Historic US 90 - Abandoned East Orange, Louisiana
Also see Historic US90 Sabine Memorial Bridge, Historic US90 - Burned Out Bridge and Historic US90 - Abandoned
"Once upon a time – at least in the minds of its inhabitants – the city of Orange extended well across the Sabine River, stretching eastward into the Louisiana marshes almost all the way to Vinton.
Known to all as East Orange, La. – and easily accessible across a Sabine River swing bridge and, a mile or so farther along, a mile-long wooden bridge – that adopted “extension” of town was a virtual playland for the hardworking people of Southeast Texas for much of the first half of the 20 th Century.
As the 1930s Great Depression hit its stride, through the boom years of World War II, and into the early 1950’s, the people of Orange County did what they had to do to find the money, the time and the transportation to cross that Sabine River for a little fun at one or more of the dozens of alcohol-serving dance-halls, showboats, gambling rooms, supper clubs, gumbo huts, and – rumor was – an occasional house of prostitution that sprang up there after U.S. Highway 90 was completed from the end of Green Avenue to Lake Charles. What had begun as a few low-rent night spots, frequented by ferry-riding Texans even before in 1927, suddenly mushroomed into a gambling, dancing, dining and drinking mecca.
For most Southeast Texans, the fun palaces of East Orange were enough; the more adventurous, however, traveled even farther east where. As they approached Louisiana’s Calcasieu River, they found another growing cluster of Silver Strip nightclubs and gambling joints…
During World War II, rationing meant supplies did not come easily to the supper clubs. It also was harder to get to East Orange, La.; gasoline was among the things rationed. Both restaurants and their Texas customers had to get creative to keep the part going. People who might have crossed the river in three cars now went in one. “You made one trip count,” Mrs Quigley said.
With the war came a big boom in business and population in post-Depression Orange County; by 1942 there were three times as many people in Orange, with big shipbuilding-economy money to gamble. Joining native Texans in East Orange during those years were members of the U.S. Navy and their shadows, the Shore Patrol. Some clubs barred Navy personnel from their premises, but others just counted the money brought in…
Felix DeMary’s Dinner Club – one of the last clubs to close after the sudden enforcement of Louisiana gambling laws in the 1950s and the opening of the Interstate Highway 10 bridge in 1960 spelled doom to Highway 90 business – was the first place on the right after Southeast Texans crossed the Sabine River bridge in those early days, and a favorite with Orange countians. Next door to it was the popular Flamingo Club.
On the left side of the road, between the river and the mile-long bridge, were a German beer garden, the Night Owl, Club Irving, and Buster’s Night Club/East Orange, La. The latter was established by M.J. “Buster” Johnson in the early ‘30s, and billed as “The Spot You Should Not Miss.” Johnson is said to have booked popular bands into his night spot regularly including, for a one-night stand, Guy Lombardo. (Later, Buster’s 2 was opened at the end of Cemetery Road, off Highway 90, where the Louisiana travel center now stands.)
Right in the middle of that Highway 90 group of clubs was the famed Show Boat Harry Lee, a great sternwheel steamer which had plied the waters of the Mississippi River, out of Memphis, Tenn., for years before tying up on the Louisiana border canal that had been created when the highway was built…
On the right side of the road as Texans exited the east end of the mile-long bridge stood the Crystal Palace, followed by, on the banks of Mud Lake, Pete Aucion’s. Just past Mud Lake, on the left, stood The Grove, Mrs. Box. Dunnes’s Liquor Store, Rainbow Club, Blue Lake Club, and the Sabine Club. Across from them were E.J.’s Club, Silvin Club and Stompin’ Henry’s. On past Cemetery Road, as years passed, were built the Pelican Club, the Palamino, Lou Ann’s and, in 1952, the Shady Rest Motel, according to research done by Donald P. Brown of Orange…
By the time the Sabine River swing bridge was removed in the early 1960s. leaving a river levee deadend at the end of Green avenue, East Orange, La., no longer existed.
On June 16, 1973, the famed mile-long bridge was set afire. A few of its charred pilings still are visible to sightseers winding their way down narrow Old Highway 90 to its watery Louisiana end.
Linda B. Farris"
Topographical map and satellite image (1989).
(image reproduced from MapPoint® )