The southeastern-most point of Texas butts heads with Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico, while providing for water access into the state’s interior. They call this area consisting of the cities of Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange the “Golden Triangle,” for it was here that oil was discovered at the famous Spindletop outside of Beaumont in 1901. Other towns within the Golden Triangle are Groves, Port Neches and Nederland.
Like many other spots in Texas, there’s plenty of weird to go around here, and I always seem to find them when asking simple questions, such as “How did the small town of Groves get its name?” My tourism contact informed me it was due to the pecan trees growing there, which, ironically, are not the income producers they once where but the town still hosts an annual Pecan Festival every fall. The thousands of pecan trees were planted in this small Texas town by the Griffing Brothers Nursery and when the land was subdivided, the land company called it “Pecan Grove.” Here’s where the weird comes in, the s was later added “after development representative and pioneer Port Arthurian Asa Groves,” according to Wikipedia.
|Beausoleil House interior|
How’s that for irony.
Over in Port Neches (the latter sounds like Tenacious), there’s a tiny building on Grigsby Street with a historical marker out front. This two-cell jail was built during World War I to operate as a branch of the county jail, constructed for the large price of $2,218. If you’d get a good look at this building, that seems high even for today’s standards. What’s even more surprising is its size, appearing like something out of a western comedy with the drunk hanging his hands through the railing and promising to be good.
Across the street in the RiverFrontPark overlooking the Neches River lies the Beausoleil House, or La Maison Beausoleil, an authentic Cajun home (and a fabulous example of early Cajun craftsmanship) built around 1810. The house originated in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, but was donated to the Les Acadiens du Texas, “a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the culture and language of the Acadian people,” and moved here via by barge. The house is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends or by special arrangements.
One other great aspect of Port Neches’ RiverFront Park is Tugboat Island, a playground designed by children, built by volunteers, funded by donations and ADA accessible. This baby is huge and wonderfully creative, supposedly the third largest playground of its type in the nation and one sure to make kids squeal with glee.
So in the Golden Triangle of Texas, you can visit one of the largest playgrounds in the country next to the one of the smallest jails, enjoy a Pecan Festival in Groves named for trees no longer there but also a person who happened to be named Groves and a historic home that arrived by barge.
Next up on the Weird South blog, we look at the three giant religious monuments in Port Arthur, Texas. You won't want to miss this.
Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.