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1901 Oil Boom Meant Big Business for Beaumont, Texas Hotels

By Beth Gallaspy, The Beaumont Enterprise, TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Aug. 21, 2006 - BEAUMONT -- Railway travelers stepping out of the Southern Pacific depot in this growing lumber town in the 1890s had their choice of three competing hotels within whistling distance.

Less than a decade later, the proprietors of the Beaumont House, the Callahan Hotel and the Crosby House saw a business boom and financial windfall like the rest of Beaumont with the discovery of oil at Spindletop.

"At that time, they would have been renting rooms and beds in shifts because there was just no place for people to stay," said Howard Perkins, a local historian.

The three hotels at the intersection of Crockett and Orleans streets already were doing a thriving business when Spindletop came in 1901.

The Beaumont House started in the early 1880s as an eatery run by Frank Sievert, a German immigrant. In 1890, Sievert spent $2,800 to build a two-story structure next door and the hotel was born, according to a 1911 Beaumont Enterprise article.

The 1911 report marked plans to tear down the wood-frame building to make room for a brick building that become known as the Star Store building. That structure, which opened in 1913, has since fallen into disrepair and now is on a city demolition list.

In 1911, The Enterprise referred to the Beaumont House, which had stood for just over 20 years, as an "old landmark."

"This city is losing not only one of its oldest buildings but one that is probably better known to Beaumont's citizens and transients who have passed through here, than any other land mark within its confines," the article reads.

Along with the Callahan Hotel and the Crosby House, the Beaumont House helped form a "hotel district" near the railroad depot, according to a 1930 Enterprise article about plans to extend Orleans Street northward to Willow.

In the 1930 article, J.J. Nathan recalled the Beaumont House as "famous" and the Crosby as "the outstanding hostelry of Beaumont, and in fact, of all of southeastern Texas."

The Callahan was run by John Callahan, but warranted no other mentions in the 1930 article.

The Crosby House first became a landmark in 1879 with a dining room, ladies' parlor, five bedrooms on the first floor and 12 on the second, according to "Beaumont: A Chronicle of Promise" by Judith Linsley and Ellen Rienstra. A newer, three-story version came in 1888.

The Crosby House always was the finest of the three hotels near the railroad depot, Perkins said.

"A lot of the rich people that did not want to keep a home would live there," Perkins said. "It's sort of like people who are perfectly well today but they move to Calder Woods. It was just a very nice place to live and you could talk to everybody, and in those days everything was downtown."

In Beaumont's oil-soaked economy, the gallery of the Crosby House also became the scene of business transactions with small stalls used as offices by stock companies, according to Linsley and Rienstra's "Historic Beaumont." They quote a young physician, George Parker Stoker, who described the scene: "Men and women, gesticulating wildly, ran from one stall to another. Stacks of green-backs stood out in vivid contrast against the blue of the maps."

By the 1930s, though, the wooden hotels had fallen out of favor and been supplanted by larger, fancier hotels like the Hotel Beaumont further south on Orleans Street and the Edson Hotel at the corner of Liberty and Pearl streets.

bgallaspy@beaumontenterprise.com (409) 880-0726

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Beaumont Enterprise, Texas

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