On my recent “Mother- Daughter Birthday Weekend” in Rockport, I was shocked at how much the town had changed since my last visit. In full disclosure that was 1986 but more than hurricanes have changed the landscape. It’s called progress!
When I took my children there many, many summers ago, there wasn’t that much to Rockport. What I recall was a small, serene beach town known for birding, fishing and art, particularly lazy during the middle of the week. Neither do I remember many touristy shops so souvenir buying was over pretty quick. We attempted to wade in the water but the prolific jellyfish put a stop to that!
Today, other than the wall-to-wall beach condo communities, RV parks, food stands and marinas blanketing the bay, the biggest surprise for me was the Fulton Mansion and that stretch of road between Rockport and Fulton.
Back in the day, our first stop on the way in was the mansion and the Wind Swept Oaks. The mansion wasn’t open to the public then and it sat in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere as did the trees. There was absolutely nothing around either of them or on the road between Fulton and Rockport.
Fast forward 37 years, my daughter and I were able to tour the mansion this trip. I loved the history of the house but was stunned by what surrounded it. I experienced a momentary flashback of my trip to the Alamo in 1980, the first since I was 3 years old when my grandparents lived on Hackberry Street in San Antonio. I’ll never forget the shock of seeing Joske’s next to the Alamo! But I digress.
We were amazed and surprised at the ingenuity of the Fulton family and their staff. They knew how to use gravity to their advantage in cooling and preserving their food and providing running water and plumbing throughout this three story home - and they did everything without computers and power tools! We agreed that the ability to problem-solve has been obliterated. I mean, why use your brain when you have Siri?
The Fulton Mansion stayed in the family for a long time but eventually the heirs sold all but a small portion of the original 60-acres. I was appalled that like the Alamo, the mansion was surrounded by homes and cabins that ranged from nice to downright tacky! The only window view not ruined was the one facing the bay. Our tour guide told us that at one time, a trailer park occupied the front lawn and she had photos to prove it!
I give the Texas Historical Commission kudos for the wonderful job they’ve done restoring and running the Fulton Mansion. This endeavor is also supported by various partnerships with individuals, businesses, trusts and nonprofits who place a high value on preserving their area’s history.
The Wind Swept Oaks are no longer accessible for photo ops like long ago. They’re protected behind a black wrought iron fence, along with the wildlife residing in their branches and the grasslands within. Given the development zeal, that’s a good thing.
Rockport’s artist community is as old as I am but unlike me, it has improved with age. For the nautically inclined, the Texas Maritime Museum is slated for even more improvements.
I think the best part of the trip was how much my daughter enjoyed the historic points of interest this time around. This appreciation of history is something we now share, and that too, is progress!
The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Connie Clements. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.
Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.