Odessa TidbitsPeople say that Odessa, Texas was named after Odessa, Ukraine because it resembled Ukraine's landscape. No one knows for sure whether that legend is true. Odessa, Texas is a colorful city, with some colorful history and personalities. Another story that the old people of Odessa will readily tell you is the reason why the Jack Rabbit is the city's symbol. In the 1930s, Odessa held a rodeo, but instead of roping cattle, the participants try to catch rabbits with their ropes.
One of the competitors was Grace Hendricks, who roped her rabbit within five seconds. It was a startling but impressive feat that marked her place in history. The captured rabbits weren't that fortunate, though, so the practice was stopped on account of it being cruelty to animals. Nevertheless, it certainly made Odessa an unforgettable town in the early 1920s and 30s, especially since it was also the oil boom period of the city's history.
Odessa was started in 1881 as a water stop for the Texas and Pacific Railway. Because the city is old, many of the buildings in Odessa are now museums or historical landmarks that have been preserved to remind people of the 19th century Texan life. The Texon Santa Fe Depot Museum, for example, serves as a museum of the old west and the old railroad life. It is located in West Odessa and is housed in an old, but restored railroad depot. There, you'll be able to find Lionel O-Gauge trains.
The Texon Santa Fe Depot Museum was named after the town Texon, founded in 1924 by the Big Lake Oil Company on a railroad line, which was eventually bought by the Santa Fe Railroad Company in 1928. The new owners added a new depot at Texon. After thirty years, the depot was moved to Sheffield, Texas. In 2002, the depot was bought again and brought to its present location. It now houses the museum.
Another historic site in Odessa is the Parker House Ranching Museum. After the popularity of the railroad system turned Odessa into a cattle-shipping center, lead rancher Jim Parker decided to build his house and ranch outside of town. The house stood the test of time, and the residents were able to restore it to its original glory. In fact, many of the house's furniture and the first homeowners' clothes had been preserved, including Mr. and Mrs. Parker's 1908 wedding clothes.
Upstairs, there are photographs and artifacts from the 1900s like six-shooters and rifles, leather leggings, spurs, and saddles. Many of the 20th century furniture and furnishings are intact, including the downstairs bedroom that Jim Parker oftentimes used so that he wouldn't disturb his family when he leaves early in the morning. The museum stands in the middle of the city and is easy to spot, with its red-brick design and talk fences.
Odessa also has an interesting Stonehenge replica on the campus of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. It has 20 stone blocks and matches the appearance of the original Stonehenge in England. The replica was unveiled in 2004 and was a project of several residents who wanted to draw tourists from the nearby interstate and to add a pop of culture and history in the drab and dusty area. There are no admission fees and several people do visit often, especially since the local attraction would make a good social media cover photo.
One interesting site in Odessa that certainly attracts thousands of visitors every year is the Odessa Meteor Crater. Located in the southwest area of the city, the Odessa Meteor Crater is the largest of impact craters found within the west area. There are five craters at the site, made from thousands of octahedrites that had fallen in the West Texas city during the prehistoric times. Over the years, around 1,500 meteorites have been recovered from the area, which is now considered a National Natural Landmark. Guided tours can be taken on the nature trail designed by the National Park Service for visitors.
There are many beautiful places in Odessa, even if some of them aren't meteor crash sites. At a glance, there are more than 30 parks and recreational areas in Odessa. Several of them have mile-long bike trails like the Comanche Trails Park, the Memorial Garden Park, and the Sherwood Park. If you want a shorter trail for hiking and exercise, you can go to Bellaire Park, Central Park, Freedom Park, Lawndale Park, Lions Club Park, Murry Fly Park, Purple Sage Park, Salinas Park, Woodson Park, Western Manor Park, and San Jacinto Park.
If you want to visit a cultural hub, go to downtown Odessa for a more exciting experience. The Noel Heritage Plaza sits at the heart of the area and hosts several big events like the yearly Hot Summer Nights Concert Series, the Independence Day Parade, art walks, and other celebrations. There are several cafes, bistros, and restaurants in the area that offer a variety of cultural dishes that will make you feel like you've just traveled the world.