The Construction of Fulton Mansion

Texians are white immigrants to the state of Texas and Tejanos is the terminology used for Hispanic immigrants. Both were in the state in the early days and fought together in the Texas Revolution against Spain/Mexico. Many nations of indigenous people predated them. George Fulton the builder and owner of Fulton Mansion became a Texian when he arrived to fight in the Revolutionary War. He didn’t see much action but for his service he was given 1,280 acres of land in Texas and worked as a draughtsman for the General Land Office in Houston.

His next position was as a tutor to the children of Henry Smith and thus began their alliance. He married Smith’s daughter Harriett at age 17. They had 3 native born children and moved to Washington DC for a time. When he returned to Texas he started a Meat Packing company with the livestock from the land in Aransas that Harriet inherited. He invented a form of refrigeration when preparing the meat and then shipped it up and down the coast, all over the American mainland and even to England. This astonishes me because I live in the south east of Texas, it’s sub-tropical, about 100 degrees for three months solid. I can’t even get my popsicles home from the supermarket (literally 5 minutes away) in the summer without them starting to melt.

Fulton’s innovation in his meat packing business and in animal husbandry (he grew corn and sorghum to feed the animals better), allow his business to flourish. His wealth and ingenuity allowed him to build a house that was almost futuristic in design. Firstly, he had his own gas plant to fuel the house and lights. Then he used a 16,000 gallon double cistern water tank to supply the Mansion with endless hot and cold water, using rainwater that was trapped from the roof. Finally he created a central heating system.

I grew up in a metal house with no central heating (in the Scottish Arctic) so I was truly in awe when I read about the house. They didn’t even need central heating because they live in the south and every room had a magnificent fireplace! In Egypt our water tank was so small that I could only the fill the bath with 3 inches of water. There was no air-conditioning in Fulton Mansion but each room had plantation blinds to let the sea air cool down the house in summer.

The building construction of the Mansion was even more fascinating. It was insulated with discarded oyster shells (big business down here) between planks of pine. Sustainable and green, all back in the day. This was and still is a relatively remote place. When I was working, I did a Fisheries tour of Texas and was amazed by the giant mountain of oyster shells outside one the companies. I did wonder what they did with them – I know they use them in landscaping. Fulton Mansion has survived numerous hurricanes so it was built to last.

When we visited the home, we went in the basement first – knowing our place as Celtic peasants. When there, we chatted to another couple that looked our age. There was a hand whisk on the table, with a handle to turn it. I remarked to the lady that I got one as a wedding present. She looked at me in astonishment. Maybe America was much more advanced that the UK, back in the day, or she was younger than I thought. I daren’t mention Nana’s mangle…

The house really wasn’t that big despite all the innovations and that makes it more sustainable, too. They had a limited staff and couldn’t keep them for some unknown reason. I wonder if it was just too remote for the servants? But look at the view they had –

Interior of Fulton Mansion – part II

This is the interior of Fulton Mansion, Rockport, Texas. The house was built between 1874 and 1877 by George W Fulton for his family in the French Second Empire style. The family history is reminiscent of the HBO series, The Gilded Age. George Fulton was an engineer and entrepreneur, from the North East USA, who married Harriet Smith. She inherited ranching land in the Aransas Bay area of southern Texas. I will write more about their history and the unique building style of the manor in Part III.

Above is a delightful child’s bedroom – the bed is ornate without being overwhelming. The bed is positioned to take best advantage of the light across the bay and countryside. How wonderful to jump out of bed and see the dolphins in the bay.

The house was built with central heating and indoor plumbing. Imagine that in 1877! People were still using outside toilets in Scotland when I was young. This looked like it might be father’s sink, above, complete with shaving accoutrement.

The wood paneling surrounding a large copper bath, was quite charming. It must have been so cozy on a cold day. I imagine guests would be surprised at such luxury.

The mother’s sink, above, could be displayed in a modern lifestyle magazine with the marble countertop and matching sink. I hope they hid that antique toilet tissue during the Pandemic… When I was young I had a real sponge. When I realized they were dead sea animals, I switched back to a wash cloth. I call them flannels just like my Nana did. I guess they were made out of old flannels back in the day (but not in this luxurious abode).

