A favorite coastal hideaway from past to present

Tucked behind St. Jose Island, on the western side of the Gulf of Mexico, where in July 1845, Lt. Chandler of the USS Alabama waded ashore and planted the first flag in Texas, lies the fishing village of Rockport. In the early 1800’s, the lore is that pirates plied the waters of Aransas and Copano Bays. Later, it blossomed as a shipping port and after the railroad came into town in 1886, becoming a favorite coastal hideaway for Texans.

Maritime Museum

Texas Maritime Museum

The Mission of the Texas Maritime Museum is to excite and educate the public about Texas Maritime history and artifacts. The Museum’s purpose is to offer a variety of experiences to children and adults by collecting, preserving, and interpreting items of historical interest for educational purposes; to recount Texas maritime history through artifacts, documents, and other materials of unique or historical value; and to exhibit items to further the public interest, knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of such material and related historical background.

Visit the Texas Maritime Museum at texasmaritimemuseum.org

Official Maritime Museum Of the State of Texas

In 1987 the Texas Legislature named the Texas Maritime Museum the official Maritime Museum of the State of Texas, re-stated in – perpetuity in 2007. August 5, 2005 marks the Museum’s accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums.

Museum’s Collections and Exhibits are based on four central themes

  • History and Technology of offshore petroleum production and transportation
  • History and Development of Texas seaports, maritime communities and maritime commerce along the Gulf of Mexico
  • Exploration and Settlement history of the Texas Gulf Coast beginning with the Spanish and French
  • The Texas seafood and fishing industry
Texas Maritime Museum

Character and History of Rockport Texas

Rockport was founded in 1867. The earliest Post Office was established in 1868, and Vicktor F. Bracht was appointed Postmaster by President Grover Cleveland. Rockport was incorporated as a town in 1870, and was the County Seat of Refugio County for a brief period. Aransas County was formed from Refugio County in 1871. The City of Rockport was incorporated in 1871. Most of the buildings were constructed of wood. One of those buildings was a two-story grocery store owned by Fred Brunner. When he died in 1885, his wife sold the business to Simon B. Sorenson.

Simon Sorenson and James Hooper became partners, and it was called Sorenson & Hooper. They sold groceries, hardware, and feed. In 1890, this store and many of the businesses in Rockport burned when the Finish Saloon & Gambling Hall, which was located on Water Street behind the Sorenson Building, caught fire. The original building was replaced by a two-story brick one, which survived another devasting downtown fire in 1891. In 1895, another fire damaged the second story of the building. The first floor was restored. Although James Hooper left and started a grocery store farther south on Austin Street, he and Simon Sorenson remained friends. Simon’s son, John Curry Sorenson, joined him in the business and the business was renamed Simon B. Sorenson & Sons. Simon died in the spring of 1916. The business became John C. Sorenson & Sons.

The building withstood the 1916, 1919, 1942 and other hurricanes in those years before hurricanes were named. It also withstood Carla, and Beulah in the 1960s. In 1970, when Celia took off the roof and destroyed the stock, Paul Clark Sorenson decided he had had enough. Times had changed, and people were shopping at supermarkets. He sold the building to Estelle Stair. By 1978 it housed her gallery and the Rockport Art Association. The building survived Harvey and has been restored once again. It is still standing in the Rockport Cultural Arts District as the Estelle Stair Gallery.

– Janie White, The Aransas County Historical Society,
Postal address: P.O. Box 702, Rockport, TX 78382

Visit the Aransas County Historical Society at achs1985.org

Sorenson Store 1890
The Sorenson Store was built in 1980 by Simon. B. Sorenson who ran a grocery, hardware, feed and grain store in a wooden building on Austin Street beginning in 1886. In 1890 that building burned, and was replaced with the brick one that is still standing on Austin Street today. The building was sold t o Estelle Stair, and by 1978, it housed her gallery and the Rockport Art Association. The building survived Harvey and has been restored once again. It is in the Rockport Cultural Arts District as the Estelle Stair Gallery.

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