What Made Orange Great: Reviews of Orange by A.F. Burns

Published 5:15 am Wednesday, January 12, 2022

By Mike Louviere

In 1944, A.F. Burns was asked by the Orange Chamber of Commerce to write a review of Orange. Orange at that time was undergoing an unprecedented growth in population and prosperity due to the wartime industry.

According to Burns research, Orange was one of the 14 major war shipbuilding centers of the nation. Orange was using two mottos, “Where Texas Begins and Ends” and “Where the Best Comes From.”

Orange had a commission form of city government and a population of 7,472 according to the 1940 census. In 1944, the population was estimated to be about 50,000.

The city was located at an elevation of 10 feet above sea level and the mean annual temperature was said to be 68.26 degrees F, with an annual rainfall of 46 inches.

At that time Orange had two national banks with total deposits of $31,032,784.99, as of June 30, 1944.

Business at the post office was brisk with the 1943 calendar year showing $168,883 in postal receipts.

There were 3500 telephones registered in the city. Twenty five churches were representing 10 denominations. Orange had one daily newspaper, two hospitals with a total of 125 beds, one hotel with 75 rooms. More hotels were planned for the post war period.

The retail trade area of Orange covered a radius of 20 miles that had an estimated population of 100,000.

Orange was served by two railroads, the Southern Pacific and the Missouri Pacific. The two major highways through Orange were U.S. .Highways 87 and 90.

For education there were eight public schools with 6,500 pupils and 300 teachers. There was one public library and one school library.

At that time there was an auditorium in Orange that seated 2,000 people, there were four movie theaters with a total seating capacity of 2,000 persons. Orange also had one golf course.

The chief industries of Orange and the surrounding areas were shipbuilding, lumber, rice farming, other agriculture and oil. Fifteen manufacturing establishments employed 25,000 men and 1,000 women with an annual payroll of $75,000,000 annually.

Nine years later, in 1953, Burns was again asked to compile a review of Orange. At this time Orange was using the motto: “The Gateway to Texas, The City of Your Future.”

There were some changes. The estimated population in 1953 had dropped to 27,000 for the city and 35,000 for the metropolitan area.

The climate had not changed much, the mean annual temperature was 68 degrees F. Rainfall was now given as 50.41 inches annually.

There were still two national banks, the total deposits were listed as $24, 621, 972 as of December 31, 1952. Total resources as of the same date were given as $26, 511, 504. Postal receipts had a slight increase. They were listed as of $177,458.30 for the 1952 calendar year.

Orange now had 11,521 electric meters, 8,118 gas meters, 10,035 telephones, and 7,865 water meters in the city. There were now 36 churches representing 10 denominations.

The one 75 room hotel, the Holland Hotel, was still serving the city as were the Missouri Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. Highways 87 and 90 were still the main highways serving Orange.

Orange now had nine public schools with 10,800 pupils and 269 teachers. There was still one public and one school library.

Two hospitals were still in operation serving Orange.

Industry had seen some changes, the chief industries were now chemical processing, shipbuilding, oil production and refining, lumber, rice, other agriculture and stock raising. There were now 19 manufacturing establishments employing 12,500 with an annual payroll of $45,000,000 annually.

The biggest change in Orange was the addition of Brownair, a privately owned airport covering approximately 840 acres. There were four runways totaling approximately 5,000 feet in length. The airport had service hangers, shops, and a café. There was a Link Trainer  and other student instructional facilities. Storage was available for privately-owned airplanes. The airport was located about three and one-half miles southwest of Orange on Highway 87.

Since that last report 68 years ago, there have been more major changes to Orange. The shipyards have closed, petrochemical production has changed. The movie theaters are gone. Rice farming has ended, agriculture in Orange is no longer what it was in the past. The hospitals have closed. There are less schools since school districts have merged. Passenger trains no longer stop at the old depot. Brownair has become a county airport.

There are proposed changes on the horizon that could be very promising for Orange. Orange has a varied history that encompass private enterprises to petrochemicals, no telling what the future holds.