Rebuilding Historic Texas Avenue: Harbour's Cafe
Sabrina Galloway-Tourism Visitor Outreach Specialist
Texas Avenue’s Town Square is slowly turning into a beautiful venue for outdoor events and unique shopping. After a long spell of slow commerce, Town Square is becoming the perfect spot for a day with the family or a romantic Saturday date night. Although this may sound surprising, Texas Avenue used to be THE place to be. When Texas Avenue was first settled, it was the center of all commerce for Goose Creek. After the discovery of oil, this area exploded with growth and people came from all over to settle down in one of the three towns that later merged to form Baytown.
The Tourism Department was interested in what Goose Creek used to be! We became interested in first hand experiences, stories, and photos that we came across. We’ve contacted individuals that grew up during this time, and can remember Texas Avenue back before the snake was put in. This is the start of a series of blogs called, “Rebuilding Historic Texas Avenue.”
The first piece of history that we will start with is Harbour’s Café. A section of what is now Rooster’s, used to be owned by Glen and Lecile Harbour. Mr. Harbour, a 1934 graduate of our very own Robert E. Lee High School, went on to become an Air Corpsman during World War II. Upon his return, he opened a barbecue stand on the corner of Texas and N. Main. He soon transformed it into a full blown restaurant named Harbour’s Café.
In the top left photograph, Mr. Harbour stands to the left of another citizen of Goose Creek. The photo on the right is the only surviving picture of the outside of Harbour's Café we have. It was taken as they were moving the train engine down Texas Avenue to Roseland Park, where it sits presently.
According to Jack Mooney, Glen and Lecile's nephew, Mr. Harbour would arrive early every morning to prepare breakfast for the local fisherman. This breakfast spread of eggs, bacon, sausage, and split glazed donuts grilled to a crisp were cooked to perfection on a large open faced grill. Rare to the area, a milk machine server was used to provide the coldest milk. Mrs. Harbour, whose nickname was “Sister,” would arrive a bit after Glen to prepare lunch and dinner along with the most delectable pies. Coming in as top favorites were meringue, pineapple, lemon, coconut, and of course apple and pecan. The unforgettable barbecue was smoked the night before and served alongside freshly grown vegetables. Mr. Mooney and his sister, Donna, have fond memories of spending their grade-school summer’s working in the delightful Café. Receiving $3.50 a day in wages, they worked alongside their family from 5 am to 7 pm every day. Pictured below is the inside of Harbour's Café. As you can tell, it's a rather old photo, but the smile on Mr. Harbour's face (all the way to the right) is timeless.
It’s not only a family thing. Harbour’s Café was also a large part of the community. Everyone knew the Harbour’s, and loved to sit for a spell, eat some delicious grub, and visit with friends. Mr. Leroy Ginzel, a long time Baytonian, remembers sharing his meals with great conversation and friends at Harbour’s Café all the way back to the 1940’s. Our very own Assistant Fire Chief, Bernard Olive, recalls the Café as “the gathering place for everyone.” He remembers it being “the place to meet for lunch, because you were made to feel comfortable and the food was great.” And that’s what the Tourism Division wants you all to know. The smiles, laughter, and comradery is a lasting memorial that everyone who stepped inside of Harbour’s Café will have.
No one instills that as much as the owners of Rooster’s Steakhouse, which holds the present day location of Harbour’s Café. Having been sold by the Harbour’s in 1978, the Cox’s have worked hard to keep the eatery a family based, community driven environment.
Seasons have passed, years have crept by, but the comradery, laughter, and hometown spirit has stayed alive through Rooster’s Steakhouse. As Mr. Olive said, "Harbour’s Café was the Roosters of today. It has encompassed everything Harbour’s Café was and exemplified." And if anything is comparable to the Harbour’s Café that I’ve seen bring so many nostalgic smiles and memorable stories to the faces of Baytonians, then it’s definitely somewhere I’d like to suggest as a dining option. Take a visit to Rooster’s Steakhouse on the corner of Main and Texas Avenue. There’s historical memorabilia lining all of the walls that help tell the story of Harbour’s but also Baytown. It’s something you won’t regret.
As we continue on this journey to see what Texas Avenue once was, I encourage you to look to our Facebook page for our Throwback Thursday’s, where we bring back a piece of Baytown’s history. You might be surprised by what you didn’t know about our growing city's past.
Barb Wooster, Baytonian
Anna Yowell, Tourism Coordinator
Sheree Cardwell, Tourism Marketing Specialist
Grey Scott, City of Baytown Human Resources Manager
John Britt, Historian & College Professor