Driving Tour of Nederland: Heartbeat of the Triangle

Nederland Historical Society
P.O. Box 807
Nederland, Texas 77627

Welcome to the Nederland Historical Society's Virtual Driving Tour. In 1998, the Society developed the tour to honor the city's centennial. The six-month project headed by Pola Bailey and Bobbie Greene included signs and brochures detailing the stops in the self-guided tour. The Nederland Historical Society has granted permission to place the text of the tour online. Though some of the sites have changed over time, many sites in Nederland's history still survive. Where possible, we have pinned the photographs of the various sites as they existed to the map below. As you read about each stop on the tour, be sure to click on the pin and then the photo. Some photos have additional information about the site, building, or history associated with it. 

Please note that photographs are not available for all locations. A dot with a number in the center indicates there are multiple photographs at or near the location. That could be due to multiple photographs of a single address or because addresses (pins) are so close together and are not easily discernable as separate locations. Just enlarge the map or click on the circle to see the individual pins. You can also scroll through the list of photographs to the right of the map. Not all pins may fit on a single map. To the upper right, you may see multiple page numbers, i.e. 1 of 3. If so, just click the arrow to the right or left to scroll through additional pages of the map.

Come with me and we will visit Nederland’s past and maybe glance at her future.

We will begin our trip here at Texas Ritter Park, home of the Windmill and La Maison Des Acadien Museums.
                The Windmill was built in 1969 in honor of the hardy Dutch settlers who came to this area in 1898. The first ship, the “S. S. Olinda” arrived in Galveston from Holland and the trip to Nederland was by train. Not all of the settlers that came stayed, but the ones that did, built their homes from nothing. The land was fertile and the settlers were hard workers.
                The La Maison (the French House) was built in 1976 in honor of the French people who came to the area shortly after the discovery of oil at Spindletop oil field located near Beaumont.
                Rice was king and the crops grew so well that the market was flooded in just a few years. S luck would have it, oil saved the day and there was work for everyone.

2nd STOP
                Across the street from the park is a historical marker of the very popular Interurban.
                The interurban ran from Beaumont to Port Arthur but it was abandoned when the cars and buses took its place. Many people still speak of it and the right-of-way for the tracks can still be seen here.

3rd STOP
                Let us begin our drive now. We will go toward 17th Street.
                Stop here a minute on the corner of 17th and Boston or (Heeren).
                This school was completed in 1952 and served as the Nederland High School until a new building was completed at 18th and Spurlock Road. This is now Central Middle School one of two middle schools here in Nederland.
                Turn right on 17th Street.
                This grove of trees on the corner of the campus was the site of the Seba Carter home. )Seba ten Cate Dutch name). These trees are among the oldest in the city, as the Carter’s were avid gardeners.

17th & DETROIT

4th STOP
                Our next stop will be on the corner of 17th and Helena or (Koelemay Rd.)
                We will not visit the John Koelemay site just now but on the north side to our left there is a large grove of trees near the old rodeo grounds. These trees once shaded the John Koelemay family home (2300 block Helena). The house burned and they rebuilt on 27th and Canal Street. The Koelemay family was the largest to come in those days. They boasted eight almost grown children when they arrive in 1898.
                A little further down Helena (Koelemay Road) on the corner of 27th Street is the C. O. Wilson Middle School. This was the site of the E. T. Smith Dairy and dipping vats. There were 11 dairies in this area at one time. The dipping vat owas used to dip the farm animals to help prevent the many parasites that plagued the people and livestock. It was great fun for the children to climb the fence and watch the animals being run through the vats.

5th STOP
                Turn to the right on Helena.
                You can see again the Interurban right-of-way with the pwer lines. It runs along 16th Street or (Railroad Avenue) until the streets were renamed in 1948.
                Turn to the right on 15th Street.

6th STOP
                Our next stop will be near the second stop sign on 15th Street (Port Arthur Avenue or Sycamore Street) and Detroit.
                This is the northwest boundary of the original city plat.
                On the right is where Captain John Kaper lived at 402 15th Street. The house was built by J. W. Barr. Captain Kaper bought the house and moved his family from Sabine Pass after the 1915 storm.
                Across the street at 1420 Chicago is the home of C. T. Ingwersen. The Ingwersens were said to have moved here in 1900 and the house was believed to have been built in 1903. “Mooch” Ingwersen, youngest of the Ingwersen’s sons, worked for Gulf States. He built their office and ice storage house on the corner of 11th and Nederland Avenue. Every morning Gulf States would ship a refrigerated railroad car to Nederland and Mooch was in charge of unloading the blocks of ice into the ice house, circa 1932.
                We will cross Boston Avenue --- but take a moment, and if you can imagine it ---- there was a house here in the middle of Boston Avenue. The house was bought by the McNeil family in 1911 then sold to the Bradley Bell family and later to Captain and Mrs. W. P. Allen. Captain Allen, along with Captain Kaper, were members of the Sabine Pilots Association. They moved from Sabine Pass after the devastating 1915 storm. Ndrew Johnson bought the house in 1928. It was locally called the Johnson house. When Boston Avenue was opened to 17th Street the house was torn down.

