A daily hit of exercise-induced endorphins gives you the power to make better decisions, helps you be at peace with yourself and offsets stress.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
John Joseph Linn was a merchant, soldier, statesman, historian and merchant. He was among the first settlers in De Leon's settlement, having obtained a land grant in 1829. Linn was intensely loyal to Texas and the De Leon settlement and was among the first to oppose Antonio López de Santa Anna. He helped unite sentiment against the dictator by writing letters to Stephen F. Austin's colonists. After Texas Independence he became the first mayor of Victoria and served in the House of the Second and Third congresses of the Republic of Texas. Click on Linn's name above for more information. He led a long interesting life. He was born in Ireland, immigrated with his family to New York and owned a merchant business in New Orleans before coming to Texas. He spoke fluent Spanish and was equally liked and trusted by the Mexican and anglo residents of Victoria.
A native of Arkansas, John W. Henderson became a prominent local businessman through his insurance company and his interests in ranching, farming and real estate. He and his wife Minna Catherine Henderson built this classical revival home in 1926.
Home of Historical Pioneer Victoria Families
1840 – Hamilton Ledbetter
1844 – Alexander H. Phillips
1871 – John W. Statton
1888 – Samuel B. Dabney
1891 – Felix C, McReynolds
1893 – Frederick C. Proctor
1907 – Preston Rose Austin
1953 – W. D. Welder
1963 – Patrick Hughes Welder
Just East of Victoria's downtown is Memorial Square, the site of the original community burial ground established by colony founder Martin de Leon in 1824. Early pioneers and settlers were buried here and when a frightening cholera epidemic struck Victoria in 1846, victims were buried in unmarked mass graves in the Square because victims died so rapidly that proper burials were impossible.
Evergreen Cemetery opened in 1850, and the Square gradually fell out of use as a community cemetery. Victoria's fallen Confederate soldiers were buried in Memorial Square. Union troops stationed in Victoria after the Civil War buried 85 deceased union soldiers at this location. The federal government later transferred those soldiers to the Alexandria National Cemetery in Louisiana. During Reconstruction, rumors spread of Union soldiers destroying many of the headstones. Alarmed locals moved the graves they could identify to Evergreen Cemetery. By 1899, not many headstones remained and the cemetery was designated a public square for the erection of monuments and memorials. Since then a few monuments have been added - a brass relief, a pioneer's memorial and an historic gristmill. Today Memorial Square is basically a large, open, grassy city park.
The Memorial Wall is a brass relief erected on the north side of the square. The relief details the history of Victoria County, from Spaniard explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in 1534 to the creation of Victoria County in the Republic of Texas on March 17, 1836. In the center of the relief are busts of Rene Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle and Cabeza de Vaca. Directly underneath this is the cattle brand of the de Leon's, an 'E' interconnected with a 'J.'
Memorial Square Old Mill
This old grist mill is believed to be the only existing one of three known to have been built in the region. It was originally built near Goliad and later relocated to Victoria's Memorial Square. This old grist mill was built of hand-shaped logs fastened by wooden pegs and homemade nails by early German farmers. South Texas winds once turned giant blades, grinding corn into feed for livestock, or cornmeal for family table. The grist stones and mechanical parts of the mill were brought from Germany before 1860. The grist stones were imported through the Port of Indianola. It is said that to move the stones from Indianola they were mounted on the axle of a cart and then driven inland.
The Texas Zoo in Victoria's Riverside Park is a six acre park with a 200-member wildlife community representing 75 species. Most are native Texan animals, but animals from around the globe have been added in the last few years. The zoo has ten different habitats, ranging from humid marshes to dry desert mountains, to display the native animals from the various regions of Texas. The Texas Zoo, which draws roughly 60,000 visitors a year, is heavily involved in the protection of endangered species. One of the first red wolves to have a litter of pups in captivity was at the Texas Zoo. These were returned to the wild. Other popular animals include spider monkeys, tropical birds and big cats. In fact, there are more tigers in captivity in the state of Texas alone than there are in the wild throughout the world. It was a very hot day when I visited the zoo and most of the animals were in their cool shelters. The animals that were active such as the monkeys and tropical birds were in large wire enclosed areas making them hard to photograph.
