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PORT ARANSAS HISTORIC RESOURCES SURVEY

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					 PORT ARANSAS HISTORIC RESOURCES SURVEY
          PORT ARANSAS, NUECES COUNTY, TEXAS




                    SURVEY REPORT

             PRESERVATION CENTRAL, INC. FOR
THE PORT ARANSAS PRESERVATION AND HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION

                      December 2006
           PORT ARANSAS HISTORIC RESOURCES SURVEY
                            PORT ARANSAS, NUECES COUNTY, TEXAS


                                     PRESERVATION CENTRAL, INC.
                                                      Austin, Texas


                                           Prepared For:
                       The Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association


                                                    December 2006




                                                Enclosures:
                                              Survey Report
                                       Historic Resources Inventory
                                   35 mm Black-and-White Contact Sheets
                                           Digital Photographs
                                             Survey Database




Principal Investigator:                                                                                 Report Authors:
Terri Myers                                                                                                  Terri Myers
                                                                                                    A. Elizabeth Butman
                                                                                                          Kristen Brown

Field Investigator:                                                                                    Data Production:
Terri Myers                                                                                         A. Elizabeth Butman
                                                                                                          Kristen Brown

Cover Photo:                                                                                                 Cartography:
Terri Myers, 2006                                                                                            David Parsons




This project was funded in part through a Visionary in Preservation Grant, as administered by the Texas Historical Commission.
              PORT ARANSAS HISTORIC RESOURCES SURVEY
                                   PORT ARANSAS, NUECES COUNTY, TEXAS

                                                         TABLE OF CONTENTS


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ......................................................................................................................... 1

INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 2

SURVEY AREA ........................................................................................................................................... 3

METHODOLOGY ....................................................................................................................................... 3
    SURVEY METHODOLOGY ............................................................................................................................ 3
    RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ........................................................................................................................ 4

HISTORIC CONTEXT ............................................................................................................................... 6
    SUMMARY .................................................................................................................................................. 6
    EARLY HISTORY ......................................................................................................................................... 6
    TEXAS UNDER MEXICAN RULE .................................................................................................................. 7
    EARLY SETTLERS ....................................................................................................................................... 8
    THE LYDIA ANN LIGHTHOUSE .................................................................................................................... 8
    THE CIVIL WAR .......................................................................................................................................... 9
    TEXAS COAST PACKERIES AND OTHER INDUSTRY ...................................................................................... 9
    THE ARANSAS PASS JETTIES AND OTHER IMPROVEMENTS AT THE TURN OF THE 20TH CENTURY ...............10
    THE HURRICANE OF 1919 ..........................................................................................................................10
    THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY ......................................................................................11
    WORLD WAR II AND BEYOND: HURRICANES, REBUILDING, AND CONTINUED GROWTH ...........................11

SURVEY RESULTS ...................................................................................................................................14
    DOMESTIC RESOURCES –DWELLINGS ........................................................................................................15
    DOMESTIC RESOURCES –INNS, VACATION COTTAGES, AND TOURIST COURTS .........................................17
    COMMERCIAL RESOURCES ........................................................................................................................19
    OTHER RESOURCE TYPES ..........................................................................................................................20

RECOMMENDATIONS ............................................................................................................................21

BIBLIOGRAPHY .......................................................................................................................................24
Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey                                             Survey Report


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
       Preservation Central, Inc. appreciates the many people and organizations who contributed
to the Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey. We wish to thank: Mayor Claude Brown and
members of City Council; city staff, especially David Parsons (for cartography); Sharon and
Norris Stricker; Marcy Mathews Ward Thomas; Manny Mathews; and Eva Mercer
Westmoreland. Members of the Grant Writing Committee included: Pam Green, John Bird,
Sharon and Norris Stricker, Betty Bundy, and consultant Marilyn Korhonen. Thanks also to the
PAPHA Board of Directors and general membership for their support, and to Betty Bundy for
lodging and inspiration.




