Port Isabel, Texas

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Port Isabel, Texas

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In the 1830s, a small community known as El Fronton de Santa Isabel set its roots on the banks of the Laguna Bay in Texas. A little over two decades later Point Isabel was home to Zachary Taylor’s Fort Polk and found itself as the home base during the Mexican American War. By 1853 the area was important enough to build the Port Isabel Lighthouse, which is also called the Point Isabel Lighthouse.

In spite of the area’s rich ties to the sea, the lighthouse was nearly lost more than once: during the Civil War, then over an ownership dispute, changes in ownership, commissioning, decommissioning, and then commissioning and decommissioning again, and finally because of pure neglect from abandonment. The fact that the lighthouse stands today is close to a miracle as lighthouse miracles get.

One of the great photos in this soft cover, 127-page book by Valerie D. Bates, is a 1920s image showing a large gathering of Model T cars near the lighthouse. Another image that is quite dramatic, shows seven people at the top of the lighthouse clinging to each other and the rusted out cast-iron window frames to keep from falling to what would have been certain death. Every historic photo of every page makes you want to step back in time as if you were there. For you tech-savvy people, you won’t find photos like this on the Internet.

In order to understand the history behind the Port Isabel Lighthouse, one must also understand the history of the area, which locals had dubbed as “The End of the World,” which is nicely done through the pages of the book that honors an area that, by the 1950s, was the Shrimping Capitol of the World.

Anyone with an interest in lighthouses, Port Isabel, or Gulf coast history will want this book in their collection.