Port Isabel Lighthouse

Oct. 7, 2019

Port Isabel Lighthouse (Point Isabel Light), Port Isabel, Texas

Built in 1852.


Station Established: 1853
Year Current Tower(s) First Lit: 1853
Operational? NO
Automated? UNK
Deactivated: 1905
Foundation Materials: NATURAL/EMPLACED
Construction Materials: BRICK
Tower Shape: CONICAL
Markings/Pattern: WHITE
Relationship to Other Structure: SEPARATE
Original Lens: 15 LAMPS, 21 REFLECTORS 1854

Historical Information:

When Fort Polk was abandoned, after the Mexican War, the site was transferred to the Treasury Department and on September 28, 1850, Congress appropriated $15,000 "for a lighthouse and beacon light at Brazos, Santiago." The tower was completed in 1852 and was lit by four lamps, 57 feet above the ground and 82 feet above sea level. By 1854 the light had 15 lamps and 21 reflectors and was visible 16 miles. A third-order lens was installed in 1857, and the fixed light was varied by flashes.

At the conclusion of the Civil War, when the southern portion of Texas was occupied by Union forces, the light station was overhauled, refitted, and relit February 22, 1866.  In 1879 the Lighthouse Board reported the tower in a dilapidated condition. During a rain it was impossible to keep the lens and lamps dry as the lantern leaked "in every direction." By 1881 a new iron lantern had been erected on the tower and the following year mineral oil lamps were fitted.  In 1887 a question as to the title of the United States to the land occupied by the light station was raised, and, upon investigation, it was found that the United States had no title to the land. It had been occupied by General Taylor as a camp and depot at the outbreak of the Mexican War. As no title to the land could be established, the light was discontinued on May 15, 1888, and the station abandoned.

Evidence was soon presented to the Lighthouse Board that a light was needed at Point Isabel and that it would be necessary to purchase land for a site at an estimated cost of $8,000. "Upon the discontinuance of the present light" the report continues "the possession of the light structures went to the owners of the land upon which they were built. These buildings are worth considerably more than the sum for which the owners offer to sell the present site, including improvements, to the United States." Congress accordingly, in 1889, appropriated $8,000 for reestablishing the light and the purchase of land on which it stood. The owner offered to sell the site on which the station was situated for $6,000 but the United States attorney reported adversely on the title and he was directed to commence proceedings in condemnation to acquire title. When the case was called for trial in 1891 the district engineer, under instructions from the Lighthouse Board, declined to turn over the requisite amount until the title had been approved by the Attorney General. The sale was finally consummated in 1894 for $5,000 and the Board reported "The purchase has at last been consummated. The title to the site is now in the Government. The light will be shown at an early day." The light was finally re-exhibited on July 15, 1895, but 10 years later, in 1905, discontinued for good. In 1927 the site was sold to the highest bidder for $2,760.