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INTRODUCTION AND SCOPE OF WORK
        In April 2006, the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association (PAPHA)
retained the services of Preservation Central, Inc., a historic preservation consulting firm based
in Austin, Texas, to conduct a survey of historic resources in central Port Aransas, primarily in
Old Town. The goal of the project was to determine the relative integrity of the historic
resources and whether the potential for a historic district existed. The project followed Port
Aransas’s participation in the Visionaries in Preservation program of the Texas Historical
Commission. That program resulted in the development of a Historic Preservation Action Plan,
in which identification and survey efforts were emphasized as a priority for the Port Aransas
community.
        The history of the city of Port Aransas has been characterized by its location on a barrier
island, its development spurred by its status as a tourist destination and its need to continually
rebuild itself following frequent damage by hurricanes. The scope of this project was to survey
the historic period buildings of the historic core of Port Aransas, focusing on the 1855 town
site/Old Town area and an adjacent section of the city. Non-historic resources were not
surveyed. The survey area comprised two sections, the first, considered ―Old Town,‖ is roughly
bounded by Oleander and Laurel Streets and Beach and Tarrant/Channel View Streets; the
second section is bounded by Avenue G and Lantana Drive, and Alister and Twelfth Streets.
This swath of town is representative of Port Aransas’s social, economic, and architectural
context throughout the historic period ending ca. 1960. The survey excluded a number of
historic resources, such as the lighthouse and the World War II artillery gun emplacements, that
were outside the survey area and that have been previously documented,
        The Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey identified a total of 196 historic resources.
Of the total historic resources in the survey area, 16 (8%) were identified as a high preservation
priority and another 98 (50%) were classified as medium priority, while 82 (42%) of the
resources are considered low priority. As such, the survey area revealed only a marginally intact
section of Port Aransas, whose resources have throughout history suffered the effects of
hurricanes and subsequent removal, relocation, and/or renovation. No potential historic districts
were identified, but the city should consider establishing conservation districts or zones to
protect and preserve Port Aransas’s traditional character. Six resources were identified as being
potentially individually eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, in addition
to the one building, the Tarpon Inn, that is currently listed in the National Register.
        The purpose of the Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey is to assist the City of Port
Aransas and PAPHA in planning for the preservation of its cultural resources and heritage.
Results of the survey may be used to establish local landmarks and historic districts governed by
city ordinance and design review, and to nominate resources for listing in the National Register
of Historic Places. This report details the survey area, field and research methodology, historic
context for the city of Port Aransas, survey results, and recommendations for preservation
planning. This document is not intended to be a comprehensive history of Port Aransas, but
rather to provide a context for understanding its cultural resources. Additional work products
include an inventory of properties; survey maps; contact sheets for black-and-white photography;
and digital files of color photographs, the survey report, and survey database.


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SURVEY AREA
       Port Aransas is located on the northern tip of Mustang Island, a barrier island in the Gulf
of Mexico. Port Aransas is at the northeastern edge of Nueces County, twenty-four miles east-
northeast across Corpus Christi Bay from the city of Corpus Christi. Port Aransas measures
approximately 1.5 miles across at its widest point, and is approximately 2.5 miles long.
        The Gulf of Mexico provides a natural border to the city’s east and southeast. To the
north and northeast of the city is the Aransas Pass, a deep-cut channel between Mustang Island
and St. Joseph Island. The northwestern border of Port Aransas is the Corpus Christi Channel,
which leads to Corpus Christi Bay. To the southwest lies the only side of town not bordered by
water; town density decreases significantly towards the southwest, and beyond it Mustang Island
is largely undeveloped.
       At the northern corner of the town, where the Aransas Pass meets the Corpus Christi Ship
Channel, are a marina, a small harbor, piers, and a ferry landing. Here the streets are laid on a
grid with a northwest-southeast axis that relates to the coastline at the marina and harbor. After
Church Street the town grid shifts and the streets are laid to correspond with the coastline of the
Gulf of Mexico. Major arteries through the city include Highway 361 (named Alister Street as it
passes through town) and Station Street; these streets make a 155-degree bend where they
connect the two sections of town grid.
        The Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey focused on two sections of the central city,
which together contain the highest concentration of historic properties. The first section, known
as ―Old Town,‖ abuts the marina and harbor and is roughly bounded by Oleander and Laurel
Streets and Beach and Tarrant/Channel View Streets. The second section is south of, and
immediately adjacent to, the first section, and is bounded by Avenue G and Lantana Drive, and
Alister and Twelfth Streets. Combined, these areas cover a roughly 70-block tract of land,
selected due to its higher concentration of historic-period resources and potential to contain
National Register-eligible properties or historic districts.