No bird epitomizes the exotic tropical wildlife of the lower Rio Grande Valley more thoroughly than the beautiful green jay. It reaches its northern limit in south Texas and occurs nowhere else in the United States. From there it ranges south to Honduras and also inhabits northern South America.
There are many ranches in Victoria County but this is the only one that has a headquarters in town.
Incidentally, Victoria was not named after Queen Victoria of Great Britain but for General Guadalupe Victoria, who became the first president of independent Mexico. Victoria was founded in 1824 when Don Martin De Leon received a Mexican land grant to establish a settlement of 41 families between the lower Guadalupe River and the Lavaca River. He called the settlement Nuestra De Guadalupe De Victoria. Following the Texas Independence, the name was shortened to Victoria. De Leon planned the city like most European and Mexican cities by building around the market square.
Old homes, some dating back to the pre-Civil War era, line the streets in the city's historic sections. In downtown Victoria, stately turn-of-the-century commercial buildings have been rebuilt and now house professional offices. Some now have lofts and apartment spaces on the second and third floors.
One Chamber of Commerce brochure states that "Today, through ranching, oil, several chemical plants, 3 advanced hospitals and other commerce, a warm year round climate, fertile soil and an abundance of natural resources and water, Victoria continues to grow at a remarkable rate… There is a tremendous increase in property evaluation and bank deposits, the largest deposits for a city of its size in the world." They also have a great location, two hours from three of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the US – Houston, San Antonio and Austin; hence the town's nickname, the "crossroads of South Texas." Also they have a barge canal that links Victoria to the intercoastal waterway and the Gulf of Mexico.
I only allotted three days to tour Victoria – not nearly enough. More information is available at History of Victoria from the Handbook of Texas Online.
De Leon Plaza
The Square was originally called "Plaza De La Constitucion" by Martin De Leon, the founder of Victoria. As a gathering place, summer concert arena, exposition site, and town center, De Leon Plaza continues to serve the people of Victoria as it has for generations.
The bandstand (circa 1875 rebuilt 1895) in the plaza was placed atop the foundation from the city's old standpipe water reservoir.
Noted sculptor Pompeo Coppini made an agreement with the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. If they would let him design the statue - it would be a more fitting tribute to the men who fought than any other Confederate statue in the state. They agreed and Coppini completed this piece - the only one of its kind – in 1912.
First Victoria Bank Building
The only high-rise buildings downtown are banks
The historic O'Connor-Proctor Building currently serves as headquarters for The Junior League of Victoria, Texas, Inc. This Romanesque Revival structure was built in 1895 at a cost of $7,721. It originally housed the office of rancher T. M. O'Connor, the legal firm of brothers Venable B. and Fred C. Proctor, and the dental office of Dr. William L. Ward. Since then the building has served as a church, law offices, a bank, a hardware store, a paint store, clothing, jewelry store, and photography studio. It also served as an emergency hospital during the influenza epidemic in 1918, and as officer's quarters during WWII.
The Street of Ten Friends
The former name for Victoria's Main Street was La Calle De Los Diez Amigos (The Street of the Ten Friends). It derives from the close association and leadership of the prominent members of the colony of Victoria. These ten friends had homes on the main street and directed the defense, commerce, and general development of early Victoria.
The Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts illuminates North Main Street with its neon lights. The Art Deco style building serves as the arts anchor for the city, hosting theater, ballet and musical performances.
Royston Nave was an accomplished artist who enjoyed a prolific and successful painting career both in Texas and New York. His primary interests were the people and landscapes of Texas. The Nave Museum is a neo-classical style temple built by Mrs. Royston Nave in 1932 to serve as a memorial to her late husband, who died suddenly in 1931. The Nave Museum is a fine arts museum, hosting traveling exhibits both modern, as well as classical. Many of the exhibits shown are from artists around the country, and most specifically from Texas. Well known artists Andy Warhol, Mary Cassat, Joan Mitchell and Frieda Kahlo have been shown at the Nave.
