The catastrophic destruction Hurricane Harvey left in Rockport-Fulton on August 25, 2017 was beyond devastating for all the people who called this place home.
The town’s Fulton Mansion State Historic Site—one of the Texas Historical Commission’s 22 historic sites and rated first on the list of things to see in Rockport-Fulton—suffered significant damage. The hurricane completely destroyed the flat metal roof and chimneys and left major water damage to interior collections, carpets, and plaster walls.
The site’s Education and History Center sustained minor damage, and those repairs have been completed. The grounds have been cleaned up, new fencing installed, oak trees trimmed, and the dead palm trees removed. With help from the Friends of Fulton Mansion, the Education and History Center reopened on November 2, 2017.
“Aransas County businesses depend on tourism, so it was very important that we get the site open to the public to help the area recover quickly from the hurricane,” said Marsha Hendrix, former site manager at Fulton Mansion.
Mansion staff and volunteers have been active in the community by participating in local events to provide fun activities for Aransas County youth, like holiday-themed parties on the beach. Additionally, the Aransas County Education Foundation selected the mansion grounds to host a high-profile benefit event —the Symphony by the Sea Concert with the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra and the Rockport-Fulton High School choir —after the RFHS music department suffered damage to its performance hall, instruments, and sheet music.
The Friends of the Texas Historical Commission (FTHC) is currently raising funds to repair the damage caused by the hurricane to the Fulton Mansion collections. The FTHC recently received a $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities through its Chairman’s Emergency Grant Fund. This grant, the maximum amount for any single award through this program, was made to restore the damaged portraits, books and encyclopedia collections, and textile collections in the house.
Additionally, Humanities Texas awarded a grant of $6,000 to FTHC to support the collections restoration, and the San Antonio Conservation Society made a gift of $5,000 to assist with the storage of the collections once restored. FTHC also received a $10,000 donation from the Margaret Sue Rust Foundation and $5,000 donation from a neighbor to help with the recovery.
Thanks to these generous donations, restoration of the iconic home progressed, and on March 10 the Fulton Mansion re-opened for self-guided hard hat tours. The home is now open for regular visiting hours six days a week. Visitors can view posters with information about each room and a photo of what the room would look like with the furnishings. The posters also point out some of the hurricane damage.
Volunteers and staff highlight the architectural, hardware, and wood details. Visitors are enjoying the mansion in a different way. When an 8-year old was asked what he thought of the mansion, he said, “The doorknobs were awesome.”
Because many visitors want to know about the hurricane, volunteers and staff share their hurricane stories. Large collection pieces and office furniture are covered in plastic in some of the rooms, but in several rooms, visitors can see the fireplaces up close, look out windows, and admire the cypress wood floors.