Before the arrival of the railroad in 1888, hotels in Rockport generally served clientele of the several local packeries. The Congdon Hotel was the leading hostelry of early Rockport and once served as a boarding home to the prominent Robert Driscoll family in the 1880s.
Rail service changed Rockport from a cattle town to a tourist resort. The Congdon became the Orleans Hotel, and the Bruhl Hotel, located on South Water Street, became the Bay Side Inn. This two-story exclusive hotel was frequented by the San Antonio “social set.” Its front entrance boasted a single turret with windows. It was destroyed in the 1919 hurricane.
In 1889, John Traylor built the Aransas Hotel (later renamed as the Del Mar) near the Rockport Harbor. A three-story hotel with one hundred rooms, it was, at its opening, the largest wooden structure in South Texas. Orchestras played nightly in a dining room that seated two hundred people. It also had its own bakery, and its bedroom furniture was made by state prisoners in Huntsville.
In 1900, the three-story La Playa Hotel was built on the Rocky Point south of the Del Mar. It became Rockport’s leading hotel until being partially destroyed by the 1919 hurricane. Eleven people, trapped on an upper floor during the storm, all survived. The 1916 and 1919 hurricanes ended Rockport’s era of grand hotels.