The Museum of the Coastal Bend at Victoria College is a new museum established in 2003. It is one of a coalition of eight institutions and seven museums containing a La Salle Odyssey exhibit. The La Salle Odyssey tells the story of Robert La Salle's French expedition and failed colonization of Texas in 1684. The La Salle expedition is so large a chronicle that each museum will only tell a portion of the larger story. The Museum of the Coastal Bend feature artifacts from Fort St. Louis (La Salle's ill fated settlement) and the La Belle shipwreck (La Salle's flagship). The museum also includes exhibits depicting the immigrants that entered Texas through the port of Indianola and their impact on the Victoria area.
Fossati's Delicatessen is the oldest deli in Texas and one of the oldest restaurants in the US. Fossati's was opened in 1882 by Italian immigrant Fraschio ("Frank") Napoleon Fossati. Fossati's was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Over the years, many famous musicians have played at the deli, including country music legend Willie Nelson. The day I had lunch at Fossati's there was a live piano player. In the back room of the deli, known as the Frank Napoleon room, there is a giant bookcase filled with hundreds of cookbooks, many of which have been out of print for 50+ years. Also inside, there is a trench-like area just above the floor surrounding the bar. This is where men used to spit tobacco. Outside of the building there are still metal rings where men used to tie up their horses and come in for a drink. After 125 years, Fossati's is still owned and operated by the same family. Click on the Fossati's Delicatessen for more information and pictures. BTW: They are only open for lunch Mondays through Fridays from 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM. The day I had lunch there it was packed. I had their lunch special "King Ranch Chicken". It should have been named TEX-Mex Chicken. It was kinda like a cream gravy and chicken tortilla soup casserole. Delicious.
Rosebud Fountain & Grill Like Fossati's this is a small café in downtown Victoria that is packed for lunch. Their menu is basic sandwiches, soup and salads. I always measure places like this by their chicken salad sandwiches: they passed my test.
Texas Seafood Restaurant is a small restaurant just outside Victoria. Their Jumbo Grilled Shrimp is the best I have had in Texas.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Click on this link for a real-time display of our current national debt, gross national product, budget deficit, tax revenue and a lot of other stuff: US National Debt Clock. WARNING – Don't click on this link if you have a weak stomach! Be sure to read the comments at the very end...you must click on "about." at the bottom of the Clock page. Thanks to Richard Belt for this link.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I'm back in Dallas to have my Acura serviced and attend more training. There are no Acura dealers in south Texas – the closest is in Houston. Also I need to recuperate from a minor exercise injury. I've been walking several miles each day and exercising heavily every 3-4 days. I was feeling so good I tried exercising every other day – that was a mistake. My weak spot is my right knee…
My first priority will be to catch up on my blog posts now that I have good high speed Internet in my Best Western motel room. I made my final Rockport post tonight and will post Victoria information soon.
Rockport is located about 25 miles up the coast from Corpus Christi. The Rockport Fulton Chamber of Commerce serves both Rockport and nearby Fulton. Rockport was founded by cattlemen J. M. and T. H. Mathis in 1867. Shipping and fishing provided the primary economic base of the town in its early years. The railroad arrived in 1888 and with it came a decline in the shipping industry, although shipyards were in operation during WWI and WWII. Their emphasis on the railroad has made Rockport more economically stable than the other coastal towns that depend upon the fishing and shipping industries that have declined in the last few decades. Rockport has been a popular recreation center over the years, and tourism continues to be important to the local economy.
Rockport is also fortunate to have a progressive city council that doesn't prevent change and new developments like Corpus Christi. They recently approved an Economic Development Study that focused on 17 areas of undeveloped property on the Rockport harbor front owned by the Bass family. It always helps to have a few billionaires involved in city development. The study determined the best use of the property is to construct a marina with high-density housing along with mixed-use structures, including retail.
The Art Center, located between the Rockport Harbor and Aransas Bay, is the center of Aransas County's art community. Invitational exhibits include original art, prints, pottery, stained glass and other art forms by local to internationally recognized artists. They also have a visual arts studio and pottery/sculpture studio for working artists, classes and workshops. For 40 years the Art Center has contributed to Rockport being ranked as one of the top 100 best small art towns in America. The Art Center does not allow photos to be taken inside.