METHODOLOGY

Survey Methodology
        During the spring of 2006, the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association
(PAPHA) contracted with the Austin-based historic preservation consulting firm, Preservation
Central, Inc., to conduct a comprehensive cultural resources survey of the historic portion of the
city. The survey area boundaries were based on a recommendation by PAPHA, and confirmed
by a windshield survey conducted by Principal Investigator Terri Myers on May 1st and 2nd,
2006. The boundaries were chosen to encompass contiguous areas with highest concentrations
of intact or relatively unaltered historic resources. The scope of the project was first discussed
by the PAPHA Board of Directors on March 30, 2005 and approved in concept by City Council
at their July 16, 2005 meeting. The project was further discussed by the consultation of the
Grant Writing Committee, the City Manager, and the City Planner in August of 2006, and
approved by the PAPHA Board at their January 2006 meeting.


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        Principal Investigator Terri Myers of Preservation Central subsequently conducted an
intensive-level survey of the project area. Ms. Myers surveyed the area by foot over six days
between August 5 and August 11, 2006. The surveyor systematically canvassed the project areas
and denoted the salient characteristics of each historic resource within their boundaries. Non-
historic resources (built after 1960) were typically not surveyed. Buildings at the periphery were
generally documented only if they were oriented inward toward the project area rather than
addressing a side street. Domestic outbuildings constructed during the historic period, such as
garages, were documented only if they contain dwelling units or are particularly compelling
examples of their type. Archeological sites are beyond the scope of this project.
        Ms. Myers used a city planning map to plot survey area boundaries and resources. A
field identification number was assigned to each resource and noted on the planning map. For
every built resource in the project area, the surveyor noted the address; approximate date of
construction and any major alterations; resource and property type; historic and current use; plan
type or roof form; number of stories; exterior materials; architectural style or stylistic influence;
and condition. Additions or alterations to the original building were described where pertinent.
        The surveyor then assigned each resource a preservation priority of high, medium, or
low. A baseline priority of medium was assigned to all properties constructed during the historic
period (ca. 1891-1960). If alterations or additions to the historic building have compromised its
integrity such that it no longer conveys its historic character, the building was assigned a low
priority. Buildings constructed after 1960, if surveyed, were considered a low preservation
priority. Post-1960 buildings that do appear in the inventory do not factor into the survey
findings and considerations of potential districts. They were surveyed because they are close to
historic age and/or have architectural features of note, and may need to be considered for
preservation in the future. If buildings dating to the historic period retain an exceptional degree
of integrity or are especially illustrative examples of an architectural style or construction
method, they were assigned a high priority. All medium and high priority resources were
photographed using both 35mm black-and-white film and color digital media.
        Data obtained during the intensive-level survey was compiled into an inventory in a
Microsoft Access database, used as the basis for survey maps to be generated by David Parsons,
City Planner. All survey materials, including an inventory, report, database, black-and-white
contact sheets, and digital photographs, are submitted along with this survey report. The survey,
report, and all work products are consistent with directives provided by the Texas Historical
Commission and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for Identification and
Evaluation.

Research Methodology
       Research efforts for the Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey focused on secondary
sources in order to provide a general context for the growth and development of the community.
The report is not intended to be a comprehensive history of Port Aransas. In October 2006,
research was conducted on the history of Port Aransas at the Center of American History.
Research was also conducted at the Texas Historical Commission (THC) library in Austin.
Photocopies of relevant materials from their National Register of Historic Places files were
obtained, including the 1979 National Register nomination for the Tarpon Inn, and related


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clippings. Additional relevant clippings were located in the THC’s state marker files. The
consultants also reviewed related material in the Handbook of Texas Online
(http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/), maintained by the Texas State Historical
Association.




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HISTORIC CONTEXT

Summary
        The history of Port Aransas was influenced by its position on the Gulf of Mexico,
beginning with the Indians and European explorers at the coast. Much of the early history of the
Texas coast, and indeed, of the entire state, can be read through a coastal town such as Port
Aransas. Port Aransas saw the arrival by boat of many immigrants, the early economic reliance
on ranching, the export of cattle and other goods via the fledgling shipping industry, the effects
of the great wars, and the coast’s transformation into the modern era. In addition, the sport
fishing and beaches available on Mustang Island are an important part of Port Aransas’s history,
as the town became more and more dependent on the tourism industry.