George Fulton was a cattle baron so a steer’s head seems fitting for the hallway. The geometric detailing around the door caught my eye. All the wood was in warm tones without being too dark for a seaside house.

This is George’s study – it looks so comfortable and love those drapes! A sea breeze wafting in the window would be quite restful at work.

Each room had a different style of fireplace which seems like the height of luxury to me – I loved the aqua detail on this one. The glasses on the dining table were full of ‘beer’. The early settlers in Texas were master brewers from Czechoslovakia and Germany. It is only in relatively recent times that Texas vineyards have produced world class wines. On a really hot day, there is nothing nicer than a cold draught of beer.

There is even a precious little high chair for the baby that reinforced the feel of a family home. The tiled floor looked as though it was in perfect condition, with those colorful insets. Did you notice the rusks in the baby’s bowl?

This was my favorite fireplace in the living room – I love the shiny black with delicate gold filigree decoration. There is a piano to the right. The whole house was staged beautifully and enhanced the charm of the time period.

I love, love, love this light feature. It is detailed but modern and would look just great in my house in 2023. The house just entranced me – the decoration, the furniture and detail.

Fulton Mansion, Rockport

This is Fulton Mansion State Historic Site in the seaside town of Rockport, Texas, halfway between Louisiana and Mexico. It was wickedly hot the day we visited and it provided succor from the blazing sun. Inside was the most marvelous surprise – an incredibly interesting museum. When we approached it, I couldn’t help thinking it would make a fabulous Halloween House on a dark and stormy day. Wednesday Addams would feel so at home in my Photoscaped version below. I loved the Netflix series about Wednesday – I felt we bonded on a Greta Garbo level. We both had colonial ancestors named Addams/Adams. Mine was Nathanial Adams who was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1647. Next post will be about beautiful Fulton Mansion and eventually one on my Adams family.

Blanca and Friends

This is Blanca – an almost completely white skunk who visited our patio. It is the night camera so the image is blurry despite trying to sharpen it. Every part of her was white apart from her face and the tips of her feet. She’s the sort of special animal that inspires folklore. We have been worried that our night critters have stopped visiting since we dismantled our deck but they still come for the water bowls.

There was another skunk visiting the same night and it had the more familiar coloring. They are such lovely little animals – they delicately sip at the water. I haven’t heard their main predator of late – the Great Horned Owl but they can quickly disappear into the reserve.

How many babies is this poor Mama Possum carrying??? Her tummy is scraping the patio and I would imagine we now have at least 20 babies (18-25 babies per litter). The Mama only has 13 teats, so it is survival of the fittest. She will carry them on her back, for safety. My friend offered one (with babies on board) some dog treats on a late night walk. The possum gratefully accepted.

This is a juvenile possum that visited the same night – it may be an older baby of the Mama who visited. They weigh between 4 and 11 lbs. and are 2 – 3 feet in length (not including their magnificent tails). They live with their mother for about a year. I was so happy to see that all of the animals who visited drank from the water bowl.

Finally – a not blurry shot of one of our Floofs! This is a female Eastern Grey Squirrel. After our deck was dismantled, the “Tails” left and the “Floofs” moved in. This family group have beautiful fur and distinct white dots behind their ears. Their feet have a distinctive blueish tinge. Their tails seem to remain intact…

Another of our gentleman ‘floofs’ up our tree

One of these little rascals had me in stitches last week. Her family were on the patio eating peanuts but she decided to have a mad half hour under one of our bushes. She was on her back, ‘killing’ the lowest branches of the bush with her front and back paws. much like a kitty cat. She went around in dizzying circles until she scrambled her brains and went to eat a peanut.

Then I spotted two tiny sibling squirrels playing in Katniss’s house (our old stray cat). They were play-fighting, nibbling and cuddling. So much pleasure in one little garden. The Swallowtail butterflies have started to emerge, brightening the gardens with a splash of yellow and brown.

