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Port Arthur, Texas
Port Arthur in 2006
Port Arthur in 2006
Nickname(s): 
PA, PAT
Location of Port Arthur, Texas - U.S. Census Map
Location of Port Arthur, Texas - U.S. Census Map
Coordinates: 29°53′6″N 93°56′24″W / 29.88500°N 93.94000°W / 29.88500; -93.94000Coordinates: 29°53′6″N 93°56′24″W / 29.88500°N 93.94000°W / 29.88500; -93.94000
Country United States
State Texas
County Jefferson
Government
 • Type Council-Manager
Area
 • Total 144.17 sq mi (373.41 km2)
 • Land 77.15 sq mi (199.82 km2)
 • Water 67.02 sq mi (173.58 km2)
Elevation
7 ft (2 m)
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 53,818
 • Estimate 
(2019)
54,280
 • Density 703.55/sq mi (271.64/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
77640-77642
Area code(s) 409
FIPS code 48-58820
GNIS feature ID 1384151

Port Arthur is a city in Jefferson County within the Beaumont–Port Arthur metropolitan area of the U.S. state of Texas. A small, uninhabited portion extends into Orange County. It is 90 mi (140 km) east of Houston. The largest oil refinery in the United States, the Motiva Refinery, is located in Port Arthur.

The population of Port Arthur was 53,818 at the 2010 census, down from 57,755 at the 2000 census. Early attempts at settlements in the area had all failed. However, in 1895, Arthur Stilwell founded Port Arthur, and the town quickly grew. Port Arthur was incorporated as a city in 1898 and soon developed into a seaport. It eventually became the center of a large oil refinery network. The Rainbow Bridge across the Neches River connects Port Arthur to Bridge City.

Port Arthur is vulnerable to hurricanes and extensive damage to the city has been caused several times.

History

Aurora was an early settlement attempt near the mouth of Taylor Bayou on Sabine Lake, about 14 miles (23 km) long and 7 miles (11 km) wide. It is a saltwater estuary formed by the confluence of the Neches and Sabine rivers. Through its tidal outlet 5 miles (8 km) long, Sabine Pass, Sabine Lake drains some 50,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of Texas and Louisiana into the Gulf of Mexico.

The town was conceived in 1837, and in 1840 promoters led by Almanzon Huston were offering town lots for sale. Some were sold, but Huston's project failed to attract many settlers. The area next was known as Sparks, after John Sparks, who moved his family to the shores of Sabine Lake near the site of Aurora. The Eastern Texas Railroad, completed between Sabine Pass and Beaumont, Texas, passed four miles west of Sparks. However, the American Civil War soon began, and rail lines were removed. In 1886, a destructive hurricane hit the coast, causing the remaining residents to dismantle their homes and move to Beaumont. By 1895, Aurora had become a ghost town.

Arthur Stilwell led the resettling of the area as part of his planned city of Port Arthur. Pleasure Island now separates the city from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The 18.5-mile (29.8 km) man-made island was created between 1899 and 1908 by the Corps of Engineers to support development of the port.

Arthur Stilwell founded the Port Arthur Channel and Dock Company to manage the port facilities. The port officially opened with the arrival of the British steamer Saint Oswald in 1899. (The ship would later sink in 1915, after colliding with the French battleship Suffren during World War I.)

When oil was discovered in the region, Port Arthur developed for a time as the center of the largest oil refinery network in the world.

Geography

Port Arthur is located at 29°53′6″N 93°56′24″W / 29.88500°N 93.94000°W / 29.88500; -93.94000 (29.884864, −93.939902) east of Houston. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 143.8 square miles (372.3 km²), of which, 82.9 square miles (214.8 km²) of it is land and 60.8 square miles (157.6 km²) of it (42.32%) is water.

Communities

Communities in Port Arthur include:

Climate

Port Arthur is tied with Lake Charles, Louisiana and Astoria, Oregon, as the most humid city in the contiguous United States. The average relative humidity is 90% in the morning, and 72% in the afternoon.