Early History
        The first record of an Anglo-European man in Texas dates to the Feast Day of Corpus
Christi in 1519. It was then that Alonzo Alvarez de Piñeda, agent to the Governor of Spanish
Jamaica, sailed through what is now the Aransas Pass waterway into a wide bay and named it
Corpus Christi in honor of the feast. Other Europeans passed through afterwards: Cabeza de
Vaca and companions in 1534, shipwrecked and reportedly trying to reach Mexico by paddling a
canoe along the coast line; and Frenchman Robert de la Salle, who sailed into Matagorda and
Lavaca bays before proceeding up the Lavaca River and establishing Fort St. Louis. In the
1680s, Spanish expeditions seeking to destroy La Salle’s fort sailed into the area. In 1690,
Manuel José de Cárdenas y Magaña produced a map of the Matagorda Bay area.
       The rivalry between France and Spain for the control of Texas was ultimately sealed by
the Spanish, who founded missions deep into present-day Texas in an attempt to establish centers
of Christianity and educate the indigenous people. The missionary priest, called the padre, was
not only a priest and teacher but also a skilled rancher, farmer, mason, and carpenter, and was the
manger of the entire mission complex, which included a church, farm, work rooms, and living
quarters for the Indians. Soldiers built nearby garrisons, called presidios, to protect the missions.
These missions were therefore the first permanent settlements in Texas by non-native peoples.
       Native to Mustang Island were the Karankawas. Unlike the Mission Indians, they were
nomadic hunter-gatherers who aggressively resisted intrusions into their land. The Karankawas
lived on Mustang Island at least 1,500 years before Christopher Columbus sailed for the new
world. It is thought that they descended from tribes in the Tamaulipas and Coahuila provinces in
northern Mexico, as their language is similar to that of Indians living south of the Rio Grande.
Our knowledge of the Karankawas is extremely limited, as they left no villages, no written
language, only a scattered few bows and arrows, and only a few hundred words of spoken
language (Kuehne 1973, 5). Writings from settlers and explorers that chronicle experiences with
the Karankawas do discuss the appearance of their attire, canoes, and weaponry, but make no
mention of their customs, government, language, or religion (Kuehne 1973, 4). It is known that
they practiced cannibalism, and were the instigators of several raids upon settlers, most of which
ended bloodily (Lipscomb 2006).



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        Another presence in the area around Port Aransas was that of Jean Lafitte, the pirate, who
shifted his base of operations from the Mississippi Delta to the Texas barrier islands in the
1820s. He and his crew set up stations on Padre, Galveston, and Matagorda islands, and lured
unsuspecting ships with false distress-signal fires, then plundered the ships that came to the shore
to investigate. It is said that after a particularly large take, Lafitte, nervous about his ability to
outrun Spanish officials, lightened his load by burying much of his treasure on the beach of
Mustang Island. Lafitte died in the Yucatan region of present Mexico before returning to claim
the loot, and to this day the Mustang pirate treasure has yet to be found.
        The name Aransas, ultimately given to the city of Port Aransas, the Aransas Pass, the
Aransas River, and Aransas County, among other places, dates to the 1740s. It is an anglicized
version of Aránzazu, a Basque word for thorny bushes, and by that token, also a word for an
arduous or dangerous undertaking. In the 1740s, a Basque named Oribio Basterra, then
Governor of Tejas, was exploring the Trinity River and named a stream that he found ―El Rio
Nombrado Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu‖ (Our Lady of Aránzazu River). The spelling was
simplified, and Texans used it to name over a dozen places, some of which no longer exist.

