Port Isabel Lighthouse was one of eight state historic sites welcomed by the Texas Historical Commission last month. The lighthouse was previously managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The properties were transferred on the recommendation of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. The action will allow both the THC and TPWD to improve efficiency by focusing each agency on its core mission – THC’s role as the state historic preservation office, and TPWD’s as steward of the state’s impressive natural resources and hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation attractions.
“Our primary goal as stewards of these sites has always been the preservation of these iconic landmarks for the enjoyment of current and future Texans. We entrust the future care of these notable parks to the capable hands of the THC and know they will continue these high standards of maintenance and operations going forward,” said Carter Smith, Executive Director of TPWD. “TPWD is proud to have been the caretakers of these historic sites for many decades, and we will continue to care for the hundreds of historic buildings, archeological sites, and other cultural resources that exist within state parks and natural areas across Texas.”
The City of Port Isabel held a celebration on October 2 with other city organizations, the THC vice-chair and the public to announce the transfer.
“We’re all looking forward to the exciting future that this partnership brings. The Lighthouse is important and vital to us. The City of Port Isabel and the Port Isabel Economic Development Corporation have been partners with the State for many decades and are happy to continue in that role,” says Calvin Byrd, Port Isabel Economic Development Board Chair.
“We’re happy to co-host this event with the Texas Historical Commission and Commissioners on this important day and invite the public to join in the celebration,” added City Manager Jared Hockema.
The Port Isabel Lighthouse, originally called Point Isabel, was constructed in 1852 to guide ships through the Brazos Santiago Pass into the Laguna Madre. Built at the direction of President James K. Polk, it was also used for the protection of Fort Polk, once located along the coast where Port Isabel now sits.
Opened as a state park in 1952, it is the only lighthouse now open for viewing in the State of Texas. The lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage on the grounds now houses the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce.
The lighthouse is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on admission and its history, visit www.portisabellighthouse.com or call (956) 943-2262.
Other TPWD sites transferring to the THC include San Jacinto Monument and Battleground in Harris County; Washington-on-the-Brazos and Barrington Plantation in Washington County; Kreische Brewery and Monument Hill in Fayette County; Lipantitlán in Nueces County; and Fanthorp Inn in Grimes County.
“Texas Parks and Wildlife and their professional staff have done impressive work stewarding these historic places,” said Mark Wolfe, THC Executive Director. “We welcome this challenge to build on their legacy and continue the preservation of these unique sites for new generations of visitors to enjoy. We are pleased that we will be able to work with many of the same staff who have operated and maintained all the transferring sites. We welcome them and these sites to the Texas Historical Commission family.”
Additionally, the 86th Legislature turned management of the Star of the Republic Museum in Washington County (part of the Washington-on-the-Brazos complex) to the THC, effective Jan. 1, 2020. The THC is working with the site’s owner, Blinn College, on management logistics; the THC may assume operation of the museum prior to the beginning of the year.
The addition of the new sites means that the THC now manages 31 State Historic Sites representing nearly every era of Texas’ storied history—from the legends and culture of the original American Indian inhabitants of Texas, to the epic stories of the state’s revolution and independence, to the humble birthplace of one of the nation’s greatest leaders, President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
To learn more about these sites or to plan your next trip, visit StoriedSites.com.