Saturated with a spicy blend of cultures, Beaumont, French for "beautiful mountain," is as flat as a pancake. It's an ironic twist, but an innocent one. That's because the town was named for a person, not a mountain. It's a busy city with a bustling port on the Neches River surrounded by marshlands to the south and lush, piney woods to the north. It's most notable claim to fame - the start of the oil boom with the Lucas Gusher at Spindletop.
Beaumont has its quaint peculiarities - the world's largest working fire hydrant, a water tower sporting a soccer-ball design, a humongous bust of the founder of Lamar University and a historical library that looks like a gothic castle.
It's the eclectic mix of cultures, flavors and scenery that makes people exit off Interstate 10 and stay awhile.
Gotta See 'em Museums
Discover the beginnings of the Texas oil industry at the Texas Energy Museum where interactive exhibits share the history of oil exploration, production and refining. Push a button and the robots representing historical characters seemingly come to life to tell their stories of the oil boom in Beaumont.
While you're still in a scientific mood, visit the Edison Museum dedicated to the brilliant American inventor Thomas Alva Edison. The museum is located in the historical Travis Street electrical substation of Beaumont-based Gulf States Utilities Co., now a subsidiary of Entergy Corp., next to Edison Plaza. Interactive exhibits are packed into this little museum.
Seeing spots? You can't miss them when you're touring downtown. A giant white fire hydrant with black spots, a movie prop for 101 Dalmatians donated by the Walt Disney Co., marks the spot of the Fire Museum of Texas. Dedicated to preserving the history of the firefighting service and educating new generations about fire prevention and safety, the museum is housed in a working fire station built in 1927. View vintage fire engines, equipment and memorabilia. Tour highlights include the 1909 Aerial ladder truck, the 1856 Howe Hand Drawn Pumper, the 1931 Light Truck and the Gamewell Call Box Alarm System used prior to telephones.
At the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, explore the collection of paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and folk and decorative arts of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. The museum has an emphasis on American art, with a growing collection of regional folk art.
The Dishman Art Museum, located on the campus of Lamar University, serves as a teaching facility and offers students an opportunity to exhibit their own work. It holds an impressive collection of paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures and furniture. The
For sports fans and history buffs, the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Museum is a must-see. With photos and memorabilia, it pays tribute to the hometown legend who won Olympic gold and co-founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
Blast from the Past
Before striking black gold, Beaumont was a frontier town. Founded in 1835, it was a region known for rice farming, cattle ranching and trapping. In 1845, John Jay French, a local merchant, built a simple Greek revival-style house to use as his home and as a trading post and tannery. The house, the oldest surviving one in the city, was the first in Beaumont built from milled lumber and painted. Now a museum, the house and grounds depict 19th-century life in Southeast Texas with period antique furnishings and pioneer household items.
In 1901, Beaumont exploded to fame with the Lucas Gusher at Spindletop. Today the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum at Lamar University recreates the oil-rush town of the early 1900s. Stroll along the wooden walkway, stepping inside the storefronts that replicate a photography studio, general store, livery stable and more. On special occasions, a replica of the famous oil derrick gushes with faux black gold. (It's just water.)
Many people struck it rich in those days, including W.P.H. McFaddin, who had already made his money from the cattle business, rice farming and milling, commercial real estate and trapping. After the Lucas Gusher, he made even more since he owned part interest in the land where oil was discovered. In 1907, he moved his family into a grand, Beaux-Arts colonial style residence on Calder Avenue. Today, the McFaddin-Ward House Museum and its furnishings reflect the lifestyle of the prominent family who lived in the home for 75 years. Enter the beveled-glass front doors into the chandelier-lighted foyer that leads to antique treasures in every room. Especially grand is the formal dining room with its huge candelabras made by Robert Garrard of London, silversmith to Queen Victoria.
Just down the street, the Chambers House Museum offers a fascinating glimpse of a middle-class family living in the early 20th century. The house was built in 1906 and holds furniture, personal items and artifacts.
We sure hope you enjoy your time in Beaumont. There's a lot to keep you busy, but if you have a moment, drop by one of our visitor centers and say hello!