Texas Under Mexican Rule
         Texas came under Mexican rule in 1821, after more than 100 years of Spanish occupation
and missionary presence. The Spanish policy of populating Texas with colonists of their own
choosing was adopted by the Mexican government, and settlers from the United States and
territories were excluded as much as possible. Texas land grants were given to Mexican citizens,
but certain American empresarios such as Stephen F. Austin were allowed to bring in carefully
selected colonists. Captain Munroe of the schooner Amos Wright, bringing such colonists to
Texas, was the first to map the coastline around Aransas Bay. He named Mustang Island and St.
Joseph Island ―Sand Point‖ and ―Signal Point,‖ respectively. Navigating the Aransas Pass was
an extremely dangerous undertaking during this time, as only 5-7 feet of water covered the bar.
Many incoming colonists perished in shipwrecks before ever reaching the mainland. Some
colonists escaped with their lives but lost all of their worldly possessions as the cargo was swept
out to sea. Despite this danger, ships continued to arrive, and by the end of Mexican rule in
1836, the population of Texas (both Mexican and Anglo) was approximately 35,000 (Kuehne
1973, 11).
        For most of the period that Texas was under Mexican rule, the Gulf Coast remained
largely undisturbed. Settlers passed through en route to points north, and others stayed near the
Gulf. The land given in the land grants was not well-suited for crop-raising, but was conducive
to cattle ranching. The Anglo-American settlers quickly adopted this land use. Those living
near the Gulf naturally turned to fishing, as well, and much later, to shipping. The peace in this
new land, however, was brief. Eventually, scattered disputes between Mexican and Anglo
factions escalated into violent outbreaks in which many were killed. Hostility toward the
Mexican government continued to grow until the Texans declared their independence from
Mexico in 1836. At the end of the Texas War for Independence, many Mexicans were granted
citizenship automatically and continued to control their holdings, but others lost their rights to
their land.



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        Dating back to the time of Spanish rule in Mexico, the southern boundary of Texas was
not the Rio Grande River but rather the Nueces River. This meant that Corpus Christi and its
surroundings, and areas south and southwest of the Nueces, belonged to Mexico, and at the close
of the Texas War for Independence, Mexico felt it still had possession of this land. When Texas
was admitted to the Union as a state in 1845, Mexico strove to assert its right to this southern
portion and sent troops to the area. The United States government sent General Zachary Taylor
to defend the land and set up his base of operations at Corpus Christi. In 1846, the forces
clashed in several battles in South Texas, with Taylor driving the Mexican troops back across the
Rio Grande. Meanwhile, a brief attack on Mexican soil made by General Winfield Scott helped
seal a US victory, and land negotiations were made. The United States received all of the
disputed territory, as well as land to the west and northwest of Texas, including California,
Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.

Early Settlers
        Immigrants continued to arrive with increasing frequency, and the new state grew
quickly. The first census of Texas was taken in 1850 and registered a population of 219,592,
two-thirds of which were people of Mexican origin (Kuehne 1973, 16). Nueces County had been
organized during the land dispute in 1846. It included all of Mustang Island and the northern
portion of Padre Island. Nueces County had a population of 698 when organized. Thanks to the
influx of settlers into the area, as well as the increased need for shipping hubs, several coastal
towns became important early, such as Indianola, a deepwater port that thrived until hurricanes
destroyed it in 1875 and 1886; Saluria, on Matagorda Island; and Aransas, then on the bay side
of St. Joseph Island.
        The first permanent settler on Mustang Island did not arrive until 1853, when Robert A.
Mercer settled on its north tip at what is now Port Aransas. His family joined him in 1855.
Mercer is for all intents and purposes the founding father of Port Aransas. Originally from
England, the family moved to the United States and ultimately to the South, arriving at Aransas
on St. Joseph Island in 1850. In 1855, when permanently on Mustang Island, they built a ranch,
El Mar Rancho, and began raising cattle and sheep. Robert and his sons were also bar pilots,
navigating ships through the dangerous pass. Mercer was followed by several other settlers
seeking to make Mustang Island their home, such as the Roberts and Mathews families.

The Lydia Ann Lighthouse
        The increased shipping through the Aransas Pass necessitated construction of a
lighthouse. A formal recommendation was made to the Department of Commerce and the
project was approved. Funds were appropriated by Congress in 1852, and by 1855, construction
began on the structure known variously as the Aransas Pass Lighthouse, the Harbor Island
Lighthouse, and the Lydia Ann Lighthouse. The lighthouse, located on Harbor Island directly
across from the historic location of Aransas Pass, was octagonal in shape, with deep pilings and
thick walls built to withstand winds of 200 miles per hour. During the Civil war in 1863, Union
soldiers, seeking to blockade the Pass to cut off Confederate troops and supplies, moved to
capture the lighthouse. Confederate troops countered by attempting to blow up its tower. It was
damaged, but not destroyed; instead the lens was removed and buried to prevent the enemy from
using its light (Kuehne 1973, 26). Four years after the war, the structure was repaired, the lens

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retrieved, and service was resumed. The lighthouse was ultimately decommissioned in 1952,
since the pass had naturally migrated south and the lighthouse no longer stood opposite it.
Throughout its history, the Harbor Island lighthouse has survived many storms, suffering little
damage until Hurricane Celia hit in 1970. In 1973, Charles Butt, president of grocery chain
HEB, purchased it and oversaw its restoration. It is named the Lydia Ann Lighthouse after the
daughter of the 1897 lighthouse keeper.

