Fire destroys Eddingston Court building; men seeing fleeing area before blaze

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2020

An apartment building at the city’s historical Eddingston Court was destroyed by a fire midday Tuesday.

A portion of Procter Street was closed off as four engines, one ladder truck along with multiple Port Arthur firefighters, battled the blaze at 3300 Procter St. Fire marshal Paul Washburn said a neighbor described seeing two to three males exiting the building before the fire.

Anyone who can identify the individuals are asked to call the fire investigation hotline at 409-983-8715. The caller may be eligible for a cash reward if the persons are identified.

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Washburn could not speculate if the those seen leaving the vacant apartment building were homeless or not but did say they do not match the description of the males seen leaving a suspicious fire on Jan. 1 in the 2600 block of 31st Street.

Firefighters were in defensive mode Tuesday while battling the blaze at Eddingston Court.

“The main priority is to keep it from the next building,” Washburn said, adding firefighters did not enter the building, which is said to have a basement — rare for structures in the city. “Due to this being a vacant structure and the advanced stage of the fire when we got here, we’re not going to risk firefighters’ lives.”

Authorities said at least two males were seen leaving the scene before the fire started.

Fog played a factor of sorts in the fire by holding the smoke lower to the ground.

Crackling and popping noises from the fire could be heard for several blocks around the building as smoke created a curtain across the perimeter of the grounds and median.

Port Arthur District 2 Councilman Cal Jones stopped by the scene and spoke with officials. He said the buildings were secluded and locked and was not sure how someone could have gotten inside.

Wendell Prater, who lives nearby, stood and watched as firefighters worked.

“Certain things are synonymous with Port Arthur; Eddingston Court, Rose Hill, the Sea Wall. This (Eddingston Court) means something to the city,” Prater said, adding he has read the history of the property.

Eddingston Court was once the focus of postcards and a focal point along Procter Street for its conch shell fence created from 6,000 conch shells imported from the Caymen Islands by then owner and tugboat captain Ambrose Eddingston for construction of the shell wall.

A number of residents lived in the buildings, some for decades, but the property has been vacant for a number of years now.

Prater, who passes by the property on his walks, said he hated to see the property vacant for so long, saying he had hoped someone would buy it and make it vibrant again.

The property has four apartment buildings and two houses, Port Arthur Fire Marshal Paul Washburn said.