A historic photograph of a hotel on a dirt road with people out front

Photo courtesy The University of North Texas Portal to Texas History

The opulent Sabine Hotel in Port Arthur was nearing completion in 1897—note the scaffolding on the far left. Railroad promoter and namesake of Port Arthur, Arthur Stillwell, constructed the building. A flamboyant, self-made man, Stillwell led his first major project building the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad from Kansas City to Port Arthur to facilitate the export of Midwestern agricultural products. To encourage visitors, Stillwell built the Sabine Hotel and an adjacent indoor swimming pool in the 500 block of Lakeshore Drive, where the Jefferson County Sub-Courthouse stands today. The lavish hotel was designed to compete with the finest hotels on the East Coast. It had 70 rooms and a dining room with a complete solid-silver service for 100. The Sabine Hotel was the center of social life in Port Arthur until 1903, when a fire reduced it to ash. In 1909, John W. Gates opened the sumptuous Plaza Hotel on the site. It was torn down in 1934.

Know of any fascinating vintage Texas photographs? Send copies or ideas to [email protected].

From the June 2023 issue

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