The Civil War
        By the start of the Civil War in 1861, the Texas Gulf Coast had become an active
shipping hub, exporting cattle and hides from inland ranches. But the war took its toll on the
coast. The Confederate army commandeered the beef and mutton supply in order to feed its
troops. Union forces blockaded the ports, burned houses of prominent citizens, including that of
Robert Mercer, and stole cattle and sheep. Houses and warehouses on the islands were
plundered. A skirmish between the forces took place in Aransas Bay in 1862. And in 1863,
Union forces returned to St. Joseph Island, burning homes and other buildings, including the post
office. By the war’s end, Mustang and St. Joseph Islands had been almost entirely evacuated.
Those families that remained had lost sons in the war, and the dearth of able-bodied men to work
the ranches and businesses meant that the area was slow to recover.

Texas Coast Packeries and other Industry
        Local conditions did improve, however, due in large part to cattle. During the last two
years of the Civil War, cattle on the ranges had multiplied dramatically, as entire families of
cowboys were off fighting instead of ranching. Texas began capitalizing on this commodity. As
families began to rebuild homes and docks on the islands and freight started to once again ship
from Corpus Christi and the other bays, cattle were rounded up and brought to the fledgling
packery industry at the coast. The packeries, or slaughterhouses, could sell the hides, horns,
bones, and tallow to the eastern markets for a far higher profit than selling the entire cow, per
head. Wharves and warehouses were constructed up and down the coast, including on Mustang
Island. Thousands of head of cattle, as well as mustangs, were butchered and reduced to tallow.
For the most part, the meat was scrapped, as lack of refrigeration make shipping or storing it
impossible. By 1870 the great herds were in danger of depletion, and severe winters in 1872 and
1873 killed still more cattle. Additionally, cattle were increasingly being driven to the new
railroads for shipment to the East instead of to the packeries at the coast. The butchering of
cattle henceforth slowed, and the packery industry at the coast dwindled. The human population
had grown, however—although precise numbers for populations of Mustang Island and other
island communities are inexact, in 1870 Nueces County counted 3,975 residents. Ten years later
that number had grown to 7,673. Corpus Christi had risen in importance as a commercial port.
The town of Aransas, on St. Joseph Island, however, became a ghost town. Only one docking
area remains.
       The population of Mustang Island remained scattered on farms and homesteads
throughout much of the 19th century, and not yet concentrated in the town of Port Aransas. That
began to happen, slowly, toward the end of the 19th century, due to continued growth and
improvements. Industry rallied after the departure of the packeries: Mustang Islanders turned to
the export of live turtles, sheep wool, and egret feathers, duck hunting, and fishing. In 1880, Ed

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Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey                                                Survey Report
and William Mercer built a store on the island, and between 1889 and 1891 Elihu Ropes
attempted to cut a channel across the island to provide a more direct shipping route to Corpus
Christi. He was ultimately unsuccessful. The town that would become Port Aransas was first
named Ropesville, then in 1896 its name was changed to Tarpon, in honor of the large sport fish
available in the Gulf. At the end of the 19th century the population of Port Aransas was
approximately 300.

