What caused fire at Del Mar hotel?

By KAM WAGERT
Friends of History Center for Aransas County

John Traylor, a civic leader and politician in Aransas County, built the Aransas Hotel in 1889. It took up an entire city block, and was three stories high. At the time, it was the largest wooden structure in Texas. It boasted more than 100 rooms, and most of the bedroom furniture was made by convicts at the Huntsville prison.

The huge open dining room could seat 200 people. Guests were entertained by orchestras, plays, and Professor Attwater’s mounted bird display. They could take a cruise in Traylor’s yacht, or walk on the long pier in front of the hotel out to the Bailey Pavilion. The hotel guests could dine on such delicacies as turtle steaks, Taft ranch beef, and fresh seafood. The hotel had its own bakery, which provided fresh breads and pastries daily. There was even a grand ball every Saturday night.

The hotel was remodeled and renamed the Del Mar Hotel in the mid 1890s. By 1906, the structure had deteriorated and was abandoned. Then on March 2, 1919, a fire broke out. Several sources reported the fire lasted for a week. One legend has been told of the roof, on fire, being carried by the wind out into Copano Bay where it burned several days. Men came in their little boats and fished, some say floundered with gigs, by the light of the burning roof.

But the mystery remains, what caused the fire? Was it someone smoking or playing with matches? Could it have been arson? I guess we will never know the answer.

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The History Center for Aransas County showcases local heritage.  Outdoor and indoor exhibits tell the stories of the real people of Aransas County. The Center provides space for displays, workshops, meetings and gatherings.

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