The Wood Mansion in Bayside is the oldest house in Refugio County, or close to it.  It was built in 1875, within a year or two of several other historic homes in Refugio.  The Wood Mansion and several other surviving homes of the period were built by the same contractor, Viggo Kohler, a Danish immigrant and a resident of St. Mary’s of Aransas.  The Wood Mansion is the only house in Refugio County in the National Register of Historic Places.  It has been the meeting site of the Bayside Historical Society since 2006.

John Howland Wood built the mansion as his second home in Black Point, a community about one mile outside St. Mary’s, after his first home was struck by lightning.  Major Wood fought at San Jacinto and moved to Black Point in 1849.  His house was the headquarters of his very large spread, the Bonnie View Ranch.

The Wood Mansion was built on a bluff overlooking Copano Bay in a Greek Revival style, with three stories and a “widow’s walk” which allowed Wood to survey his cattle empire.  The mansion contained about 3500 square feet of living space per floor, although, of course, no indoor plumbing. The materials of construction were long-leaf Florida pine and cypress, resting on a shellcrete foundation.  The interior was finished in an elegant Victorian Italianate style.

The Wood ranch was sold in 1906 to Burton and Danforth, the developers of Bayside. The mansion was raffled by Burton and Danforth in 1907 as a promotional event and was won by Phillip Cook.  Cook owned and operated the mansion as a resort hotel for about 50 years under a variety of names:  Cook Hotel, Bonnie View Resort, Copano Inn and Bayside Hotel.  It was famous in this period as a social center, a resort and a promotional draw for Bayside.  Many visitors had very fond memories of their stay at the hotel and bathing in Copano Bay from a large bath house at the end of the hotel’s pier.

In the late 1950s, the mansion changed hands several times before it was finally bought in the early 1970s by Michael Selzer, its current owner and inhabitant.  Michael and a succession of “hippie” friends spent countless hours restoring the mansion, removing paint to reveal the grain of the beautiful original pine.  It was accepted in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, but the Dedication was not held until 2001.

Because of its eccentric history, the rejuvenation and restoration done by its current owner and the recent activities that have brought many fascinated visitors through its doors and halls and even up to the widow’s walk, the Wood Mansion certainly deserves the title “oldest living house in Refugio County.”


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