heavily damages historic Seadrift hotel
27, 2005, LOUISE POPPLEWELL Victoria Advocate
SEADRIFT - For almost 100 years, Seadrift's Lafitte Hotel survived
hundreds of storms and a good number of major hurricanes, but on Monday
the landmark was unable to withstand the ravages of fire. Owners Weyman
and Frances Harding were asleep when the fire broke out during the
noon hour. They were exhausted after returning home and unpacking
what they had packed when fleeing the threat of Hurricane Rita.
Thankfully, Frances awoke and smelled smoke, said her sister, Shirley
While the couple escaped the burning building without injury, Magnolia
Beach firefighter Rick Smith was taken by ambulance to Memorial Medical
Center in Port Lavaca where he was treated for heat exhaustion and
"Everybody was already exhausted," said Sharon Bailey of
the volunteer department and their work last week to protect themselves
and the department from Hurricane Rita. "He pushed himself a
little too far. They'd moved all the (department's) equipment and
their own personal belongings to Beeville and moved it all back again."
The hotel was built in 1909, two years before the coastal town began
to grow. It operated for many years as a hotel.
The Hardings bought it in the mid-1980s and turned it into a bed and
breakfast, which they operated until 1998.
"The stately structure has 10 rooms, breakfast in the downstairs
dining room and an incredibility relaxing atmosphere," Annette
LeBouef wrote in a 1998 article. In her article, she warned, "Beware
of the danger of sitting on the front porch and forgetting all about
County commissioner Ken Finster, who has lived in Seadrift all his
life, said that folklore has it that Bonnie and Clyde spent some time
there. He also remembers earlier owners. "The little ladies that
ran it would meet you at the door and ask if you drank alcohol. If
you said yes, they wouldn't let you stay," he said.
One of Finster's favorite stories is about his aunt and uncle, the
late Doc and Hettie May Walker who spent their honeymoon at the hotel.
During their marriage, which would last 68 years, they lived in the
house next door.
On their 63rd wedding anniversary, the owners treated the couple to
a second honeymoon stay at the hotel.
Doc's response was that "he'd stay until dark, but he was going
home then," Finster recalled.
There is also a report that the hotel served as a birthing house,
a place where a doctor would meet expectant mothers and deliver their
With windows boarded up against the latest hurricane threat, firefighters
broke third-floor windows in order to get water to the blaze. Around
5 p.m., the fire was out.
Finster said the third floor collapsed inward and although they were
intact, the two lower floors sustained heavy smoke and water damage.
The cause of the fire was not known Monday evening.
Fire departments from Formosa, Refugio, Olivia-Port Alto, Magnolia
Beach, Port Lavaca, Port O'Connor and Victoria were there to assist
the Seadrift department while Cape Carancahua and Point Comfort firefighters
stepped in to man positions left vacant by those fighting the fire.
In addition, law enforcement and emergency medics were on hand.
Working in 100 degree heat, an estimated 100 people came to assist
in whatever way they could in an attempt to save the 96-year-old Bay
Street landmark overlooking San Antonio Bay.
Louise Popplewell is a reporter for the Advocate. Copyright, (c) 2005,
The Victoria Advocate