By Kathleen Walls
Art Museum of Southeast Texas
The Art Museum of Southeast Texas displays art from the 19th century to the present. It ranges from portraits to comments on current affairs. One of my favorite works is the world’s first selfie.
There are three historic homes that help tell Beaumont’s story. They range from pioneer days to oil boom. The John Jay French Museum is one of Beaumont’s oldest dating to 1845.
The McFaddin-Ward home represents Beaumont’s upper crust. This Beaux Arts Colonial Revival style covers an entire block. It takes you back to the first half of the 20th century and shows what oil field wealth can build.
Chambers House is a more middle-class reflection of Beaumont in the 1900s. Most of the 1924 time frame furnishings are intact. The family’s two sisters never married and were either collectors or hoarders, depending on your point of view; a wonderful thing for a house museum.
Cattail Marsh Wetlands looks like many other wildlife marshes but there is something very different about Cattail Marsh. It is an earth-friendly way to recycle Beaumont’s wastewater treatment system. You would never know its origin when you see the 900-acres of scenic wetlands with a new Educational Center. It’s an award-winning place for birding, hiking and just enjoying nature’s beauty.
Gator Country is a look at the wilder side of the animal kingdom. It’s home to rescued reptiles, mostly alligator but lots of other wildlife. This is the home territory of the TV show, Gator 911. You meet the world’s record holder for largest alligator, Big Tex, who is 13′ 8.5”. His runner up, Big Al, at 13’4″ and over 80 years old, also makes his home there. You get really up close with the residents. I got to hold a beautiful Burmese python.
Spindletop and Gladys City Museum
Oil is what greased Beaumont’s wheels. On January 10, 1901, Spindletop made United States the biggest oil producer in the world and changed Beaumont, Texas, and the world’s economy forever. First thing you see is a replica of Spindletop, a full-sized oil derrick. You can watch it erupt just as the real one did but now they use water instead of oil.
Step into Gladys City, a replica of the small town that was there when Spindletop spewed forth its fortune. You’ll see all the usual businesses typical of the times like a dry goods store, drugstore, print shop, barber shop, general store, post office, and saloon. One unusual one is Beaumont Oil Exchange and Board of Trade. This was formed out of necessity to cut down on fraud; hundreds of leases, oil companies were being formed and traded daily.
Texas Energy Museum
Texas Energy Museum traces the history of Texas’s place in the energy field. It begins with prehistoric times and leads through Spindletop to present day technology. My favorite exhibit is an animated character who tells how he came of age in the early days of the oil boom and became first a roughneck and finally a wildcatter in the oil fields around Spindletop.
Naturally, you have to eat no matter where you are. Beaumont has lots of fantastic choices. For breakfast or just a sweet treat, try Rao’s Bakery. My favorites there are their Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffin or their Chewy Fudge cookie. You can’t go wrong with any of their baked goods.
For lunch, try Katharine and Company. Their Chicken Salad Sandwich is a real winner. Dessert offers some hard choices but the Cream Brule is a good one.
Another good lunch choice is J. Wilson’s. For an appetizer, their Man Candy, made with slow-smoked pork belly dressed with habanera jelly or the Oyster Nachos are delicious.
Floyd’s Seafood and Steakhouse has fantastic seafood served in a Cajun atmosphere.
No matter your taste, whether in food or fun, you will enjoy Beaumont.
This trip was hosted by Beaumont CVB. Thoughts are my own.