Guest column: Port Lavaca: the hidden gem of the Gulf Coast | Notice
History is rich with stories of coastal towns and villages. The hectic and bustling daily life of seagoing ships carrying people, animals and goods has given them the distinction of being among the first inhabited places in the country. Shipping has played a key role in the wars and revolutions of this country and has dealt blows to many ports and coastal towns; and large storms like cyclones and hurricanes have completely wiped out many of them. The city of Port Lavaca is one such city. The history here is long and rich when it comes to Texas, but war and storms have not spared us from losing some of our beautiful historic landmarks.
Main Street in Port Lavaca is home to some of the oldest buildings in Calhoun County. Many have changed with the businesses they have hosted over the years; some were damaged by storms which tested their strength and were rebuilt, but most of them still survive today. Port Lavaca MainStreet, Inc. has worked steadily for the past 32 years to restore the history, beauty and life of Main Street. We want to publicize the historical treasures and coastal beauty that can be found by visiting our town near the bay.
Main Street was known as “North Street” until the end of the Civil War. It was a dirt street on the outskirts of town. The business district was located on what is now known as Austin Street. At that time, businesses were wooden, mostly two-story structures with the business on the ground floor and living quarters on the top floor. Cisterns were located all along the street to collect water for the area.
One of the best-known companies in the area was the DH Regan Dry Goods Store. It was originally located in Indianola and the two story wooden structure with its balcony and signage is clearly visible in the front left corner of one of the only known photographs of the Old Ghost Town. Regan’s Dry Goods was known for providing quality clothing for everyone and for being a company that has always promoted the community. Hurricanes in Indianola prompted Mr. Regan to move his business to Port Lavaca around 1850 and he moved into a structure on Austin (then Main) Street. He had wanted to build a brick building, but other business owners did not want brick structures built in it.
When the Civil War ended in May 1865, Lieutenant Governor of Texas Fletcher Stockdale became Governor of Texas when then Governor Pendleton Murrah fled to Mexico. Mr. Stockdale had moved to Calhoun County and represented the county in the Texas State Senate before becoming lieutenant governor. He was also president of the Indianola Railroad in the 1860s and promoted the development of refrigerated cars to transport beef to market. When he became governor, members of the Port Lavaca High School student council and Anchor Club traveled to the capital to see the governor of Calhoun County. Stockdale was governor for three months until Provisional Governor Andrew J. Hamilton took office in August 1865. Although his term was short, there were many important and pressing issues in state government. which he helped to develop. It was also around this time that “Main Street” was moved from Austin Street to North Street, connecting commerce with the tracks and railroad Street depots.
In 1896, Mr. Regan hired ML Seabrook to construct the First National Bank Building and the Regan Building on the new Main Street at the corner of Guadalupe Street. The first National Bank building, which is now the Clevenger building, occupied the corner. These are the first brick buildings in Port Lavaca. The bricks for them came from the Texas Brick Factory in Lolita and the mortar in the brick came from Magnolia Beach. The buildings were two stories high and a staircase led up from the back of the bank building to the second story of both buildings. The Rainbow Girls and DeMolays used it for their meetings, and the First National Bank Building also held the United States Post Office. In 1903, DH Regan sold his building to WP Regan who turned around and gave it to Masonic Lodge 36 in exchange for one year’s free rent for his dry goods business on the first floor. In 1974 Frank Alvarez purchased the Regan building. In November 2004 it was purchased by Jan Regan, great-granddaughter of the original owner.
The bank has had a number of owners over the years, housing everything from a jewelry store to an art store, and more recently an antique store. The huge 1900 safe still occupies the ground floor of Cee’s antique store and is a reminder of his busy days as a bank. The upstairs has been updated with electricity, air conditioning and plumbing to make it a beautiful apartment style apartment. Jan Regan is in the process of restoring the Regan building.
Sterling Drug Store was located at the corner of Main and Guadalupe streets, across from the First National Bank building. Owner Fay Bauer Sterling was active in preserving the history of Port Lavaca and the historic buildings of Main. After storms damaged two buildings next to the Regan Building, MainStreet Inc. restored the facades as a gateway to a lovely open park dedicated to Sterling. In 1991, as community workers removed plaster from the wall of the Regan Building, a real treasure emerged when the original mural began to glow. “DH Regan Hats, clothes, shoes, pants and everything about clothes, 1905.” The night we dedicated the park to Sterling we celebrated the park and the history of the mural with a standing room only a crowd of around 200, all proud Port Lavaca knowing that years of hard work had paid off. The facades of the park were damaged in Hurricane Harvey, so the park is again undergoing some changes due to needed repairs, but the changes will historically be in tune with Main Street and improve its uses by citizens and residents. visitors to Port Lavaca.
I have many memories of downtown Port Lavaca, such as the sweet sound of the chimes ringing from the Methodist Church, and the sound each morning and afternoon of Rubie Boyd Elder playing the piano as the breeze of salty air carried him skyward through the streets. and echoing on the buildings. I was only a 10 year old boy but I remember the tradition. There was also a place when you came out of the old causeway called “The Sailor’s Inn”. They served the most delicious fish sandwiches and buttermilk pie a person could get anywhere in the state. Millie Roemer Miller was a wonderful cook and I was lucky enough to have one of these buttermilk pies brought just for me to the Hatch Bend Country Club when we were golfing. I look forward to sharing more of my memories and telling you about the hidden gems that are in my hometown, and I hope you will come and visit us on the bay to see and enjoy the wonderful changes and events that we have. let’s reserve. you.
Russell Cain has been a resident of Calhoun County for 67 years and a real estate agent for 48 years. Watch for future columns to appear here every month.