1 – The Lighthouse
The history of the Aransas Pass Light Station was driven primarily by weather and politics, both powerful forces of change. In order to spur development of the area, local movers and shakers wished to establish a seaport on the pass, and needed a light to mark the area. Many ships and lives had been lost in attempting to come through this sometimes treacherous pass, and it was obvious that changes needed to be made if the area was to be a successful port.
Initial planning pointed out the fact that the pass was shifting rapidly to the south, and thus a movable light, either a buoy or light ship, made more sense than a brick and mortar structure here. Some local and national forces, however, wanted a permanent structure, and they won out.
Construction started in 1854, and the tower was first lighted in 1857. Mounted in the lantern at the top of the tower was a fourth-order Fresnel lens which made the light visible 7 miles out at sea. This lovely little brick tower lit the way into our pass for the next 99 years before being abandoned by the United States Coast Guard.
The tower was re-lit in 1989 by a new private owner, and now once again is the only light house marking our section of the coastline.
In 1862 the War Between the States erupted (politics again) and the station became the target of confederate forces. In a daring raid, they set off two kegs of black powder, destroying the lens and damaging the tower. The Station was repaired and re-lit using a new fourth-order lens in 1864.
Now forces of weather took their turn, and the original houses were destroyed by the 1916 hurricane. These were replaced by a single large house, the one you see next to the tower, which was finished just in time for the 1919 hurricane, a real destroyer that laid waste to Port Aransas. This immensely strong and beautiful building, survived that massive test and stands today as a testament to proper construction.
It stood alone until the 1920’s when the small north house, partially hidden behind the tower, was built in two stages. The front half was finished around the time of the opening of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel (politics again) to allow for one more assistant keeper and family. The small shop building, just next door to the main house, was added during this same period.
Politics again, the back half of the north house and the Keeper’s house on the south end of the walkway, were built in 1940 when the United States Light Service was dissolved and the United States Coast Guard took over all the light stations in the country.
And finally, finances won the day when the Coast Guard decided to abandon the station in 1954; it was just too expensive to maintain. By this point the pass had shifted southward over a mile before being captured by the Jetties. (See Wonder #2)