Climate data for Port Arthur, Texas (Jack Brooks Airport) 1981–2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 86
(30)
90
(32.2)
95
(35)
94
(34.4)
101
(38.3)
106
(41.1)
108
(42.2)
108
(42.2)
105
(40.6)
99
(37.2)
94
(34.4)
86
(30)
108
(42.2)
Average high °F (°C) 62.1
(16.72)
65.4
(18.56)
71.9
(22.17)
78.2
(25.67)
84.7
(29.28)
89.7
(32.06)
91.7
(33.17)
92.2
(33.44)
88.3
(31.28)
80.7
(27.06)
71.7
(22.06)
63.8
(17.67)
78.4
(25.78)
Average low °F (°C) 43.4
(6.33)
46.8
(8.22)
52.5
(11.39)
59.3
(15.17)
67.2
(19.56)
72.9
(22.72)
74.4
(23.56)
74.2
(23.44)
69.9
(21.06)
60.7
(15.94)
51.9
(11.06)
44.9
(7.17)
59.8
(15.44)
Record low °F (°C) 11
(-11.7)
10
(-12.2)
20
(-6.7)
32
(0)
45
(7.2)
53
(11.7)
61
(16.1)
58
(14.4)
45
(7.2)
30
(-1.1)
22
(-5.6)
12
(-11.1)
10
(-12.2)
Precipitation inches (mm) 5.25
(133.4)
3.58
(90.9)
3.53
(89.7)
3.21
(81.5)
5.22
(132.6)
7.09
(180.1)
5.94
(150.9)
5.35
(135.9)
5.93
(150.6)
5.58
(141.7)
4.40
(111.8)
5.28
(134.1)
60.37
(1,533.4)
Humidity 79.0 76.6 76.2 77.1 78.7 79.0 80.7 80.3 79.3 76.9 78.0 79.6 78.4
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 9.5 8.7 7.4 6.2 6.6 10.0 11.4 11.1 8.9 7.5 8.1 9.5 104.9
Sunshine hours 135.5 168.5 188.1 203.2 262.9 284.6 281.7 258.6 231.9 241.3 184.8 148.9 2,590.0
Source: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990) The Weather Channel (record temperatures)

Demographics

2010 census data

As of the 2010 census, 53,818 people, 20,183 households, and 13,191 families resided in the city. The population density was 654.6 people per square mile (250.5/km2). The 23,577 housing units averaged 284.4 per square mile (109.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 41.7% African American, 37.9% White, 1.2% Native American, 6.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, and 15.3% from other races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 29.6% of the population.

Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 900
1910 7,663 751.4%
1920 22,251 190.4%
1930 50,902 128.8%
1940 46,140 −9.4%
1950 57,530 24.7%
1960 66,676 15.9%
1970 57,371 −14.0%
1980 61,251 6.8%
1990 58,724 −4.1%
2000 57,755 −1.7%
2010 53,818 −6.8%
2019 (est.) 54,280 0.9%
U.S. Decennial Census

Of the 20,183 households, 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.2% were married couples living together, 19.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.6% were not families; 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.31.

In the city, the population was distributed as 27.0% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 25.2% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.1 males.

Arts and culture

Port Arthur's Museum of the Gulf Coast is recognized as the area's definitive collection of items and displays for figures from Port Arthur and the surrounding communities.

Tropical cyclones that have affected Port Arthur

Pleasure Island Hurricane Ike
Pleasure Island damage from Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Betsy

In August 1965's Hurricane Betsy, Port Arthur sustained very little damage. The city was in one of the weak spots of the hurricane. Winds only reached 26 miles per hour (42 km/h). Tides reached 2.4 feet (0.73 m) above sea level. A mere 0.02 inches (0.51 mm) of rain was recorded. Port Arthur was the only area in Texas to be damaged.