Swallowtail, courtesy of my husband. Please do not reproduce this image.


Two Toed Sloth

We booked a tour directly with the Toucan Rescue Ranch, just north of the capital San Jose (we took a taxi).  This is not a zoo and its focus is the rescue and rehabilitation of many indigenous animals but particularly toucans, sloths and owls.  The animals in the enclosures, that visitors meet, are all no longer able to be released safely.  There is a large rehabilitation section closed to the public.  They work closely with the Ministry of Environment and Energy in Costa Rica.  The Ranch is a non-profit and you can visit in person or virtually.  One of the keepers was video-chatting with someone from overseas with each animal enclosure.  Our guides were very informative, one talking in Spanish and the other in English.

Three toed sloth

Look at this cute little three toed sloth – some have three toes.  Our guide told us that sloths aren’t quite as slow as perceived and their grip strength is as strong as humans (not mine, obviously).

Hershey the Tayra

This is a Tayra, an omnivorous animal belonging to the weasel family.  It was quite big and similar in size to a stoat or a cat.  They are native to central and Latin America.

Bat Falcon

Holy Raptors – a Bat Falcon!!! What a superhero – I had no idea that such a predator existed.  To my great excitement, it was spotted for the first time in Hidalgo, Texas in 2022.  Guess where my next road trip might be…  I love bats, too, and they are so very useful in our mosquito infested swamp.

There are so many types of toucans in the neotropics and many are endangered, from the pet trade and deforestation.

Tabu the Oncilla

This little wild cat would melt your heart.  It is a very rare Oncilla, about the size of a house cat.  A local farmer found what he thought was a kitten until it became obvious that it was a wild animal.  She now has a forever home in the sanctuary.  When they tested her DNA they found that it was significantly different from other Oncilla DNA.  She may be an undiscovered animal and unique to Costa Rica.  When the Ranch took over her care, they were worried when she hadn’t defecated for two days.  Someone had a lightbulb moment and put a kitty litter box in (she was being kept as a pet).  Problem solved!  She still has kitty litter in her private enclosure.

Felicia the ocelot

Felicia is a very old lady – a sixteen year old ocelot.  Like all cats she was basking in the sunshine to warm those old bones.

Spider Monkey above and below

It’s always sad to see animals behind a fence but they were obviously content in their forever homes. It was an intimate experience seeing animals that are truly exotic and many endangered. The tour fee helps not just these animals but those that are able to be released into the wild again. Costa Rican residents pay much less and have a learning opportunity about saving their indigenous animals. The grounds were lovely with flowers and wildlife. Teddy managed to get this shot of a hummingbird.

Broad Billed Hummingbird

Please do not copy, download or reproduce any of the photographs. Most were taken by my husband. Enjoy!

Resignation describes the noun resignation as –

  • the act of resigning.
  • a formal statement, document, etc., stating that one gives up an office, position, etc.
  • an accepting, unresisting attitude, state, etc.; submission; acquiescence: to meet one’s fate with resignation.

Last week, after 7 years of working for Destination Management Companies, I resigned from the two companies that employed me most frequently.  There was almost no work during the Pandemic and I enjoyed not working.  It was well paid work that was mostly simple but on occasion stressful.  The expression ‘herding cats’ comes to mind.  Most of my colleagues thoroughly enjoy the work but my brain filled the quiet periods (waiting for clients) with anxiety about every possible scenario that could go wrong.  My favorite role was facilitating in conferences but that rarely happened.  Facilitation was part of my original skill set that I brought from Scotland.

I have an undiagnosed neuropathic condition for which I have been seeking treatment for years.  Finally, a very good neurologist, who was a Professor at Baylor University, sat me down and said honestly, “I think it is a combination of an existing cervical problem and anxiety.”  On the last day of working, my fingers were involuntarily moving as though they had been electrically shocked, I couldn’t feel the bottom of my feet and my neck was spasming.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, I got the tummy bug that is going around the USA.  Thank goodness it was an immaculately clean hotel bathroom that I was unwell in.  My OCD was lighting up like a Neon Sign. My head was screaming ‘GERMS, GERMS, GERMS’ but they were all mine!!  I did make sure I left the bathroom clean.

