Monday, July 23, 2012

Take A Summer Trip to Jefferson, Texas and Meet New Friends

The last time I was in Jefferson, Texas the weather was much cooler, but then, that was in October.  In late July, Jefferson is sweltering!

As I was getting ready to type this post I looked back at my October post and noted that I took many of the same pictures on this trip!  I'm going to have to get more creative next time!  But, bear with me and let's go back to Jefferson, because it's always a treat.

This trip had the added bonus of two new friends.  Earlier in the year we made plans to meet up with Mike from A Cop's Watch and his fiance Beth who live in the Houston area.

Steve and hit the road about 11:00 and were in Jefferson by noon.   For you non-locals, Jefferson, Texas in situated on Big Cypress Bayou in east Texas.  It was a river port town; steam boats came up the Mississippi River, into the Red River, through Caddo Lake and up Big Cypress bayou.  One of the early settlers of Jefferson was Captain William Perry who built the Excelsior Hotel.  He arrived in Jefferson around 1844.  Jefferson was the only dependable port in North Texas.  The railroads weren't there yet.

Back then, cotton was king and without railroads the huge bales had to be shipped by boats.  Jefferson was a boom town.  People from all over flooded into the area and settled in Texas.  Many wealthy planters settled along the bayou.  During the Civil War, Jefferson was critical to the Confederacy as a supplier of food, munitions, iron and other goods.  The black powder that was manufactured in nearby Marshall, Texas was stored in Jefferson until it could be shipped out.  The Union army set out to destroy the river port in the Red River campaign but they were stopped  in Mansfield, Louisiana.  After the war, Jefferson grew even larger as people moved into town and the steam boats were more active than ever.

After the Great Raft was cleared in the Red River in 1873, the water levels in Big Cypress bayou declined making shipping less reliable.  By then the railroads were more dependable than the waterways.  At its peak in the late 1800s, Jefferson had a population of about 12,000 people, but after the decline the population leveled off at about 2,000 which is about what it is today.  Today Jefferson is an east Texas treasure frozen in time.

You can read more about the history of Jefferson here.

When Steve and I got to town yesterday we went straight to the hotel to check in and check up on Mike and Beth.  We had reservations at the Excelsior House and would not stay anywhere else.

When we were there last October was our first time to stay there and we fell in love with the place.   This time we had reserved the Diamond Bessie Suite because it has a sun porch that opens up onto the courtyard and we thought it was gorgeous.  We were not disappointed!

It's a little blurry but this is the room:

This one is a little less blurry:

The sun porch, complete with plantation shutters and a wooden screen door that opens to the courtyard:

And another view:

I took that one with my phone and it came out sort of pink, but it was white.  There's a big 'ol tv mounted on the wall (you can see it past that lamp) where Steve checked out the baseball scores before we set out to find Mike and Beth.

There's the room from the outside:

We put our luggage up and set out to find Mike and Beth.

The fellow that puts up a decent cell tower in Jefferson is going to be a hero.  The cell phone service in that town is terrible.  Mike and I made several futile attempts to make phone contact before I finally figured out that they were at Auntie Skinner's waiting for us.

We found them sitting near the back and joined them.  We'd never met each other before but they seemed like old friends and we all quickly settled into the business of ordering lunch, telling cop stories and talking about wedding plans.  Mike and Beth brought us a box of Shiner beer which is brewed in Texas between Houston and San Antonio.  They carefully picked out a sampler of different kinds for us to try and I've got some of them chilling right now!

We spent an hour or so over lunch visiting, eating burgers, and watching our waitress, Charlene, run the length of the restaurant in her cowboy boots.  That little girl was a dynamo and since I like to recognize good service when I see it, I'm giving props to hard-working Charlene here and hoping Auntie Skinner's holds on to her!  She took good care of us and lots of other tables too; she was a blur up and down that restaurant, tossing her blond curls behind her and carrying huge trays of food out, then running at a sprint back to the kitchen for the next load.

After lunch we took Mike and Beth back to the hotel so they could check in then we explored the hotel so they could see some of the other beautiful rooms (the hotel leaves the doors of unoccupied rooms open and you can walk around and look at them.)  There are only fifteen rooms but they are all gorgeous.

This is the Ulysses S. Grant room:

This is the Rutherford B. Hayes room with its tiger mahogany bed:

This is the Jay Gould room; according to the Excelsior's website, the furniture is Circassian Walnut and dates from the early days of Jefferson. Most of this wood comes from Russia and was obtained from the cross cut root of the walnut tree.

We stopped on the upstairs balcony long enough to enjoy the courtyard before setting out to hit a few shops:

Beth and Mike are planning a wedding next year and she was on the lookout for some pretty jewelry for her wedding.  We stopped in an antique store near the hotel and while she didn't find the jewelry she wanted there, we saw lots of beautiful things and Steve made friends with a cat:

One of our favorite stops is the Jefferson General Store because they have so many goodies to sample:

Steve loved the jalapeno stuffed olives.  I bought a bunch of candy I didn't need and we moved on.   We ended up in Big Cypress Antiques and that's where Beth found a beautiful piece that she declared she simply had to have:

It's gorgeous and I secretly covet it.  But, it's very Beth and will be beautiful on her wedding dress!

