Strolling Down Main Street, by Jasmine Gordon…

Archived in the category: Featured Writers, General Info
Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 27 Sep 12 - 0 Comments

The Beach Hotel remains intact even after Hurricane Carla destroyed many of the other surroundings.

The Beach Hotel, Part 2

Calhoun County Library has become like my second home; I’ve been spending numerous hours browsing through the books that hold insight into years past. As I drove to the library this morning, I decided to take a detour and drive down Main Street first; to my surprise it was quite busy. I found it difficult to find a parking spot so I headed to my intended destination.

I was eager to flip the pages of a new book… As often occurs, a reader contacted the Dolphin Talk with a lead after reading the first article of Strolling Down Main Street. After exchanging several emails, I had the pleasure of meeting Walter M. Spiller.

Walter was born in Austin, Texas on January 26, 1948 and moved to this area in the 50s. His father was a farmer and Walter grew up around corn husks and cotton in the Seadrift area. In 1956, the family moved to Port Lavaca. He graduated from Calhoun High School and joined the Army. Sitting across from Walter, surrounded by so much history, made me realize how similar we were. I remember I couldn’t wait to leave the little town where I grew up. I ran away to Houston only three months after graduating from high school. The Army and work took Walter as far as South Korea, finally settling in Dallas, Texas where he spent the next ten years.

Nearly thirty years after leaving Port Lavaca, Walter returned in 1996. “I missed the old place and the old times I had here,” he wrote in a book he’s put together, Looking Back on East Main Street, Port Lavaca. The book is 451 pages and counting. Walter has gone above and beyond to collect data from old newspapers, city directories and county records. His quest began much like my own. He stumbled upon old local newspapers from the 60s and was immediately intrigued. “I started seeing articles and pictures of old people and places that I remembered from when I was growing up here,” Walter said. “A scrapbook turned into this labor of love.”

Walter and I talked about the Beach Hotel, Roemerville, the railroad and his book. I suddenly had a wealth of knowledge put directly in front of me. An interesting aspect of the book is Walter has not only researched each of the buildings on East Main Street, but he has outlined a timeline of owners and photos of the current state of the buildings. He has even gone back and interviewed the current owners.

I flipped to the summary of the building located on 101 South Commerce (SE corner of Main and Commerce). The section begins with photos of the Seascape Apartments he took in 2008; the building looks as it does today. I learned that Thomas Haynes was the original owner of lot 5. Mrs. Araline (Hughes) Brooks, owner of lot 6, defaulted on her taxes in December of 1848; in turn Thomas Haynes purchased the property for $25.01 and had possession of both lots on this block in late 1848. Early on in the book, Walter explains how early Port Lavaca was laid out. Thomas McConnell, a merchant and Republic of Texas Congressman, purchased his portion of the original Maximo Sanches grant in 1841, laying out eighty city blocks, each made up of twelve lots. This became known as the Lavaca Townsite.

The site which was to become the Beach Motel had ten owners before C.U. Yanchey built the motel. At this point, the motel was built on lots 5, 6 and twenty feet of the east end of lots 7 and 8 of Block 8 of the original Lavaca Townsite. In 1921, Mrs. Frank Bauer purchased the hotel and renamed it Lavaca Hotel. It remained in the family for fifty-seven years before the Davilas took over ownership, renaming the hotel the Seascape Apartments.

I found one of the multiple lot owners in particular very interesting: Wesley Ogden. Born in Monroe County on December 16, 1818, he took over ownership in 1856. Ogden practiced law in Port Lavaca from 1849 until 1863, at this point he left due to his strong views as a Unionist and opponent of the Civil War. However, following his return home, his career both public and legal flourished. He was appointed U.S. Attorney in 1866; a year later he became the District Judge. In 1879 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Texas by Governor E.J. Davis. By this point he was living in San Antonio and sold the property to Ann Chichester. And all this time, through hurricanes and time, the building remains standing and appears the same, even after over one hundred years. Astonishing… indeed.

It’s incredible the amount of information which Walter has collected. I want to personally thank him for allowing me to study his book. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of Walter’s book, which will be available at the Calhoun County Museum in the near future, can contact him at walter@laward.net.

Till next time, you can catch me strolling down Main Street!

 

The book, Looking Back on East Main Street, Port Lavaca, which Walter M. Spiller has put together over the years.

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