Article by Ted Gresham
There’s good reason Lufkinites were mildly miffed when their sibling to the north latched on to the title of “Capitol of Forest Country.” If it wasn’t for East Texas forests Lufkin would probably not exist.
Timber, not Cotton, has always been King in this southern city. Steel rails and wood products came together in the late 1800’s.
Lufkin sprouted west of a little town called Homer, the original county seat of Angelina County, and found favor with the railroads even as Homer’s prominence in East Texas history dissolved one fateful night when the Homer constable tossed rowdy railroaders in jail for disturbing the peace.
The East and West Texas Railway bypassed Homer, established a settlement named after Galveston merchant Abraham P. Lufkin, and promoted the settlement by selling lots and supporting the businesses that moved to Lufkin from Homer.
Or so the story goes. Although Lufkin grew up around a plot called Cotton Square, the place where cotton bails from farms were stacked high and sent south on flatcars, it was the rails and pine forests that turned Lufkin into a regional center for commerce and industry.
|Since its incorporation
in 1890, Lufkin has looked forward, grown, and diversified into a city
that pauses only briefly to appreciate its rich past as it pushes boldly
into the future. The city has an active planning division, working with
business and industry to carefully plan growth.
Construction of new business, restaurants and retail around the intersection of Loop 287 and Highway 59 on the south side of town are testaments to the town’s growth. Dining and shopping opportunities rival the noisy suburbs of major cities but without the traffic tangles.
A collection of major hotel chains offer a variety of accommodations within only a couple minutes of the shopping districts. Lufkin isn’t all bags and burgers, though. It has a diversified economy, many attractions, and still enough East Texas country twinkle in its eye to make any city girl smile.
|It’s quite likely the
first introduction anyone gets to Lufkin is the little red sign with
“Lufkin” in white lettering that adorns hundreds of thousands of
tractor-trailers roaming America’s highways. Lufkin Trailers are built
just east of town in at a massive facility owned by Lufkin Industries.
Those red and white signs are also well known to people in the Oil Patch. Lufkin Industries is a prominent supplier of oil field pumping units worldwide. Lufkin Industries’ marine gears, massive cogs milled on machines a couple of stories high, turn the screws of ships in every ocean.
Lufkin Trailers’ history goes back to the days of logging wagons while the pumper and marine gear divisions got their start as machine shops at the turn of the 20th century where sawmill equipment was repaired and maintained.
|Lufkin Industries is
one of the largest employers in town. Other industries, predominantly
producers of forest products, helped with growth but have since lost their
luster as forest products have given way to other industries and
businesses that are now leading the way.
The first paper mill to use southern Pine was built just east of town in 1939 and cranked out newsprint for six decades. The mill, now owned by the Canadian firm Abitibi, sits quiet as the city and county try to find ways to talk its owners into cranking it back up.
Other major industries include Texas Foundries, now owned by Citation, and Atkinson Candies, home of the famous Chico Stick, Coconut log and many other popular candies.
Lufkin is a growing tourist destination, though for exceptionally
different reasons. Lufkin has two museums, an excellent zoo, the
aforementioned shopping opportunities, and an abundance of recreational
facilities a short drive from the city.
The Texas Forest Museum’s exhibits tell the history of Texas’ forest industry and, in the process, much of the history of Lufkin.
There’s an interpretive trail behind the main building that helps visitors to understand East Texas forests. An old depot, a steam engine, and a once-vital fire tower are on display near the trail. Downtown, the Museum of East Texas fills in the gaps of Lufkin’s history.
The original building, where the museum
was founded in 1974, was once the home of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church.
The edifice was built in 1906. The museum has grown and expanded and is
now a primary center for culture and the arts in East Texas.
The Ellen Trout Zoo,
located in north Lufkin, is a highly regarded zoo featuring more than 500
animals, both native and exotic. The zoo opened in 1967 as the home of
“Hippy,” a young Hippo who thrilled visitors for decades in his special
quarters near the zoo entrance.
Hippy has gone on to Hippo heaven but his legacy remains, as does the old cage and pool where he lived. A much larger hippo exhibit across the zoo allows kids to rub noses with hippos through a thick glass window on the other side of which massive animals frolic in a cloudy pool.
Giraffes nibble at pine bark nearby. The zoo sits within Ellen Trout Park, an attraction itself, with a train ride, beautiful lake, and playground.
|Next to Ellen Trout
Park and Zoo is one of the busiest of Lufkin’s attractions, the George H.
Henderson Jr. Exposition Center.
Something is going on beneath the metal roof and massive girders most every weekend, from horse shows to carnivals to the well known Texas Forest Festival, held every September.