There is a sense of relief but also guilt and failure.  I have left many jobs over the years and almost always because my anxiety was overwhelming.  Despite my age and wisdom, I just can’t seem to accept that I am not a useful part of society, in a conventional sense.  Then I get irritated at myself because I know I am unwell with a debilitating but invisible illness.  Medication only works so far, in my case.  I feel guilt because I can no longer contribute to the household monetarily and also because I didn’t fully explain my resignation to my bosses.  I can sense that one feels disappointment and the other could care less.  In my leaving letter, I used the phrase, “we are embracing retirement”.  Not true.

This is probably my final failure, in the work world, and now I have to adapt to retirement.  I will receive my UK pension in 5 years.  That will be a good moment, to be rewarded for all those painful years of work.  I often wonder how I would have managed in the world if not for the support of my husband.  One of my cousins in the US, who had a lifelong mental illness, told me how lucky I was to have such an understanding partner.  That’s a familiar refrain from family and friends – it makes me feel more guilty not lucky.  Teddy insists that I have been his backbone and support for the whole of his career.  We are a bonded pair and I am grateful for that.

In time, I will adapt and perhaps acquiesce. To the outside world, I may live a pampered life but I would like them to spend one day in my head and one night in my disturbing dreams.  At the moment, I am in limbo.  Relieved not to be anxious at work but trepidatious about the future.  I have some vague goals about writing and increasing my stamina.  Eventually I will find a new rhythm and may even feel grateful for all that I have.  One bright morning, I took great pleasure in removing my work clothes from my closet to donate to charity.  Then I color coordinated the closets and hangers – a pleasant OCD task that felt wrapping myself in a fluffy blanket.  I have put myself out to pasture but might enjoy the frolic, sniffing the flowers and watching the sunset. 

The Tour Bus

Vista in Costa Rica

When planning our recent trip to Costa Rica, I thought about booking a tour to coffee plantations or volcanoes.  Gasping at the prices of American based companies, I decided it would probably be less expensive to book in San Jose, the capital.  At our hotel they told us about a local company who would be able to take us on a small tour to Poás volcano and see coffee plantations on route.  Perfect!  The tour was leaving at 7.30 am sharp.  A small van was taking ourselves and two husbands, staying at our hotel, to join up with our respective tours.  When we arrived at the next destination, I inwardly chuckled that the tour guide assumed that the fit young men were going up volcanos and we were going to a spa (to ease our old bones).  Luckily, one of the husbands was fluent in Spanish.  I can’t think of anything more boring than going to a spa…

Coffee Plants

We ascended onto the ‘volcano’ bus and greeted out fellow passengers.  There was only 4 seats left on our Sprinter so we sat in the back row like naughty students.  After 45 minutes we stopped on the side of a busy interstate and were joined by our final two guests, lovely ladies from North Carolina.  The passengers were quite eclectic.  The couple in front of us were French and Italian.  The French lady kept twittering about l’oiseaux, so I guess she was a birder.  The couple next to us were from Minnesota, although the husband was originally from New Zealand.  I was curious about moving from New Zealand to Minnesota but I guess love is powerful.

One of the North Carolina ladies announced to the whole bus that she had moved from New York to North Carolina after her divorce and it was ‘the best thing she had ever done’.  We seemed a chattier group than usual but perhaps this is normal in this post pandemic world?  One Canadian man was talking about American politics but survived the trip intact…  Teddy was trying to curl himself into a ball in his window seat.  He is so used to just being around me and wolves that he was struggling to cope with all this sociality.

Water Buffalo and Cart

Then we spotted the first coffee sign for a plantation.  Inevitably it was Starbucks.  I think they start off with good coffee but then ruin it with burned milk (just my opinion).  We stopped at the next plantation and there was a little visitor center and café.  The coffee was nice but the view even better.  When we arrived there was a very old man posing with his water buffalo.  He berated me for giving him Costa Rica currency – he wanted dollars.  How did he know I was American?  He would have been less happy if I offered him Icelandic Krona.


