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Picture-Perfect Greetings from Jefferson

From November 29 through January 1, Jefferson illuminates its holiday lights, including these displays at Lion’s Park.

If ever there existed a magical winter haven sprung from the misty colors of a tinted Victorian photo, Jefferson—just 20 miles from the Louisiana border—lives up to the legend. With its vintage hewn-stone and red-brick buildings, giant pine, oak, and maple trees, elegant lawns, and scenic byways, this old-fashioned niche of East Texas gladly invites you to experience the goodwill and prosperity of a 19th-Century community.

Founded in the early 1840s between the towering pine forests and the moss-draped cypress swamps of Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake, the fledgling settlement launched a lucrative riverboat business that moved goods between East Texas and cities along the Mississippi River. In those days, a single shipload of timber, cotton, or locally brewed beer could reap as much as $20,000 in profit.

Today, appealing red-brick streets greet visitors to the town. Restored 19th-Century buildings of transitional-Victorian, Greek Revival, and Italianate design (at least 65 have been designated Texas Historic Landmarks) grace Jefferson’s downtown walkways and quiet neighborhoods. The town vaunts more romantic bed and breakfasts and fabulous (as well as affordable) antique shops per capita than perhaps any other place in Texas. Little wonder that for many people this community serves as a benchmark for Southern hospitality, comfort, and charm.

TH Essentials

In downtown Jefferson, "shop 'til you drop" takes on a literal meaning. Treasures like carved mahogany furniture, vintage lace, gilded mirrors, folk art, and rainbow-hued carnival glass fill dozens of stores, many located in century-old buildings. And when your feet can't take it any more, Jefferson's horse-drawn carriages, fine restaurants, and boat rides on the bayou provide more-leisurely pastimes.

For such a small town, Jefferson offers an abundance of shops, restaurants, places to stay, and things to do. This list includes sites in the story. For more information about lodging, dining, and attractions, contact the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, 118 N. Vale, Jefferson, 75657; 903/665-2672 or 888/GO-RELAX; www.jefferson-texas.com. Jefferson's area code is 903. Wheelchair accessibility varies; please call ahead.

B&B'S Hale House, 702 S. Line St., 665-8877; www.halehousebandb.com.

Jefferson Hotel and Lamache's Italian Restaurant, 124 W. Austin St., 665-2631 or 866/33HOTEL; www.historicjeffersonhotel.com.

Maison-Bayou, 300 Bayou St., 665-7600; www.maisonbayou.com.

Shops

Jefferson General Store, 113 E. Austin St., 665-8481; www.jeffersongeneralstore.com.

Good Pickin's, 220 Polk St., 665-3003; www.goodpick.com.

Granny Had It, 114 N. Polk St., 665-3148; www.jeffersontx.com/grannyhadit.

Old Store and Fudge Shop, 123 Walnut St., 665-3562; www.oldstore-fudgeshop.com.

Tours and Museums

Historic Jefferson Ghost Walk, beginning at the Jefferson Historical Museum (223 W. Austin St., 665-2775); for reservations, call 665-6289.

Jefferson and Cypress Bayou Railway, 400 E. Austin St., 665-6400; www.jeffersonrailway.com.

Romantic Carriage Service, 602 N. Polk St., 668-3318; www.romanticcarriage.com.

Scarlett O'Hardy's Gone With the Wind Museum, 408 Taylor St., 665-1939; www.scarlettohardy.com.

Turning Basin Tours, in downtown Jefferson across the Polk St. bridge from the courthouse, 665-2222; www.historicjefferson.com/bayoutours.

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