                Next we will look at the two-story houses on the right hand side of 15th Street in the 200 block. Although they have been remodeled, the first house was the home of Mr. Will Goodwin, the city’s first Mayor, elected in 1940.
                The second house was the home of Elmer Henry Spencer. Mr. Spencer came about 1900 and worked for the Texaco asphalt plant and docks at Port Neches. He watched the plant being erected over his favorite swimming hole on the Neches River.

7th STOP
                Cross Nederland Avenue to 14 ½ Street.
                On the corner of Nederland Avenue we will jog to the left and enter 14 ½ Street. On the left was the site of Tom Lee’s Cafeteria. It served hungry residents and visitors for many years.
                1505 Nederland Avenue was the home of the Pat Hackworths. Mr. Hackworth worked for the K.C.S. railroad and was very interested in the Masons and Eastern Star lodges. Their daughter Elenor operated a dancing school in those early days.
                The first house on the left side of 14 ½ Street was rented by the Lee Kelly Family in the early 30’s. The house was on Nederland Avenue and was moved to this location
                Turn to the left at the corner of Avenue A.
                The three houses on the next block on the left side of the street were once Pure Oil Company houses. They were sold and moved to this location.
                Turn left on 14th Street.
                The white two-story house on 15th was the home of the McCauley family. This house also faced Nederland Avenue where the Conoco Food Mart is now. The McCauleys had three daughters and the Kellys lived across the street. Tex Ritter’s family lived just down the street next to the W. S. Gibson house.
                Tex would sit in the back seat of Kelly’s old Buick with the doors wide open and play his guitar. He was said to have told the Kelly children he planned to make his living with his mind not his back. Probably an idea that came to him while working in the rice fields.

8th STOP
                Across Nederland Avenue at 104 13th Street is the First United Methodist Church, founded in 1900. This is the oldest ongoing church in our community. There were 10 charter members, although the list is lost and all the names are not known.
                Our journey will continue on 13th Street.
                We will see the 3rd house built by the James Hector McNeill family at the intersection of 13th an Chicago, now the home of Dale and JoAnn Rienstra.
                13th Street will take us back to Helena Avenue. The house at 1220 Helena was the home of the Dan Rienstra family. The house was moved from Boston Avenue where it was the George Yentzen home. The tile roof had to be removed before the move. It, like many other houses has been remodeled to suit the current residents.
                Turn right onto Helena.
                The Cornilus Doornbos family moved to 1124 Helena so their children could be close to Langham School and not have to ride their horses to school from the farm near the airport.
                Turn right on 12th Street.
                Langham Elementary School was built in 1911 on the playground south of this building. It was torn down in 1948 when the new school was completed.
                Mr. Bluitt Langham had a friend who owned the land where the school was to be built. He bought the land from his friend and got it cheap because Mr. Langham told his friend it was to be used for a school. Langham owned the land about forty minutes before he sold it to the school board.

9th STOP
                Drive a little further on 12th street.
                The beautiful white colonial building was the second house built by the McNeill family. The bricks from chimneys and foundation of the Orange Hotel were used in the foundation of the house.
                Our trip will take us several blocks south on 12th Street. We will cross Boston Avenue (Heeren) and visit it a little later.

10th STOP
                12th Street make a little jog here at Nederland Avenue.
                The YCMA is on Avenue A and South 12th Street. This is the only section of the first High School left. This building was constructed in 1924 and used until 1952. Central Middle School building served as the high school from 1952 until 1971 when the new building was completed at 17th and Spurlock Road.
                411 South 12th Street is the home of M. J. and Christina (Doornbos) Stappers and next door is the M. H. Doornbos home. Mrs. Stappers was the first girl to go away to college and return to teach school.
                Continue on 12th Street to Avenue H.
                As we drive along the beautiful tree lined street try to imagine the first settlers that saw this area. It was much different to what you see here. There were no trees, nothing but marsh grass, prairie and mosquitoes as far as you could see. On the left hand corner of 12th Street and Avenue H is the site of George Rienstra’s home. His nephew Albert Rienstra lives here now. George was Nederland’s first citizen and his sister Fannie was the first woman to live in Nederland. She was 16 years old when she came here to keep house for her brother.
                Pause here at the corner of 12th Street and Avenue H (Wagner Road).
                When the C. D. Wagners and their neighbors, the Gerrit Terwys, traveled down this street, it was a very narrow and muddy trail. The Terwey home at 1603 Avenue H is still the home of their daughter Martha Terwey.

