Sunday, October 2, 2016

Palacios' Pleasure Pavilion

Palacios, Texas, is a small community of just over 5,000 people nestled on the Texas Gulf Coast half way between Houston and Corpus Cristi, and despite its size, it's the home of a vibrant shrimping community, and calls itself the "Shrimp Capitol of Texas". The town was originally settled in 1903, and the following year the New York, Texas and Mexico Railway, part of the Southern Pacific Railroad, built a line extending to the community and started to invest in its development as a seaside resort destination (the SP frequently did that in order to create destinations which passengers would pay fares to get to - this, in part was how Los Angeles came to be).

Every seaside resort needs a venue for activities, so one of the first buildings put up by the Palacios Townsite Company was the Pleasure Pavilion, built at the end of a 400-foot long pier in the summer of 1904. Designed by local architect Jules Leffland, it had a central twin-deck pavilion space, and then in the wings were fifty mens' dressing rooms (or bath houses) and twenty-five ladies' dressing rooms for bathers. The Pavilion's management rented woolen swimsuits to would-be bathers, and the far-side of the building featured high and low diving boards  (built from the left side as it appears in the photo) as well as a slide. Since sailing was a favorite pastime of the era, docking space was provided for local boats to tie up while visiting. The Southern Pacific would periodically operate special excursion trains to the town bringing tourists as the destination's fame grew. Orchestra concerts, dances and special sporting events were held in the Pavilion.

Hurricanes in 1915 and 1919 damaged sections of the Pavilion and its pier, but the damage was quickly rebuilt. During the 1920s, the management partnered with the near-by Palacios Hotel to hire an orchestra, which would perform at the hotel during the day and in the Pavilion at night. In 1932, new owners removed the bathing facilities in the west wing and replaced them with a restaurant and soda fountain.

Track of 1934's third hurricane
In July, 1934, the third hurricane of that year's season (they hadn't started the tradition of naming hurricanes yet) was an unusual one for its track. It formed as a tropical storm in the Atlantic off the coast of North Carolina and took first a westerly track before heading southwest, making initial landfall just South of St. Augustine, Florida. It crossed Florida and moved into the Gulf of Mexico, where it strengthened and became a Category 1 hurricane, heading right for the Texas coast. It made its second landfall at Lamar, Texas, just 50 miles southwest of Palacios. Though only a Category 1, it still packed a punch, and the Pleasure Pavilion suffered a lot of damage. Besides the damage, the building was over 30 years old, and the community decided it was time to replace the Pavilion as well as build a new sea wall to prevent further damage.

The original Pavilion from our photo was razed in May, 1935, and replaced by one almost equally glamorous, known as the "Roundhouse", which lasted until September 11, 1961 when it was destroyed by Hurricane Carla. A smaller, open air pavilion was built by the city, and now they are building a new one, though it appears they've learned the lesson about hurricane damage, the new new pavilion is being built of steel and concrete - and on land.

No comments:

Post a Comment