Hurricane Rita

In September 2005's Hurricane Rita, Port Arthur sustained major wind damage and some flooding.

Hurricane Humberto

Struck in the early hours of September 13, 2007, it had formed in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico and intensified faster than any other tropical cyclone on record before making landfall at High Island, Texas. The path of the eye continued northeastward and passed over Port Arthur, Nederland, Port Neches, Groves, and Bridge City, Texas at Category 1 hurricane strength. This was the second time within two years (following Hurricane Rita on September 24, 2005) that these cities experienced a direct hit from a hurricane. Hurricane Hunters reported sustained winds of 85 mph (137 km/h) about two hours after landfall. However, post-storm analysis later determined that the winds were stronger—about 90 mph (140 km/h).

Tropical Storm Edouard

On the morning of August 5, 2008, Port Arthur saw the effects of Tropical Storm Edouard. The tropical storm made landfall to the west of the city, and wind speeds of 55 mph (89 km/h) were recorded.

Hurricane Ike

In September 2008, Port Arthur again sustained major wind damage, with several areas having major flooding. Ike made its final landfall near Galveston, Texas as a strong Category 2 hurricane, with Category 4 equivalent storm surge, on Sept. 13, 2008, at 2:10 a.m. CDT. Hurricane-force winds extended 120 miles (190 km) from the center. Due to its immense size, Ike caused devastation from the Louisiana coastline all the way to the Kennedy County, Texas region near Corpus Christi, Texas. The hurricane resulted in the largest evacuation of Texans in that state's history. In the aftermath, officials conducted the largest search-and-rescue operation in U.S. history. The seawall of Port Arthur protected the city from the storm surge that devastated surrounding communities such as Bridge City. Water did flow over the top of the seawall for about 30 minutes, flooding some of homes along its length with over a foot of water.

Economy

PA Crane
Big Arthur crane

Home to a large portion of United States oil refining capacity, Port Arthur is now seeing renewed investment in several key installations. Motiva Enterprises is undertaking a major addition to its western Port Arthur refinery, expanding capacity to 600,000 barrels per day (95,000 m3/d). This $10.0 billion project is the largest US refinery expansion to occur in 30 years. Premcor Refining (now Valero) completed a $775 million expansion of its petrochemical plant, and BASF/Fina commenced operations of a new $1.75 billion gasification and cogeneration unit on premises of its current installation, which had just completed its own $1 billion upgrade. These operations are supported by the Port of Port Arthur, one of Texas' leading seaports. Port Arthur still suffers, though, from one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

The city was the site of an oil spill in 2010, when an oil tanker and barge collided, causing 450,000 gallons of oil to spill into the Sabine/Neches waterway alongside the city.

Central business district disintegration

The commercial center of Port Arthur was at its peak in the early 1900s. Together with the effects of suburbanization, which drew off wealthier residents to new housing away from town, gradually taking businesses with them, from 1960 until 1974, successive waves of economic recession caused much distress in the town. The central business district has many boarded up and vacant locations.

Hotel Sabine

The Hotel Sabine opened at 600 Proctor Street in 1929 and operated as the Vaughn Hotel until the mid-1930s. At 118 feet, 10 stories, and the tallest building in Port Arthur, the building is of Beaux-Arts architecture style, built with steel-reinforced concrete and brick on 640 steel-laced wooden cypress pilings driven 60 ft into the ground. It was designed to withstand the most severe coastal storms. The hotel closed down in the mid-1980s.

The Port Arthur News reported August 28, 2010, that "DWA (Digital Workforce Academy) Buys Sabine Hotel", By November 2011, the hotel was reported to be slated for demolition. The cost of renovations were estimated at $10– 12,000,000 dollars and demolition estimates as $500,000 to 1.2 million.

Hurricane Rita struck a direct hit on the Proctor Street Seawall, and damaged many downtown businesses and homes. As economic activity picked up in the region, calls for downtown revitalization have been advanced. The true center of commercial activity has gravitated from downtown to other areas. The main shopping center is Central Mall, opened outside the downtown in 1982.

