ROCKPORT-FULTON, Texas – The gentle waves of Aransas Bay can be a relaxing way to pass the day, and are a far cry from the howling winds of Hurricane Candy, Fern, or Erin that these waters have seen over the years.
But one structure on this shore has with stood the test of time since 1877.
“We are in Rockport, Texas at the home of George and Harriet Fulton, the Fulton Mansion.”
Marsha Hendrix with the Texas Historical Commission is the site manager to the mansion that was meticulously built with many modern convinces.
George and Harriet Fulton built this mansion over three years after inheriting the land from Harriet’s father Henry Smith, the first American governor of Texas, while it was still a territory of Mexico. The Fulton’s called their new home Oakhurst due to the extraordinary amount of oaks on the peninsula.
Fulton was in his late 60’s when they moved into the mansion.
“This was his retirement home, and a lot of folks come to Rockport Fulton area now days to build their dream home and retire,” Marsha said. “And I like to say he started that trend way back in the 19th century.”
But that didn’t stop him from doing business.
“His job with the cattle company was to get additional investors involved,” Marsha informed us. “And so a great way to get people who had money to invest in your company is to invite them to your beautiful home that shows that you’ve been successful. Have a wonderful dinner for them, which Harriet always supplied because she loved to entertain. And then after dinner the gentlemen could come in here and talk business.”
The mansion had additions you normally wouldn’t find in a typical home in the 1870’s, like central heat!
“All of the fireplaces are covered in slate which is a really dull stone, but they’re all faux painted,” Marsha said. “But what’s really amazing about the fireplaces is that they’re all fake. They never burned anything in them. They’re really just a heat register for the central heating system. Down in the basement was a very large furnace, and there were air shafts built throughout the house at each fire place so that they warm air could rise up from the furnace.”
Indoor plumbing and hot and cold water were also installed in the home.
“This was probably the best modern convenience that they put into their home,” Marsha said. “They had another bathroom just like this on the third floor. And with a half bath on the first floor, they had a flush toilet for every floor. They used the heat from the cook stove to heat water in a copper boiler that was connected to the cook stove, and on this side of the house every sink had hot and cold running water. The other side of the house, all the bedrooms have sinks in the bedroom, but they just have cold running water. That’s still really nice.””
Even the construction was top of the line, hence the reason it still stands today.
“The walls are built with five inch pine boards that are laid flat and stacked solid,” Marsha said. “So when we talk about a solid wood structure, it is literal.”
The solidness of the house has come in handy as it has withstood high hurricane winds multiple times.
“The house has been hit by quite a few hurricanes, and even while they were building the house there where some hurricanes that came to the Texas coast, caused a lot of damage, and George wanted to use a unique building method,” Marsha said. “Being an engineer he knew about this building method, and he used it in his home. And that’s very unusual even for the time period.”
Exploring these rooms is a great way to connect to the history of the Coastal Bend. A chance to see what life was like for a cattle baron on the coast.
“It’s again that connection to our Texas history that’s so valuable,” Marsha said. “And we can all appreciate where we come from and the things that people have done before us to make Texas what it is. It is a wonderful example of Texas history come to life.”