Cheré Dastugue Coen
Texas Golden Triangle an unusual collection of fun
Updated: Jun 4, 2021
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. When that gusher blew on Jan. 10, 1901, the flow was so intense, oil spewed forth for nine days before the well could be capped.
Other towns within the Golden Triangle are the smaller hamlets of 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 were 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.
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. It's one of several stops along the Port Arthur Cajun Trail. The house originated in 1810 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 down the Vermilion River in Louisiana to the Intracoastal Canal and to the Neches River. The house is open for tours and occasionally a Catholic Mass is conducted here.
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.
Another stop on the Cajun Trail is La Maison Des Acadienne, or the "House of Acadia" in Nederland's Tex Ritter Historical Park. Visitors can view how pioneering Cajuns lived and worked back in the day in this replica of an original Cajun homestead. If the name of Tex Ritter piques your interest, the park's Windmill Museum displays memorabilia of the Silver Screen's singing cowboy and country and western music star who once lived in Nederland.
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 and a historic home that arrived by barge.
Over in Port Arthur, three oversized religious statues make up the “Port Arthur Faith Trail.”
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at 3648 Staff Sgt. Lucian Adams Drive is a 17-foot bronze statue of Mary next to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Created by artist Miguel Angel Macias from Mexico City and Texas sculptor Douglas Clark, the statue is set upon rocks that church parishioners brought back from Mount Tepeyac in Mexico City. It was here that Juan Diego experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary. A 7-foot bronze statue of St. Juan Diego, sculpted by the same artists, sits at the bottom of the Port Arthur shrine, a penitent man gazing up at Mary with hands crossed.
Literally about a mile down Ninth Street is the Vietnamese Queen of Peace Shrine and Gardens, where another larger-than-life statue of Mary exists, this time in Hoa-Binh or an area of peace. According to CatholicPlaces.org, the 20-foot-tall Mary and shrine was created in gratitude for the congregations’ “escape from Asia and the city which welcomed them.” The Queen of Peace stands atop the Earth, one foot resting by Vietnam.
Both churches allow visitation to their statues at no charge but daylight hours apply.
In the center of town at 2701 Proctor lies the Buu Mon Buddhist temple, which moved to Port Arthur from Orange, Texas, in 1986. The Buddhists remodeled the former Vi
etnamese Catholic church, building stupa where there was once a steeple and installing a 7-foot-tall bronze Buddha seated in front of a fresco mural of a Bodhi tree on a river’s shore. The Port Arthur Buu Mon Buddhist Temple is known worldwide for its tropical and hardy lotuses and water lilies, along with other species in its garden areas around the temple.
For more information on the Faith Trail and other attractions, visit the Port Arthur Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau website at https://visitportarthurtx.com/.