                Now turn to the left on Avenue H and left again on Twin City Highway. We will turn right on Nederland Avenue.

11th STOP
                The shopping center was built on an 80 acre tract bought by P. M. van Heinigen while still in Holland. Peiter M. was on the first shipload of immigrants to come on the “Olinda” from Holland. Peiter and his brother Jacob C., cleared the 80 acres. The rest of the family came later and established a nursery business. Their home was across the street where the American Legion Hall is now.
                The Jacob Doornbos home was built about 1920 adjacent to the railroad. Jacob (Jake) worked for the Port Arthur Rice and Irrigation Company before going into rice farming.
                Lee Meredith lived down the road toward Port Neches, which was a way of saying he lived out of town. He and brother Neal ran a blacksmith shop for many years. It was located on Twin City Highway next to the drug store.

12th STOP
                Turn left on Ninth Street and stop at Boston Avenue.
                In the corner of the yard at 220 Ninth Street and Boston Avenue there is a concrete geological survey marker. It is about 12” square. It is a U. S. Geological survey point for measuring latitude and longitude. Some also measure altitude.
                Left onto Boston Avenue.
                The small building at 923 Boston Avenue is the site of the first library built in 1932. Misses Pauline and Frances Mullins served a librarian and later Mrs. C. E. (Elizabeth) Gibson was the librarian for 17 years. The city grew and the Bob Henson Memorial Library at 1903 Atlanta Avenue was bult in 1963.
                The house at 1007 Boston Avenue was the home of C. E. Gibson. This is the house where seven people met and formed the Baptist Church, circa 1907.

                Continue driving on Boston and stop at the railroad tracks.
                This building at 1155 Boston Avenue now Setzers Hardware store was the site of the Klaas Koelemay’s grain store. Klaas also served at Post Master in the 1920’s.
                Across the street on the other corner is said to be about the location of the first public school. There had been schools for several years but this was the first to be built as a school.

13th STOP
                The K. C. S. is the line built by Arthur Stillwell from Kansas City to Port Arthur in 1897. The depot stood just a few feet north down the tracks from Seltzers Hardware store. Across the tracks is the drugstore. This business has been operating from the early days of this century. At first it was a wooden frame building known as the Halfway-House It was midway between Beaumont and Port Arthur. In 1915 C. D> Wagner bought the property and hired Mr. Slaughter, a local brick mason, to build Nederland’s second brick building. The bank was the first brick building. The drug store had the only telephone in town and the number was #1. During the 1920’s, Fred Alton Roach operated the store and hired boys to serve as car hops.
                Before we continue down Boston Avenue look to the left and see the yellow house at the intersection of Twin City and Atlanta Avenue. This was the home of the C. L. Freeman family. The Freeman’s were responsible for several businesses here: among them was a Saloon, a Hardware store, and a Mercantile Company.
                Drive down Main Street (Heeren) in 1948, Boston Avenue.
                This was a narrow dust trail when the weather was dry. When it rained it was a muddy mess. The street was dark with no lights after the sun went down. The cows, horses, dogs and people all share the same space. Soon some of the farsighted merchants began to build wooden sidewalks in front of their businesses.
                In 1908-1909 the streets were shelled, electricity came in 1914, telephone in 1924, gas in 1926 and water in 1936. After a road tax was levied streets were finally paved in 1948.
                The Mercantile building at 1166 Boston Avenue has been awarded a Historical Marker indicating its long and colorful history here in Nederland.
                Near the second stop light at 1232 Boston Avenue in the back of a small white building is a green house. This is the home of Ms. Ewell E. (Sammie) Quarles since 1936. This house was one of two built by C. L. Freeman. One was to be a saloon but Nederland voted dry before it was used. The house was sold to the Peveto Baptist Church and moved next door to this building. This house was the parsonage. The church was renamed First Baptist Church. The Sears & Roebuck Company donated a large bell to the new church. The bell stands in the lobby of the First Baptist Church.
                The Orange Hotel was where the bank building is now and this area was known as Kings Park Across the street, where the drive through back is now was the site of many festive gatherings. The hotel was built by the Port Arthur Land Company in 1897. This was the home of many people while they were building their own houses. When the oil boom came to the area many people moved to Beaumont to be closer to work and alas, the building was badly damaged in the 1915 storm and fell into disrepair and was demolished.

We return to Tex Ritter Park.
                If you want more details of early businesses or any of our history you can find the answers in the museums.