at historic Seadrift hotel spares first two floors
28, 2005, LOUISE POPPLEWELL Victoria Advocate
- Monday's fire that caused extensive damage to the 96-year-old Lafitte
Hotel in Seadrift started in the first floor laundry room, but what
started it is not known, Port Lavaca Fire Marshal Rob Thigpen said
Tuesday. "I know where it started, I just don't know what started
it," he said. "This is one of those times when 'I don't
know' is the best answer I can give."
He said the fire was contained within the outside walls and traveled
to the attic, leaving much of the two lower floors intact.
"There's a lot that can be salvaged," he said.
Owners Frances and Weyman Harding were able to get out of the building
safely after the fire broke out during the noon hour Monday. Magnolia
Beach volunteer firefighter Rick Smith was taken by ambulance to Memorial
Medical Center in Port Lavaca where he was treated for dehydration
and heat exhaustion. He was able to return to his home later Monday.
There were no other injuries reported.
Built in 1909 as a railroad hotel, the Lafitte was bought by the Hardings
in the mid-1980s and operated it as a bed and breakfast inn until
In a phone call Tuesday morning, retired Port Lavaca teacher Patsy
Walker told of spending summers in the hotel and living there at some
point in time.
When she heard of the fire, she said, "I was just sick."
Her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John Dierlam, bought the hotel in 1921.
When they died, it went to Walker's Aunt Azile Dierlam who continued
to operate it as a hotel. Walker said she doesn't know who owned it
after her aunt's death and before the Hardings took ownership.
Walker's memories are of the third floor being used for storage and
a place where her grandfather dried his onions.
But it was also a play area and Walker remembers the younger set planning
and presenting many stage productions.
After the heat of Austin, where she grew up, Walker said the sea breezes
from San Antonio Bay felt like air-conditioning in the hotel with
its high ceilings and wide-open windows.
"That hotel, there's a place in my heart for it," she said.
Louise Popplewell is a reporter for the Advocate. Copyright,
(c) 2005, The Victoria Advocate