The roads were narrow and interesting.  Thankfully I was too excited about a volcano to have a panic attack.  There were very deep ditches at the sides of roads to deal with tropical rainfall.  Generally, the roads were in good condition.  It was a very steep, winding drive up to Poás volcano but finally we arrived.  Our tour guide said, “Vamanos!”, and we strode up the road to the summit with varying degrees of ability.  I have been to Denver on various trips but this was the first time I noticed I had trouble breathing at high altitude.  Perhaps the steep hill contributed.

At the summit, the tour guide said that the rest of the passengers were going on to visit waterfalls.  Would we like to pay extra and join them?  I was keen but Teddy was over the tourists.  On the way back we stopped at a winery to meet up with our car to take us back to San Jose.  The guide explained to the bus group that we were leaving so we left with Au Revoir, Ciao and Goodbye Y’alls.  Our car wasn’t there so the guide suggested that the rest of the group wine taste since we were waiting.  It was quite delicious for tropical wine – sweet and red.

While we were waiting, I had a long chat with the driver who only spoke Spanish.  He must have enunciated very well because I understood everything and was able to respond.  His son is a student in Indiana and they have to travel through Houston to visit.  The slightly hassled tour guide interrupted us to say that our driver was at another location closer to San Jose.  So…we had to get on the bus, listen to all the jokes (did you have a nice time in San Jose?) and then say goodbye all over again, about 20 minutes later.  Another couple were waiting to take our places and go to the waterfalls.  As someone who has worked in public and private transportation for years, I was terribly impressed by their efficiency (apart from one little blip).  I hope the new couple that joined the group enjoyed a wee chat…

Our new driver was content to put the radio on and drive swiftly back to San Jose.  That allowed my wolfman to chill out and enjoy the scenery.  It made us both realize that we prefer being travelers than tourists.  We rarely saw tourists near our hotel or in San Jose but it didn’t take away from a fantastic trip.

Poás Volcano National Park

This was my first trip to an active volcano – I was SO excited. The Poás Volcano, 31 steep miles from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. It was active when we visited and was venting gas out of one the fissures.

The blue light was flashing on and off while we were there. If I read the instructions, it probably told us to go into the shelter if it was amber or red. It was a steep climb to the top of the volcano and I could feel my lungs straining. I am quite fit but my lungs are under par. Newly fit Teddy, who looks after wolves, could have strode ahead of me. I stayed behind to accompany a lady, in our group, who was much more disabled than me. She was able to get a park ambulance to ride back down to the parking area.

We were really lucky with the weather as the volcano is in the cloud cover but it was gloriously clear and sunny. It wasn’t hot at almost 9000 feet above sea level – 55 F/12 C. The weather in San Jose hovered around 85 F which was very pleasant.

The vegetation was tropically lush with strange plants that looked like rhubarb. I loved seeing the opaque light turquoise toxic water in the crater along with the stark strata of the rocks.

Isn’t nature wonderful?

The triffid ‘rhubarb’ plant is called a poor man’s umbrella. I finally identified it as Gunner Insignis – it is an ancient plant and this species is native to Central America. Loved the wall made of volcanic rock. We did see a green hummingbird at the animal sanctuary. More blogs to follow.

Pre-Colombian Art Museum, Costa Rica

It has been years since I browsed in a museum and this one in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, was a treat. The Pre-Colombian Gold Museum was located in a subterranean building beneath the very modern Plaza de la Cultura. Costa Rica is one of the Blue Zone countries were people live a long healthy life. I thought the scene with the undertaker was touching in it’s simplicity.

Understated but exquisite gold jewelry – you could wear it today.

The items above are inhalers – so much more fun than Vicks! Don’t commit any drug offences in present day Costa Rica, though. Very long jail sentences for offenders.

A handsome warrior modelling the neck ornaments and some very large ear plugs.

I really wanted to take the alligator incense burner home but I preferred my Radisson hotel room to a jail cell… Beneath is a ceremonial and intricately carved grinding metate for corn or other substances.

