spirit inn of mission valley

Fire heavily damages historic Seadrift hotel
September 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 Pack.
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 dehydration.
"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 fishing."
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 babies.
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

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Spirit Inn of Mission Valley ~ History
3377 Lower Mission Valley Road ~ Victoria, Texas 77905