Monday, September 25, 2023 Sep 25, 2023
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Escapes Backtracking

By A. P. |

Just this side of Louisiana on Big Cypress Creek and Caddo Lake sits the nemesis of 19th-century industrialist Jay Gould -a charmed weekend respite 150 years old and only three hours away. Jefferson, Texas, was the town that said “no” to Jay Gould and his Texas and Pacific railroad.

At one time, Jefferson was Texas’ second largest port. The death of the steamboat and the wrath of Gould almost turned Jefferson into a ghost town.

But, thanks to some determined and proud citizens, Jefferson began a renaissance in the Seventies. The major project was to save the Excelsior Hotel from being converted into apartments. The Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club led the project, spending $200,000 to restore the old hotel to its 19th-century grandeur.

The Excelsior has 14 rooms, all with 19th-century furnishings. The hotel displays several old guest registers with signatures of famous guests such as Ulysses S. Grant, Lyndon B. Johnson, Oscar Wilde and W.H. Vanderbilt.

Jefferson is renowned for its antique shops. All 24 of them are open seven days a week, and the Excelsior rents bicycles to make the rounds on.

To guarantee a stay at the Excelsior, make reservations well in advance. However, cancellations are common, so if you want to go on the spur of the moment, try giving them a call, (214) 665-2513. Other hotels include the Jefferson Inn and the Quality Inn. There are also a dozen or so bed and breakfast houses.

The quickest route to Jefferson by car is 1-20 from Dallas to Marshall, then take Route 59 from Marshall to Jefferson. But half the fun of going to Jefferson is the scenery, and there are several scenic routes that are nearly as fast. One is to drive to Terrell and catch Highway 80 through towns like Frog, Hoard and Fruitvale. When you reach Big Sandy, take Route 155 toward Gilmer. Go through Gilmer and get on Route 729 just past Lake of the Pines and follow it into Jefferson.