The Aransas Pass Jetties and other Improvements at the Turn of the 20th Century
        Construction of the Aransas Pass jetties began in the 1880s. The Mansfield Jetty, on the
south side of the pass, extends from Mustang Island into the Gulf of Mexico. Its construction
brought workers to the area, and in 1886 a two-story structure was constructed to house the
workers. It burned, but in 1904 was rebuilt and converted into a hotel, the Tarpon Inn. A
portion of the inn survived the 1919 hurricane; it one of the oldest surviving structures on the
island. The jetties’ construction took place over a number of years, but stalled for various
reasons including financial or technical difficulties. Several attempts were made to improve the
original 1880s jetties but it was not until 1907 that construction resumed, thanks to a large
federal appropriation. The existing jetties, completed in 1919, are constructed of giant base
blocks capped by large granite blocks. Their construction was a massive undertaking that
involved a railroad, barges, and cranes. The purpose of the jetties is to protect the deep channel
cut into the Aransas Pass—without them, large ships would drag Gulf waters and silt along with
them, and the pass would be compromised. Without the pass, the development of the port of
Corpus Christi would have been impossible.
        Improvements continued to be made to the settlement at the turn of the 20th century. In
1879 a life-saving station, forerunner of the modern Coast Guard, was constructed on Mustang
Island, near the old Mercer family dock. It was incorporated into the Coast Guard when that
organization was founded in 1915. The community’s first post office was established around
1890. About 1900, the Mustang Island School opened, replacing a one-room schoolhouse built
by Robert Mercer and some ranch hands and bar pilots. During the construction of the jetties,
the townspeople began to refer to their town as ―Port Aransas‖ in hopes that it would become a
deepwater port. When the new post office opened in 1911, the town’s name was officially
changed to Port Aransas. While it did not emerge as a port city, the name stuck. In 1914, the
Mustang Island School became the Port Aransas Independent School District. The town became
more established in the early years of the 20th century, but was still difficult to reach from the
mainland and was largely the domain of those living on the island full-time.

The Hurricane of 1919
       Unfortunately, just as Port Aransas began to grow and improve, two hurricanes blew
through the Gulf and wrought devastation on the young town. The first, in 1916, was a fast-
moving storm that struck the coast between Brownsville and Corpus Christi. High winds
damaged many boats and buildings, including the keeper’s house at the Lydia Ann Lighthouse.
Twenty lives were lost at Corpus Christi, and several sailors perished at sea. The hurricane of
1919, however, was even more destructive and deadly. An extremely powerful, slow-moving
hurricane hit the coast near Corpus Christi, with St. Joseph and Mustang Islands directly in the
path of the right-front storm quadrant, where the storm surge and wind speeds are highest. A

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storm surge of almost twenty feet engulfed Port Aransas, sweeping away buildings and leveling
dunes. Huge timbers from the docks were carried on sixteen-foot waves to Corpus Christi,
where they became battering rams, destroying buildings in their wake. Most of the Tarpon Inn
crumbled; in fact, most buildings in Port Aransas were destroyed or severely damaged.
Hundreds of people died in the 1919 storm—300 in Corpus Christi alone, and many more at sea
and in the surrounding areas. With no bridges or other easy route off of the island, Port Aransas
residents could not evacuate and were forced to hunker down and weather the storm. Much of
the town was devastated by the storm, and in its aftermath, many residents left the devastated
island and did not return. Rebuilding was slow, as many storm-struck coastal towns vied for
building materials. In some cases, driftwood was the only viable building material option for
repairs or reconstructions of damaged buildings.

The Development of the Tourism Industry
        Islanders did rebuild, however, constructing docks and warehouses, infrastructure, and
housing. The Tarpon Inn was rebuilt, as well, in 1925, and has subsequently survived six
hurricanes. By 1925, the census shows Port Aransas with a population of 250 full-time residents.
The island, with its sandy beaches and excellent fishing, had long been attractive to tourists, but
the difficulty in getting there by only boat kept the number of visitors low. That began to change
in the 1920s, thanks to transportation innovations. In 1926, an over-water railroad previously
used during construction of port facilities on Harbor Island was converted for use by
automobiles. At the city of Aransas Pass, cars drove up special ramps onto railroad flatcars, then
were towed across eight bridges to Harbor Island. The cars were unloaded, then driven onto a
small ferry for a short trip across a ship channel to Port Aransas. Now, with their automobiles,
tourists were free to explore Mustang Island and discover its beaches and fishing spots. The
second major development came in 1928, when a wooden causeway was constructed between
southeast Corpus Christi and Padre Island. It was a double track system with trough-shaped
tracks wide enough for the wheels of a car. Motorists drove onto Padre Island, then across a
small bridge that connected Padre and Mustang Islands, and finally up Mustang Island to Port
Aransas. In 1931, the automobile-carrying train was replaced by an over-water roadway from
Aransas Pass to Harbor Island. This made Port Aransas more accessible than ever.
        In order to secure is future as a tourist destination, Port Aransas began a public relations
campaign to advertise its attributes—namely, its fishing. An advertising slogan, ―Where They
Bite Every Day,‖ targeted the entire state. In 1932, the Tarpon Rodeo fishing tournament was
established and attracted sport fisherman from far and wide. The Rodeo became an annual
event. In 1937, the tourism industry got a tremendous boost when Franklin Delano Roosevelt
came to Port Aransas to spend a few days fishing for tarpon. A full story with pictures ran in the
May 24, 1937 issue of Life magazine, putting Port Aransas on the national stage. Tourist courts
and cottages were constructed, as well as housing for the city’s increasing population. In 1941,
the University of Texas Marine Science Institute was authorized, a project that had been pending
since 1892, when a marine school was first recommended by the Governor of Texas.

