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The SCENE Magazine

“Seabrook” - A Book of History By Photographer Ruth Burke

Dec 07, 2010 04:55PM ● By John Ennis
A new gift to the Clear Lake community is a book about the town of Seabrook, appropriately called “Seabrook.” The historically rich book is a photographic retrospective published as part of the Arcadia Publishing “Images of America” series.

The publishing company selected local Seabrook artist and photographer, Ruth Burke, to compile the photos and write the captions. Ruth, a well known photographer has now added author to her bio. She took on the duty documenting Seabrook’s amazing growth, prosperity and turmoil of the city, with information dating back to the 1800s.

Seabrook, currently known for its beautiful lakes, hiking trails, quaint shops, cozy bed-and-breakfasts, birding and boating community has significant historic roots. From toils of the Attakapas and Karankawas Indian tribes to the treasure-laden tales of the French pirate Jean Lafitte, it has many interesting sections, including the  town’s beginnings as a Spanish land grant, to the purchase by Seabrook Sydnor in 1895 to the coming of NASA. Seabrook has been home to hunters, explorers, tradesmen and land barons. This book details the unique history that makes it an interesting read.

From the tribal beginnings, tales of pirates and the pioneer spirit, Ruth has managed to capture the beauty and history of Seabrook in this handsome book that displays the charm and vitality of the area. Owner of the Seaside Gallery where she sells photographic art and provides custom framing services, Burke has been a resident of Seabrook since the 1970s. “I have thoroughly enjoyed living in this community,” said Burke. “I am pleased to play a part in documenting Seabrook’s past and present, sharing its natural treasures through pictures.” She continued modestly, “I felt an obligation to the community to do this, since I have a large collection of photos I have taken since the 1970s.”

Although Burke had amassed a large collection of her own professional photographs of the area, she turned to Seabrook City Councilman, Don Holbrook, for help. Collaborating on another project (the park kiosks project) which are displayed around the city, Holbrook was instrumental in assisting Burke in the extensive research needed to acquire older photos.

“We began this remarkable project in November 2009,” said Holbrook. “It is great to see this effort come to fruition, giving readers the opportunity to venture back to the early days when this community was just forming.” Don grew up in Seabrook and attended school locally and taught later in years as an aide at Clear Lake High. His father was also a city councilman for Seabrook in the 1970s. It was not easy to produce this book of more than 200 photos photos, especially after the effects of Hurricane Ike, when so many of the town’s residents were displaced and long-time citizens’ historical photos and albums were destroyed. But people came out to gather and clean, and restore the old photos making this another community project built on pride.

One case of dedication to the history in photos is when Ruth and longtime Seabrook resident Pokie Platzer-Stamper found photos just after Ike of the town’s first school and the 1930 school fire.

They literally were ‘shaking off the mildew’ to restore the rarely-seen photo that is in the book. “Seabrook” can be purchased online at and will be available at Barnes and Noble bookstore, Borders bookstore, and Walgreen’s as well as area shops. A great gift for all ages, locals, tourists, relatives and historical buffs, it is a must-have in every bay and lake household. Burke had book signings with co-author Don Holbrook at Merlion’s and Chelsea’s, and were both well-received. The next book signing will be in January for the Friends of Library. A portion of the proceeds from the book sales at this signing will be donated to the Friends of Library, a non-profit Seabrook library support group.

Autographed copies of the book and photos from the book are available at Burke’s shop. For photos that were donated to her, Ruth will also donate proceeds of those photos to the Friends of Library. The best place to pickup Burke’s book is at her gallery, since she is on hand to autograph the book, and tell a Seabrook story. Ruth’s shop is Seaside Gallery, located at 204 Kirby Blvd. and the gallery number is 281-326-9200. The book can also be purchased from - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Columnist’s Note from Peggy "Domino" Taylor: I am truly honored that I am mentioned in this book “Seabrook,” (Chapter 6: Happenings & Events) regarding some of the events I was privileged to bring to Seabrook and the existing ones that I coordinated and promoted as former Marketing & Tourist Director for the City of Seabrook.  Ruth and I enjoyed creating an event – the Gulf Coast Seabrook Photo Workshops, an annual three-day weekend event with photographers from all over Texas coming to our waterfront playground to photograph the beauty all around us. They were our “ambassadors,” taking to their hometown and businesses photos of our water, birds, boats and more. Ruth made sure everyone left Seabrook with gallery-style art from those weekends. Starting as a long-time photo journalist using film and following dark room procedures to learning the “new” digital camera when they first came out, Ruth was there to teach me as well as the next student. I literally took thousands of photos when employed by the City of Seabrook, and am I proud that some of those are in the book documenting pieces of current happenings. I will always treasure that little piece of me in the book to pass on to my children and grandchildren, and I will treasure the autographed book like a friend. I appreciate Ruth and Don for taking on this big and worthy project.