I bought a nifty mother of pearl salt dip there:

We ambled along making our way back to the hotel for a little siesta before dinner but we made a quick stop in Jefferson Bottling Works.

I wrote about that shop in my October post last year and incorrectly identified the shop, a mistake which thankfully was pointed out to me and I corrected on that post.  The proprietor of Jefferson Bottling Works did not impress us on our last trip as a particularly hospitable shop owner.  When we were in there last year he barely spoke to us and sat behind the counter drinking his Bud Light Lime while he surfed on the computer.  We asked him to show us something in one of the locked cases and it seemed almost an imposition to him.

Well, thinking we had just hit him on a bad day we decided to give the shop another shot; there really are some cool things in his shop.  He's got an impressive display of stuff.  When we walked in he greeted us cheerily and I thought maybe we had in fact been mistaken in our rash judgment.  I had an empty water bottle in my hand and asked if he had a trash an I could throw it away in.  he told me there was one outside a couple of doors down.  WTF?  I just stashed the bottle in my purse until we left.  He retreated back to his computer (Facebook) and his Bud Light Lime and didn't say another word to us.  As we browsed the store I couldn't help but notice a large blue plastic garbage can filled about a quarter of the way with .... mostly plastic water bottles.   I guess the fellow had a good reason for not wanting the street riff raff to fill his garbage cans with trash but I thought it was a little ridiculous.

As we left we said goodbye and thanked him for letting us look.  Not even bothering to turn away from his computer screen he said, "It's what I live for."  Alrighty then.

Again, maybe the guy has a reason to be a grump; I'm not judging him.  But for my money there are plenty of super friendly shop owners in that town for me to give my business to.

We went back to the hotel and Steve crawled up on the daybed in the sun room and took a power nap while I tried in vain to get a wifi signal on my iPad.  Giving up, I ate chocolate covered coffee beans, drank a Boston Lager, and read a book.

For dinner we went back to Auntie Skinner's and watched Charlene fly all over the restaurant again.

We had several drinks and talked for a long time and when it was dark we walked the streets of Jefferson pointing out some of the more interesting landmarks to Mike and Beth.  We went back to the hotel and sat on the porch outside our room while Mike and Beth sipped scotch and I had a beer before we all turned in for the night.

Beth and Mike had to leave at the crack of dawn this morning so we said our goodbyes and then today we set off on our own.  I was on a search for Jadeite.

We had breakfast in the courtyard - orange muffins and fresh fruit.  Steve ate a fig off the tree growing right outside our window.

I wished for fish food to toss to the turtles and koi in the fountain:

We checked out of the hotel but not before exploring the ballroom and dining room of the hotel.  I loved this china cabinet in the dining room:

The ballroom:

And back out into the heat we went.

In 1945 Jefferson flooded; they have a marker for the high water mark:

Our first stop this morning was the huge Old Mill Antique mall on Austin Street.  It gets way too hot in there if you wait too late in the day.  As it was, we went through pretty quick because even at 10:30 it was hot.  It's a huge place with lots to see.

How about a funky turkey cigarette holder?

Coffee pots:

A nifty beer sign:

This telephone stand was cool:

A display case full off cool smalls:

Steve bought me a pretty Jadeite refrigerator dish (missing the lid but I love it anyway) and we left in search of a shop with AC.

We went to Gold Leaf Antique Mall which has beautiful stuff but much of it was out of my budget this trip.  I was in depression glass heaven:

They had lots of gorgeous Jadeite but again, way, way out of my price range:

And more:

There was so much pretty stuff in there I just had to bail out and leave.  I wanted a lot of it but part of the fun of finding some cool collectible piece is getting a really good deal on it and so that put much of this out of my reach today.

I had to laugh at this Stop sign in the road; no liberals allowed:

One of the nicest, friendliest shop owners in Jefferson is at Granny Had It.  We had a nice visit with the proprietor and her husband (and their cat!).  Wonderful, friendly people!  And she had some beautiful furniture in there.  I loved this bookcase:

And I've been coveting this Fostoria cake stand for a long time but I really think I like the round one better.  But I think this is gorgeous:

It was time for lunch so we headed over to the Hamburger Store and Steve had one of their wonderful burgers and I had the chicken fried steak.  I'm ashamed to say but I ate almost every bite.

The Hamburger Store is a cool place; it's that restaurant where they have dollar bills stapled to the walls:

The back story on that can be found here.

Exhausted and stuffed, it was time to head back to Shreveport.  On the way out of town we passed this beautiful place:

I had to get out of the car and take a picture of that one.  Those are stained glass windows on that top story.  Here's the marker in front of the house:

Apparently you can stay there; they have guest rooms and you can definitely tour the place which will be on my list for next trip.  The House of the Seasons website is here.  Here is a blog with a few pictures.  More here from the same blog.

All in all it was a quick trip but a wonderful one.  Time sort of stands still in Jefferson and 24 hours seems much longer and I mean that in a good way.  It was great to meet Mike and Beth and I look forward to a long friendship with them and many more trips in the future.

Great weekend!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation
Take a Trip to Jefferson, Texas

1 comment:

Beth said...

Mike and I had a wonderful time! Thank you and Steve so much for your hospitality! We are absolutely going back to Jefferson to explore some more! It was so nice to get to finally meet y'all! Next time we'll meet up at Millie's!