PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS
Port Arthur has celebrated more than 100 years as a Gulf Coast city, but its time line is only a fraction of the greater history of the region's inhabitants. The shores of Sabine Lake have been occupied more than 1,500 years - first by American Indians. The late 1700s brought the first visits from Europeans -- English, Spanish and French.
Railroad pioneer Arthur E. Stilwell, who established the town, later wrote that the ideas for his railways and the location of his namesake city came from "brownies" who spoke to him. (These brownies weren't, apparently, selling cookies.)
The eruption of the Lucas Gusher at Spindletop in 1901 changed the fate of Port Arthur. The port quickly began to serve the needs of the new petrochemical industry. Texaco, in 1902, set up refining facilities in the city and by 1957 Port Arthur was known as the center of the world's prosperous oil refining facilities.
Today, the city sports a population of nearly 60,000 and is a thriving community. College enrollment is booming, several community and cultural organizations have completed building projects, and new retail centers and restaurants are opening at an accelerated rate. Port Arthur has just finished the first phases of a recreational boardwalk along the seawall, and has a new golf course on Pleasure Island.
A sub-tropical climate and an abundance of water make for a wonderland of outdoor activities in the region. Family-oriented recreational and cultural activities abound, from the YMCA to the Museum of the Gulf Coast to theater and arts organizations.
The area also boasts of seasonal festivities of all sorts and sizes. Mardi Gras, the largest of them, draws crowds of more than 300,000 each year to enjoy parades, music, food and crafts.
Rock legend Janis Joplin was a Port Arthur native, as are other noted celebrities like artist Robert Rauschhenberg, Texas Gov. Allen Shivers, Olympic athlete Babe Zaharias, football coach Jimmy Johnson, football player Joe Washington, Jr., "Gone With the Wind" actress Evelyn Keyes, and businessman Mack H. Hannah, Jr. These and many others are honored in the treasured Museum of the Gulf Coast.