Texas History & Culture
5 things to do in Beaumont if you love Texas history & culture
Texas is one of the most intriguing states in America—a place with a culture and identity that’s all its own. It’s a place where cowboys still roam ranches but nearby big cities have an altogether cosmopolitan flair. And then there are towns like Beaumont, with a history as rich as any other town in Texas—most notably as rich as the oil that started gushing here in the early 1900s that spawned the Texas oil boom. On your next trip to Beaumont, learn a little more about the Gusher Age in Texas and Beaumont’s role in it, and check out some of the town’s other top destinations where you can understand more of this area’s history and culture. Here are 5 places to visit in Beaumont if you love Texas history.
In 1901, after an arduous search for oil in this part of Texas, Captain Anthony Lucas drilled 1,139 feet deep into the ground at the Spindletop salt dome, and all of a sudden oil started gushing 150 feet in the air. The site of that now-infamous event is known as the Lucas Gusher—where it took nine days before the well was under control. To this date, the Spindletop event is the largest documented gusher ever, and it put Beaumont on the Texas oil map.
Today, visitors can visit Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown, a recreation at Lamar University of the site of the Lucas Gusher that gives people an idea of what the little town that transformed the country’s oil industry looked like. A museum is located on-site for visitors to learn more about that lucky day and Beaumon’s subsequent rapid growth. On special occasions, guests can watch the re-enactment of the gusher where the well sprouts water high into the air as a demonstration.
2. Texas Energy Museum
Continue your oil history lesson at Texas Energy Museum in downtown Beaumont, where you can expand on your knowledge of the Texas oil industry and how early oil discoveries shaped Beaumont’s future—and the state’s for that matter. Here, the focus is on science as much as it is history. Learn the biology behind petroleum, then explore a timeline of industry advancements that solidified the state as a leader in energy. Inside the museum are hundreds of artifacts from the oil boom days including garments, oil rigging tools and old photographs of digging sites.
3. Beaumont's Historic Homes
History buffs and lovers of architecture can explore some of the national registered historic houses that home to prominent early Beaumont residents. The McFaddin-Ward House on Calder Avenue is one—a Beaux-Arts colonial mansion surrounded by white pillars and a lush garden. The house was built in 1905 and once belonged to W.P.H. and Ida Caldwell McFaddin that reaped their wealth during the oil boom days. Today, guests can tour the home to see the original interior decor in immaculate condition, then go on a carriage ride around the garden.
Another iconic Beaumont mansion worth checking out is the Chambers House on the same street. Built in 1906, the house has all of its original furnishings from the home when it was occupied by the Chambers family, which owned a local lumber business, near the turn of the 20th century.
Finally, the John Jay French Museum is another must-visit spot for history lovers. The house-turned-museum is the oldest structure in Beaumont (built in 1845) and was owned by a wealthy family. Despite their fortune, the house is a modest structure, but it retains many details of how families lived during Beaumont’s earliest days. Explore the museum to learn more about the house, the family and the fascinating stories that these old walls have seen.
4. Clifton Steamboat Museum
Despite its name, the Clifton Steamboat Museum on Fannett Road in Beaumont is a museum that honors military service men and women. Inside are a variety of exhibits—including model ships and steamboats—but the artifacts inside go well beyond that. As a collection, the exhibits focus on battles fought in this area of Southeast Texas and beyond. A massive 1938 tugboat named “Hercules” welcomes visitors to the entrance, and a big focus at the museum is to remember the military and civilian heroes who fought in those wars. Visitors have called the Steamboat Museum a “hidden gem” in a massive facility when an impressively curated collection of artifacts. But call in advance; you can only visit the museum by appointment.
5. Cultural Events
You can always explore local historic venues and museums, but here’s a pro tip: Check the events calendar before planning a trip to see the best of Beaumont during one of its fun cultural festivals. The Boomtown Film and Music Festival, for example, introduces you to Texas music at its best (including Honky Tonk and Blues) as well as films made my local and regional filmmakers—many about the great state of Texas. Other cultural events that history lovers won’t want to miss include Heritage Happy Hour at various locations, Classic Movie Nights at the Jefferson Theatre and many more.