The Forest Festival doubles the population of Lufkin once a year. Part of the festival, the Southern Hushpuppy Olympics, attracts big crowds and is broadcast on the Food Channel and the Travel Channel. Food booths, music, and the Lumberjack show round out the annual event.
Another venue in Lufkin, the Pitzer Garrison Civic Center, houses an assortment of activities year ‘round. The facility, adjacent to the Museum of East Texas, is the location of everything from boat shows to gun shows to Gospel concerts.
|Rounding out the
reasons to visit Lufkin are the many recreational opportunities a short
distance beyond the city limits. To the east is Lake Sam Rayburn, an
excellent place for fishing and boating.
The lake covers over a hundred thousand acres and has more than twenty parks and concessions.
Several major access points are a short half-hour’s drive out Highway 103 east of Lufkin. There’s boat ramps, plenty of opportunities to wet a hook, and several campsites on the lake.
East Texas is a land rich in culture, loaded with history, filled with kind-hearted country folks.
|The Lufkin /
Nacogdoches area is at the crossroads of yesterday and tomorrow, lesser
known destinations but destinations well worth visiting. It’s a region of
old-time country charm and forward-looking progress.
It doesn’t really matter if one chooses to stay at a quiet Bed and Breakfast in a Nacogdoches neighborhood or if the choice is a quality room at one of Lufkin’s fine hotels. Either way, there’s plenty to keep visitors going for days on end. A good many visitors take such an interest in the area that they decide to cast off city life and make the Forest Country their home.
If the idea suits you it’ll be no time before you’re sporting a Panther t-shirt or a Dragon Pride baseball cap and jumping into the fun squabbles between the sibling cities that always make life interesting and fun in East Texas.
City of Lufkin,
Official Web site for the City of Lufkin Texas providing department
information, on-line services, live webcasting and much more.
Be sure to check out the
City Hall Update,
a short streaming video covering upcoming events, new facilities, and
construction status within the City. You can also sign up for the
video feed at youtube, an outstanding resource for anyone
interested in what's going on in Lufkin.
Angelina College, 936-639-1301, Angelina College Procurement Assistance, 936-633-5424
Lufkin, Lufkin was one of the first Texas cities to be
designated as a "Texas Certified Retirement Community".
Junior League of Lufkin is an organization of women
committed to promoting volunteerism and to improving the community through
the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.
Lufkin Economic Development Corp, in-depth look at Lufkin and Angelina County, Texas useful in your expansion or relocation search.
Small Business Development Center, 926-633-5400
Fuller Springs, 936-699-4532
Memorial Health Systems, 936-634-8111
Woddlands Heights Medical Center, 936-634-8311
Lufkin Police Department, 936-633-0356
Angelina County Sheriff, 936-634-3331
Diboll Pollice Department, 936-829-5586
Hudson Police Department, 936-875-3022
Huntington Police Department, 936-422-4195
Texas Highway Patrol, 936-634-5553
Best Western Crown Colony Inn & Suites, 936-634-3481
Best Western Diboll Inn, 936-829-2055
Budget Inn, 936-639-1122
Comfort Suites, 936-632-4949
Executive Inn & Suites, 936-632-6605
Expo Inn, 936-632-7300
Hampton Inn & Suites, 936-699-2500
Holiday Inn, 936-639-3333
La Quinta Inn, 936-634-3351
Super 8, 936-632-8885
Crown Colony Villas, 936-637-8888
Angelina Motel, 936-634-7535
Beams Motel, 936-632-5563
Lewis Motel, 936-634-3527
Lufkin Inn, 936-634-6626
Motel 6, 936-637-7850
Petty's Motel, 936-634-5571
Sun N Pines, 936-634-6676
Tavo's American Motel, 936-639-1255
Bed & Breakfast
Wistera Hideaway, 936-875-2914
The Storybook Inn, 936-875-5580
|Lufkin Camping & RV Parks
Bollier's Trailer Park, 936-634-7113
Bouton Lake, 936-897-1068
Boykin Springs Recreation Area, 936-897-1068
Burke-Pine Oaks Oasis RV Park, 936-829-1068
Champs RV Park, 936-634-3580
Diamond D RV Park, 936-634-3112
Dickerson's RV Park, 936-632-9840
El Pescador Loco, 936-854-2071
Ewing Park, 936-854-2223
Sandy Creek, 936-897-1068
|Lufkin Meeting Facilities
George H. Henderson, Jr. Exposition,
Texas Explorer Productions
A quick video tour of Lufkin Texas.
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