Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Bridge City officially became city on July 7, 1970

On July 7 ,fifty-four years ago, Orange County's newest city was born as residents in the community of Bridge City voted to formally incorporate.

It was a long journey from a community that started out with pioneer settlers in the 1800s moving to the county and making a settlement they first called Prairie View because it was in the coastal prairie of the Gulf of Mexico.

Residents in the community of Bridge City went to the polls on July 7. A total of 1,123 votes were cast with 677, more than half, approving incorporation. Two previous elections in 1960 had failed when only 4,677 people lived there.

But in 1970, the community, which had a population of 8,124, was facing annexation attempts from the cities of Port Arthur and Orange.

The name Bridge City came because travelers on roads must cross bridges. The city is home to two landmark bridges, both recognized with official state historical markers.

A bit of the city's past includes looking at the conditions people had to live through in the 19th Century.

The settlement of Prairie View was along dirt roads that turned muddy during the frequent rains. Travel, of course, was by horse or mule, or a buggy or wagon pulled by them. The small community even had its own common school district and school. The original teacherage, a house used as housing for teachers, was moved to become the current office of the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce, along with a museum about the community.

A ferry was operated across the Neches River into Jefferson County for many years. Ferry Road leads up to the crossing, which is now on what is known as "Bailey's Road," though maps may list it as Lake Street.

By the time automobiles were crossing the ferry, traffic was getting heavy. In 1926, Henry and Mary Bailey, both survivors of the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, moved their 10 children to a place they built by the ferry loading zone. They had a seafood restaurant and store, plus sold gasoline. The business opened on July 4 that year. When Prohibition ended, they opened a dancehall and bar.

Two of their 10 children, Rob, who would have been 15 in 1926, and Fred, who would have been 6, later operated longtime businesses on the road after the deaths of their parents.

In the 1930s, a nightclub called the Silver Slipper opened on Lake Street. The club drew clientele of all types and featured gambling in a back room. The club gained national notoriety in 1935 when the minister of the First Baptist Church in Orange led an unauthorized raid on the club on a Saturday night. The Orange police chief two days later took away the preacher's guns, and the next day, the preacher shot and killed the police chief outside a cafe in downtown Orange.

But the construction of a huge bridge for motorists to cross the Neches left that road without a lot of traffic. The grand Port Arthur-Orange Bridge, later renamed Rainbow Bridge, was completed in 1938 with great pomp.

Two years later, the Cow Bayou swing bridge with Highway 87 opened and motorists could travel straight through from Orange to Jefferson County by traveling along Highway 87.

The two-lane highway became Texas Avenue and a thriving business district grew for the newly-named community.

The community had a U.S. Post Office open in 1942 as World War II brought a population boom to the county with shipyards, plus oil refineries in Port Arthur were going night and day. Many people moving to the area for work went to the Bridge City area to find housing.

After the war, DuPont Sabine River Works opened as the first petrochemical plant in the county. Others soon followed in the 1960s. Bridge City's population grew with new housing developments drawing people to live there.

After a drop in population in 1980 as the oil-bust began, Bridge City grew again. However, the population again dropped drastically in the 2010 census months after Hurricane Ike's storm surge flooded most of the city's homes and businesses.

But Bridge City wasn't down. The city grew up to 9,546 population in the 2020 census.

 

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