SPINDLETOP-GLADYS CITY BOOMTOWN MUSEUM

Troy B. Gray
Spindletop-Glady City Boomtown Museum.
The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont offers visitors a recreation of the oil boomtown of Gladys City. Courtesy Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.

SPINDLETOP-GLADYS CITY BOOMTOWN MUSEUM. The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum opened in 1976 and is administered by Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. The museum commemorates the discovery of oil by Capt. Anthony Lucas and the Hamill brothers on January 10, 1901, at Spindletop Hill near Beaumont. The buildings at the museum are recreations of the structures that were at the original Gladys City and near Spindletop Hill. The boomtown museum was a result of years of planning, fundraising, and research. 

In 1940 Beaumont citizens, anticipating the golden anniversary of the discovery of oil at Spindletop, organized the Lucas Gusher Monument Association. They erected a granite obelisk and placed it at the original drilling site. Due to years of extracting oil and sulphur, the monument became unstable and was moved in 1955. Plans to build a visitors center to sell souvenirs near the monument never came to fruition. With help from Lamar University professor William Seale, citizens and oil industry leaders began work on an actual museum in the late 1960s. Sun Oil Company donated a building, and a museum opened in 1971. 

R. C. Grinnell's Log Cabin Saloon at the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.
R. C. Grinnell's Log Cabin Saloon was one of fourteen buildings constructed to recreate the boomtown days of Gladys City. Courtesy Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.

In 1975, as the United States Bicentennial and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the gusher approached, old plans to rebuild a boomtown were brought out again. Sun Oil Company donated the land, and a community fundraising effort began, which involved the city of Beaumont, Beaumont Bicenntennial Commission, Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, and many private organizations. Craft and bake sales were held, and employees of industrial plants were encouraged to buy shares in the project. Calvin Smith was hired as its first director to carry out the vision. He proposed the construction of fourteen buildings to assemble a “representative recreation of the main establishments in operation during the boomtown” days of Gladys City, and he curated photographs, documents, and artifacts to exhibit in the buildings. The buildings included Waukenshaw Steelworks Company; a barbershop; R.C. Grinnell’s Log Cabin Saloon; Guffey, Texas, post office; A.L.Gibson’s Dry Goods Store; a general store and living quarters; Beaumont Oil Exchange; Edgerton’s Photography Studio; Gladys City Drug Store; Gladys City Oil, Gas & Manufacturing Company; Nelson & White, Engineers; Southern Carriage Works; and Broussard’s Livery Stable. Another structure (T. A. Lamb & Son, Printers), not part of the original design, opened in October 2012.

Replica Gusher at Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.
Water shoots high into the sky to simulate the original Spindletop oil gusher at the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont. Courtesy Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.

Calvin Smith’s goal was to choose examples of the buildings used by the people of the boomtowns for all aspects of daily life. The workers, of course, needed places to eat, sleep, and have fun. He used C.B. Hice’s 1903 Spindle Top Directory and Guide as a resource to provide actual names and locations of businesses for the Gladys City recreation. The complex also has four derricks, one of which gushes water as high as the original gusher.

Replica Gusher at Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.
Visitors delight in the Spindletop "gusher." Courtesy Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.

The boomtown, like the earlier museum, was given to Lamar University to operate. Gladys City officially opened on January 10, 1976. Additionally, a new Spindletop Museum opened in its own building, located several blocks from the Gladys City complex, on April 1, 1978. 

The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum has one full-time director, four part-time staff members, and an advisory council. The anniversary of the Lucas Gusher is held around January 10 each year. This event, the Drillers Reunion, brings people from all over Texas to see reenactments, crafts, games, and other activities. The centennial of the Lucas Gusher in 2001 brought thousands out to see the first gusher reenactment, a new visitor’s center, and Former President George H.W. Bush, who was the speaker for the day.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Beaumont Enterprise, October 10, 2016. Lamar University Press, January 21, 1977; March 31, 1978. Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown, Lamar University (http://www.lamar.edu/spindletop-gladys-city/), accessed October 13, 2016.

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Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Troy B. Gray, "SPINDLETOP-GLADYS CITY BOOMTOWN MUSEUM," accessed September 20, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/lbs10.

Uploaded on October 23, 2016. Modified on October 26, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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