Education

Colleges

Lamar State College-Port Arthur

Located in downtown Port Arthur, celebrated its 100th birthday in 2009. Offering a full variety of basic core curriculum classes in which credits are transferable throughout Texas public universities, Lamar State College is recognized for associate programs in commercial music, nursing, legal assistant, and process technology. The college also fields competitive teams in men's basketball and women's softball.

Galveston College (for Sabine Pass)

The section of Port Arthur within the Sabine Pass School District is assigned to Galveston College in Galveston.

Career and Technical Education Center

It was formerly named Stilwell Technical Center and is the second college in Port Arthur. The Port Arthur Independent School District is now headquartered at its former location on 9th Avenue. In 2012 the school was relocated to a new building built on the same property of Memorial High School at 3501 Sgt Lucian Adams Dr.

Primary and secondary schools

Most of the city is served by the Port Arthur Independent School District. It operates a single high school, Memorial High School, formed in 2002 by the consolidation of three high schools: Stephen F. Austin, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson.

The portion around Southeast Texas Regional Airport is served by the Nederland Independent School District. Some parts are served by Port Neches-Groves Independent School District. The Sabine Pass community is served by the Sabine Pass Independent School District.

The Bob Hope Charter School is located in Port Arthur.

It formerly had a Catholic high school, Bishop Byrne High School, which closed in 1983.

Public libraries

The Port Arthur Public Library, at 4615 9th Avenue at Texas State Highway 73, serves as the public library system for the city.

Transportation

Air

The Jack Brooks Regional Airport in the northwest part of Port Arthur serves Beaumont and Port Arthur.

Bus

Local bus service is provided by Port Arthur Transit.

Rail

The nearest inter-city rail station to Port Arthur is Beaumont station in nearby Beaumont, which serves the greater area. The station is served by Amtrak’s Sunset Limited line, with a train arriving thrice weekly in each direction.

Notable people

  • Lucian Adams, recipient of Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart
  • Jonathan Babineaux, professional football player
  • Jordan Babineaux, professional football player
  • G.W. Bailey, actor
  • Zachary Breaux, jazz musician
  • Aaron Brown, professional football player
  • J'Covan Brown (born 1990), basketball player in the Israel Basketball Premier League
  • Jamaal Charles, professional football player
  • C. J. Chenier, musician
  • Todd Dodge, American football coach
  • Ted Dunbar, jazz musician
  • Kevin Everett, professional football player
  • Mitch Gaspard, college baseball coach
  • John Warne Gates, Wire & Steel magnate, railroad and oil financier
  • Danny Gorrer, professional football player
  • Jason Halbert, musical director for Kelly Clarkson
  • Kree Harrison, runner-up on American Idol, 12th season
  • Lee Hazlewood, musician, was raised in Port Arthur.
  • Tom Hicks, former owner of Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, Liverpool FC, and Dr Pepper/7-UP
  • Jim Hurtubise, race car driver, moved to Port Arthur as an adult.
  • Stephen Jackson, former professional basketball player, who played in the NBA for 14 seasons
  • Jimmy Johnson, football broadcaster, player, coach, and executive
  • Janis Joplin, singer/songwriter
  • Bobby Leopold, professional football player
  • Kenneth Lofton Jr., college and FIBA U-19 Team USA player
  • Inika McPherson, track and field athlete
  • Donald Narcisse, player in Canadian Football League
  • Johnny Preston, pop singer
  • Robert Rauschenberg, painter and graphic artist
  • Leah Rhodes, Hollywood costume designer
  • J.P. Richardson aka "The Big Bopper", singer and songwriter born in the Port Arthur neighborhood of Sabine Pass
  • Elandon Roberts, professional football player
  • Raymond Strother, political consultant
  • Tad Tadlock, Choreographer
  • Joe Washington, college and professional football player
  • Ken Webster, actor and director
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