Atmar Atkinson sculpture
Atmar Atkinson was a well-known architect who owned an architectural firm in Lubbock. His work included designing buildings at Texas Tech University and for Southwestern Bell Telephone and Methodist Hospital. He also designed the George Mahon Federal Building in Lubbock and many schools and churches throughout Texas. He retired to Rockport in 1983, where he became an active member of the art community. He was famous for saying this about designing churches: "It's about the only job left where an architect can win a set of dishes." He was commenting on the sorry state into which the design professions had sunk under the burden of codes and criteria imposed on them.
Rockport has a large number of art galleries and upscale craft shops
The Texas Maritime Museum houses a variety of exhibits that strive to tell a complete story of Texas' maritime history. They include exhibits in the areas of commercial and sports fishing, lighthouses of Texas, oil and gas exploration in Texas Coast and Gulf waters and the first exhibit of The La Salle Odyssey. The La Salle Odyssey tells the story of Robert La Salle's French expedition and failed colonization of Texas in 1684. The highlight of the exhibit is a 1:12 scale model of La Salle's flagship La Belle. The La Salle Odyssey is a coalition of eight institutions and seven museums located in six counties. The La Salle expedition is so large a chronical that each museum will only tell a portion of the larger story.
Another view of the Texas Maritime Museum
Views from the Texas Maritime Museum observation deck
The Texas Master Gardener program is an educational activity conducted by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service of the Texas A&M University System. The program is designed to increase the availability of horticultural information and extend horticultural projects throughout the community. These goals are implemented through the training and use of local volunteers known as Master Gardeners. The Texas Master Gardner program is the largest in the nation. BTW: The yellow bush is an Experanza. Sometimes it is called Yellow Bells or Hardy Yellow Trumpet. It is a favorite landscape plant throughout South Texas because it is very drought tolerant.
This world class sculpture was created by Jesus Bautista Moroles, internationally acclaimed granite sculptor, whose works originate from his studio in Rockport. His sculptures appear in museums, galleries, private collections and public areas across the globe.
The Diner in Rockport is a local favorite restaurant that I liked. Down home southern cooking plus a few seafood and Tex-Mex entrees. Very crowded because they have good cheap lunch specials every day.
Paradise Key Island Grill located at the Marina on Key Allegro in Rockport is my favorite seafood restaurant so far. Finally some decent crab cakes. You know it's a serious seafood restaurant when they have a sign saying you can bring your own fish and they will clean and cook it for you. For lunch I had a shrimp & crab cake with remoulade sauce and a spinach salad.
Big Fisherman Restaurant is between Aransas Pass and Rockport. It's the tourist and RV crowd favorite. HUGE crowds and HUGE meals. For lunch I ordered their mini seafood platter. It included stuffed crab, stuffed shrimp, fried shrimp and lots of fish. I took enough back to the motel for another large meal. The seafood was okay but not as good as the Paradise Key.
Friday, August 21, 2009
This housing development failed because it was started about the time the bottom fell out of the housing market.
This is an example of the many expensive homes in Rockport.
George W. Fulton was born in Philadelphia, served in the Texas Army in 1836 and became a pioneer resident of Refugio County. He left Texas and had an engineering career of distinction elsewhere. Later he returned to Texas and became a cattle baron. He and his wife, Harriet Smith Fulton, built this imposing residence between 1874 and 1877. The three-story French Second Empire style home featured modern heating, ventilation and plumbing systems and gas lighting. The nearby town of Fulton bears his name.
Mansion view of bay
Live oak trees near the water are permanently leaning due to the prevailing winds of the southeast.
This is the most luxurious apartment complex in Rockport. It is about 8 minutes outside Rockport in a fast growing suburb. Like my luxury Fairfax apartment it is a new, gated, well landscaped apartment complex. Only difference is I was paying over $2000 per month for my top floor one bedroom apartment. An equal top floor one bedroom apartment overlooking a golf course in this complex costs $705 per month.