In 1840, East Coast entrepreneur George W. Fulton married Harriet Smith, daughter of powerful Republic-era politician Henry Smith. After Harriet’s father died, Fulton turned Harriet’s land inheritance on Aransas Bay into a ranching and meatpacking empire as part of the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company. During the 1870s, the Fultons made their fortune shipping cattle tallow and hides between Rockport and New Orleans. To symbolize their success, they built a mansion called Oakhurst. The mansion was built over a period of three years, 1874–1877, and was the showplace of the town named for them.
Fulton was a man of many talents who achieved some success as an engineer and inventor as well as a ranching entrepreneur and promoter of the Texas Gulf Coast. Harriet Smith Fulton was a devoted wife and companion throughout their marriage of more than 50 years, with many talents and skills of her own. Their bayside residence is a classic example of French Second Empire domestic architecture and is also a very personal and innovative dwelling. The historical significance of the house lies in its noteworthy architectural style, unique construction methods and advanced mechanical systems — which featured gas lighting, central heating and indoor plumbing with hot and cold running water — and includes the history of the Fulton family who built it and lived in it for 18 years.
Did You Know?
- The Fultons called their home Oakhurst for the majestic windswept oaks that surrounded the property.
- When the Fulton Mansion was built, its architectural style and mechanical systems were not typically found in this region. It was the only house in the area to have central heating, gas lighting and indoor plumbing.
- Fulton Mansion passed through a succession of owners — a private residence, a restaurant, a backdrop for a trailer park and a recreation center — until its acquisition by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1976. In 2008, the mansion became a Texas Historical Commission property.