Above is an illustration of all the Costa Rican prehistoric animals. Look to the right – there is a giant sloth.

Plaza de la Cultura, San Jose, Costa Rica

It started badly…

Don’t put your socks on before your nail varnish is dry

This is what happens when you paint your nails, are too impatient to wait for them to dry and then put on black socks. I guess it could be a new trend. For the past few weeks I have been hibernating so that I wouldn’t catch Covid for our first vacation overseas in almost 4 years. I was certain that I would cancel it but just kept trying to manage my anxiety by cleaning the house obsessively. In the past I was an intrepid traveler but those days have gone.

The first shock was that my passport will be out of date this February – eek! Many countries insist that you have at least 6 months left on your passport before it’s renewal date. I feverishly Googled in the middle of the night after I woke up panicked, suddenly realizing how long it was since I used my passport. Fortunately, Costa Rica will accept American visitors as long as the passport is in date. I had packed a week before the departure date choosing clothing for variable tropical weather – cold in the mountains and wet at times. Then I decided to paint my nails and you see what happened… My nails remained bare.

Our Uber arrived early and we sped to the airport, negotiating it easily despite the current construction. The fully packed flight left on time despite the airline pleas for people to take another flight as it was initially overbooked. The passengers were an eclectic bunch – many had connected at Houston from Europe and further afield. Most were meeting guided tours but we were staying in San Jose with one planned trip to an animal sanctuary, not a zoo, with SLOTHS!!!

Brown Lump otherwise known as a Tayra,

a fast moving member of the stoat family

The plane arrived on time and we breezed through Inmigracion. I struggled with my bad Spanish but noticed that everyone else just spoke English. It’s polite to at least try to speak the nation’s language or apologize for not doing so. At the luggage belt one of our bags turned up quickly but the other was MIA. I spoke to the United agent and she said the luggage had arrived. She suggested one of the customers might have taken it but I doubted that because it had multi-colored ribbons on it and a luggage tag. After a panicky wait, she got a call from the ground staff – it probably fell of the luggage cart and was retrieved from the runway.

My anxiety was rising but it was okay – we got the bag! Thrifty is my middle name so happily discovered that Ubers were available in Costa Rica but not legal. We walked past the taxis and followed the directions of the staff to the Ubers. It was complicated and incorrect. Our Uber app worked however and Jesus was on his way in a white Chevy. He arrived but we couldn’t see him. I passed my phone to a security officer who described me and where I was. Ropa azul (blue clothes) Blanca (ethnicity) and something else that made her chuckle. I suspect it was something referring to Gringas. We waited and waited to no avail. Then the app stopped working.

Fuzzy sloth in a hammock

Equally fuzzy hair of the person in front of me

We had to go all the way back to the taxis and pay more than I wanted to. Our driver spoke no English but chatted happily in Spanish. The driving was a tad erratic – traffic lanes were more of a suggestion. It reminded me of Egypt where they made five lanes out of three. Then the skies opened and a deluge of rain started that made the driving more interesting. I understood that our driver was blaming the California weather event for this unusual rain. January is the dry month, in theory. He asked if we were going on any trips and I told him about the animal sanctuary. For the rest of the time we were going to explore San Jose. He asked why??? My mood was dipping.

Finally we got to our beautiful hotel with a fantastic view from our luxurious 10th floor room to the mountains and city. There was a faint smell of food that may have been from the vents but it was the last straw. I told Teddy that I wanted to go straight back home and he sat dejectedly on the bed. I started unpacking and slowly calmed down. Eventually we went out for a wee walk and got some local currency at a bank. We had been worried about food because of Teddy’s restricted diet so ate at the hotel that first night.

There was a Hollywood ending! The food was delicious, no more rain just glorious sunshine and the friendliest people. San Jose was a delightful city with amazing museums. We loved the animal sanctuary and even went to see one of the volcanos. More blogs to come with some decent photographs…but don’t you love my outtakes?

Sloth in a bucket who refused to come out