Point Isabel Lighthouse - Port Isabel, Texas
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member JimmyEv
N 26° 04.663 W 097° 12.481
14R E 679237 N 2885522
Quick Description: The 82-foot Point Isabel Lighthouse, built on the grounds of the former Fort Polk, has lit the way through Brazos Santiago Pass off and on since 1850.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 3/8/2008 7:07:14 PM
Waymark Code: WM3B9C
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member deano1943
Views: 60

Long Description:

Point Isabel was nothing more than a small fishing village when General Zachary Taylor choose the spot for Fort Polk - the primary supply depot for the Mexican War. The fort was built facing the Laguna Madre, with earthen fortifications landside. After the war, in 1850, the fort was abandoned. It wasn’t long before the fort had been transferred to the Treasury Department for the building of a lighthouse.

The Lighthouse Board constructed an 82-foot tower with four lights that could be seen from 16 miles away. The site of the lighthouse was the highest point on the former grounds of Fort Polk. The light aided navigation through Brazos Santiago Pass. During the Civil War, the lighthouse changed hands between Confederate and Federal forces several times. The small skirmishes fought here aren’t documented, but shrapnel found in the walls of the lighthouse attest to the fact that they did occur.

The lighthouse was refurbished after the Civil War, but was extinguished in 1888. The Federal government had never obtained legal holding to Fort Polk. The land had been part of an old Spanish land grant, land grants that the United States government had agreed to honor in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that had ended the Mexican War. In 1895, the government finally bought legal title to the land, and light shined from the Point Isabel lighthouse once again.

The Lighthouse Board retired the Point Isabel Lighthouse in 1905. By 1927, it had been sold to private interests. Prominent Harlingen residents, Mr. and Mrs. Lon C. Hill, acquired title to the land and donated it to the Texas State Park Board in 1950. In 1951, the lighthouse was restored to near its original condition, with only minor cosmetic changes made for safety reasons. The lighthouse has been functioning ever since.

You can buy tickets to climb the inside of the lighthouse from the Port Isabel Visitors Center, in the adjacent reconstructed keeper’s house. The lighthouse doesn’t seem that tall, but it is high enough to be scary. The inside is narrow, and the circular stairs wrap steeply around and around. It’s a little uncomfortable going up, but coming back down is way more uncomfortable - if you’re afraid of heights forget it. The last access is via a wooden ladder. You can climb to the catwalk in the glass dome at the top, but most people exit onto the outdoor deck around the dome. The views are pretty good, with Port Isabel laid out before you and South Padre Island to the east.

Street address:
Queen Isabella Boulevard and South Tamava Street
Port Isabel, TX USA


County / Borough / Parish: Cameron County

Year listed: 1976

Historic (Areas of) Significance: Event

Periods of significance: 1850-1874

Historic function: Lighthouse

Current function: Park

Privately owned?: no

Hours of operation: From: 8:00 AM To: 4:00 PM

Primary Web Site: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]

Season start / Season finish: Not listed

Secondary Website 2: Not listed

National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.
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