What Made Orange Great: The Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce has promoted Orange for 134 Years

Published 5:50 am Wednesday, November 24, 2021

By Mike Louviere

The beginning of the Orange Chamber of Commerce was in 1887 when a citizen’s committee was formed with Putnam B. Curry serving as president. Curry was the owner and publisher of the Orange Daily Tribune from 1892 to 1895. He also served as president of the Orange Ice, Light, and Water Works for several years.

In 1899, the organization became the Board of Trade. Curry was elected president and served for several more years.

The first publication of the new Board was done in 1901 and was titled “Orange, Texas: The Gate City to the Great State of Texas”. At that time, G. Bidell Moore was president, J.W. Link was vice president, and H.C. Lockwood was secretary. They described Orange as “The Winter Garden of America.”

The Orange Daily Tribune of November 7, 1902, wrote “A meeting of the citizens of Orange to prepare for the arrival of the Chicago Capitalists took place in the Club Room of the Holland Hotel. Colonel W.D. Bettis as local chairman, opened the meeting and read the communication to the Chicago and Texas committees. The citizens present agreed to make the affair as elaborate as possible. There would be a fine luncheon at the Holland Hotel and a trip down the Sabine River on the steamer Lawrence, which was kindly lent to the organization by John H. Kirby, with his complements.

In 1901, Judge J.A. Holland had been elected chairman by acclamation and a meeting was held to organize a Board of Trade or a Progressive League.

It was decided that those present would start the movement and agree to become a member, with each member paying $2.50 per month in dues.

Chairman Holland then appointed P.B. Curry, Sr., Charles M. Rein, and Arthur W. Forsythe as the committee to solicit new members.

The Orange Daily Tribune of November 2, 1902, stated “The Orange Businessmen’s League was organized last night and will become known as the Progressive League of Orange. F.H. Farwell was elected permanent chairman by acclamation.

The League started with 70 businessmen. The initial projects were better roads connecting Orange with neighboring towns, building up the river front, the need for a deep water port, exploring the possibility of a cotton mill, and a program to attract investors to invest in Orange and make Orange one of the best cities in the South.”

In 1916, a Chamber publication titles “Where the Port of Orange is Located on the World’s Map” publicized the opening of the Intracoastal Canal and the Port of Orange. Membership at that time included virtually every manufacturing business and business house in the city. In addition, there were a number of professional men and individuals not active in business. Special committees were working on developing new manufacturing interests, freight rates that would enable Orange to compete with other cities, developing commerce through the Port, and developing agriculture in the county.

The 1918 City Directory showed the Orange Board of Trade located in the Petty Building with F.W. Hustmyre, president and H.S. L’Hemmedieu, secretary.

The 1922 edition of the City Directory showed the listing as the Chamber of Commerce located in the Lutcher Building.

Sometime between 1918 and 1922 the name changed from the Orange Board of Trade to the Orange Chamber of Commerce.

The next big change occurred in 1947 when the Industrial Development Committee formed as a branch of the Chamber of Commerce. This committee had the duty of bringing chemical plants to Orange. The beginning of this action started in 1945 and 1946 when the DuPont plant moved into Orange. The people who had worked to bring DuPont to Orange felt that a strong organization could be formed, and additional plants could be brought into the area.

The committee maintained an office with the Chamber in the Holland Hotel. Through the years this committee was instrumental in bringing several large plants to the area. To do so they convinced corporations of the benefits to the Orange area, particularly the availability of oil and gas, fresh water, an available work force, and ample affordable land.

When the cities of West Orange and Pinehurst incorporated in 1955 and 1956, the organization was renamed “The Orange Area Chamber of Commerce.” In 1968, the “Greater” was added to include the unincorporated areas near the municipalities. In 1981, the Orange Chamber became one of 25 in Texas to become affiliated with the National Chamber of Commerce.

In 1983, a new division of the Chamber was organized. It was formed to replace the old Industrial Development Committee and was named the Orange Commercial and Industrial Development Corporation. It was made up of representatives of the Port of Orange Industrial Development Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee. Their assignment is to stimulate industrial and commercial development in the Orange area.

Through the years the organization has had many names. It has had many leaders and undergone many reorganizations. It has had offices in the Petty Building, the Lutcher Building, the Holland Hotel, the Jack Tar Orange House, and the Hoyt Building, The current location is on Green Avenue and Tenth street in a building that was remodeled from an old Pure Oil gasoline filling station. The Chamber is approaching 50 years at this location.

Over the years, there have been many slogans used to promote Orange, “The Gate City”, “The Winter Garden of America”, “The City of Your Future”, “You Can Do It In Orange”, “Orange County, The Growth Spot”, “Small Town Charm, World Class Culture”, and others.

The mission of the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce is to promote an environment conductive to business growth, to pursue economic development, and enhance the quality of life in the Greater Orange Area by providing resources, leadership, and support to our members.

Regardless of the name, this  organization has followed this mission statement since 1887.

Currently there are 350 members of the Chamber coming from businesses, industries, and entrepreneurs.