Robert Rauschenberg and an ancient Clovis point have in common? All are from Southeast Texas and receive recognition at the Museum.
Housed in a three-story former bank, the museum’s entrance features a 22 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 mammoth; Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca’s shipwreck; the Civil War Battle of Sabine Pass; and the Spindletop Gusher. The Music Hall of Fame features more than 43 Gulf Coast musicians including Janis Joplin, Tex Ritter, Johnny and Edgar Winter, The Big Bopper, George Jones and Tracy Byrd. The Sports Legends exhibits showcase Babe Didrickson Zaharias, Little Joe Washington, Bruce Lietzke, Jimmy Johnson, Bum Phillips and more than 95 other local notables. The Natural History Collection includes rare fossils, extensive avian aquisitions and the Bender Shell Collection. Additional exhibits include the Robert Rauschenberg Art Gallery, the Snell Gallery and Parlor with rare glassware and furniture, maritime and petroleum collections and a social and cultural historical area. The museum is open daily, except for some holidays.
Lakeshore Drive becomes Fourth Street at Beaumont Avenue. Continue west on Fourth. The Government Complex is on your left. Port Arthur City Hall offers a museum on its top floor with a waterside view. The Jefferson Country Sub-Courthouse, and the Martin J. ‘Popeye” Holmes Park will be in view. Holmes was the oldest and longest serving peace officer in the state of Texas. The pond features the fountain “Music of the Sea.” Henry H. Kitson designed the fountain.
Jefferson County is the only county in the State of Texas to have a sub-courthouse, which was built in 1936. The courthouse has been awarded a Texas Historical Marker. Park your car behind the courthouse and take a stroll on the boardwalk, bordering the Sabine-Neches Waterway. Pleasure Island is across the water.
The Rotary Club of Port Arthur has installed the International Avenue of Flags as a 2015 Centennial Project as a tribute to the Sabine Neches Waterway and Seafarers of the World. Flags from 27 countries represent nations that most frequently sail into area ports.
Back in your car, continue west on Fourth Street to Houston Avenue. Turn left toward the waterway to the 300 block of Houston Avenue. Turn right on Lakeshore Drive to the Port of Port Arthur, 100 Houston Avenue, featuring “Big Arthur,” a 75-ton gantry crane named after Arthur Stilwell, who founded Port Arthur in 1895.
Return to Houston Avenue, continue to 401 Houston Avenue.
- The Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center will be on your left. It is designed as a replica of the Kansas City Southern Depot.
Return to Houston Avenue, turn left, travel nine blocks to the intersection of Thomas Boulevard and Houston Avenue. Turn left on Thomas Boulevard, travel 14 blocks to State Highway 82. At the intersection of Thomas Boulevard and Highway 82, turn left. View spanning petrochemical complexes along the highway. Continue and cross the M.L. King Bridge to Pleasure Island. This beautifully-curved span stretches 5,034 feet from bank to bank, 138 feet above mean low tide. From the top of the bridge, viewers may spot sailboats on Lake Sabine. Pleasure Island stretches left and right and Louisiana is visible across the lake. The bridge curves down to an intersection of the T.B. Ellison Parkway to the right and Highway 82 to the left to Louisiana and Points east. Traveling left on SH 82, one parallels the Port Arthur Intracoastal Canal, completed by Arthur Stilwell in 1899, providing a deep-water port to the region. After a few miles you will come to the Texas-Louisiana Causeway Bridge. To your right is the Walter Umphrey State Park on Mesquite Point. This is the area where the ocean-going vessels entering the waterway and the lake come together. Tradition states that several of the Union dead killed in the Battle of Sabine Pass in 1863 were buried on Mesquite Point. Turn your vehicle around, head back to SH 82, pass the bridge road and travel east to the core facilities of Pleasure Island, which stretches 17 miles along shores of Sabine Lake, once a secret anchorage of Pirate Jean Laffite.
The island is home to Pleasure Island Marina, free fishing and scenic views, the Port Arthur Yacht Club, magnificent homes, RV parks and the distinctive golf ball water tower. Birders love the island, which offers a disc golf course and a view of Port of Port Arthur and City Hall on the mainland.
Thank you for visiting Port Arthur!