World War II and Beyond: Hurricanes, Rebuilding, and Continued Growth
      By 1940, as the United States was entering World War II, the population of Port Aransas
was approximately 500. During the war, Port Aransas’s position on a major pass into Texas

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coastal shipping hubs made it a logical base of operations for certain wartime defense activities.
During the war the population doubled with the military personnel stationed there. The Coast
Guard Station at Port Aransas brought many of its reserves into service, and increased its staff to
72 men. A reported sighting of a German U-Boat off the Texas coast motivated the military to
construct artillery guns on a high dune off Cotter Street and to implement Coast Guard beach
patrols, gasoline rations, mandatory blackouts, and other regulations. Fishing boats were
allowed to venture no further than the jetties, and civilian automobiles were not permitted on the
beach. Protecting the Aransas Pass, and the tank farm on Harbor Island, where large quantities
of oil awaited export and import, became of utmost importance. The gun emplacements are now
recognized by a historical subject marker entitled ―World War II Coastal Defenses at the
Aransas,‖ placed in Roberts Point Park in March 2006. At the war’s close in 1945, another
severe hurricane struck the Texas coast at Matagorda. Port Aransas was heavily damaged by 100
mile per hour winds and large swells, as well as by torrential rains.
        After regrouping from World War II and the 1945 hurricane, Port Aransas’s growth
continued slowly and steadily. The UT Marine Science Institute expanded its campus, adding
several buildings and a dock. Buildings downtown were repaired or rebuilt, and new businesses
opened. Tourism increased steadily. During the 1950s, Port Aransas became known for its
lively entertainment, with bars, music, and gambling. In the 1950s, the roads into Port Aransas
improved—a paved roadway between Flour Bluff, near Corpus Christi, and north Padre Island
opened in 1950, and State Highway 361 was completed from north Padre Island into Port
Aransas. A few hurricanes hit the coast in the 1950s, but Port Aransas did not suffer heavy
damage. The tarpon started disappearing from local waters in the mid-1950s, and the last Tarpon
Rodeo was held in 1958. Still, tourism in Port Aransas continued to increase, as did the
permanent population. In 1960 the census counted 824 residents.
         In 1961, most of the improvements from the 1950s were washed away by Hurricane
Carla, one of the largest storms to ever hit the United States. Carla began as a Category 5
tropical cyclone, which became a Category 4 hurricane by the time it hit the Texas coast between
Port Lavaca and Port O’Connor. Wind gusts, at their peak, reached 175 miles per hour;
sustained winds registered at 115 mph in Matagorda, 110 mph in Victoria, and 88 mph in
Galveston. Carla instigated one of the largest hurricane-related tornado outbreaks on record.
Tornadoes, high winds, and heavy rainfall pounded the entire Texas coast. A massive
evacuation, at the time the largest peacetime evacuation in US history, kept the statewide death
toll at 43. Once again, much of the town of Port Aransas was damaged or destroyed, with houses
knocked off foundations and often moved. And once again rebuilding efforts commenced.
        The history of Port Aransas post-1961 shows a similar pattern: slow growth of the
permanent population (1,300 in 1970, 2,218 in 1980); increasing focus on the tourism industry,
with hotels, restaurants, and beach cottages being constructed; and periodic hurricanes that
inflicted varying degrees of damage (Beulah in 1967, major damage by Celia in 1970, Allen in
1980). Because of the many hurricanes throughout the town’s history, very little of its historic
fabric remains. In the 1990s, however, following a mid-1980s economic slump, Port Aransas
developed several new projects, such as a birding center, a community theater, several parks, and
a shuttle bus system. In addition, SandFest, an annual international sand sculpture festival, was
founded. Today, Port Aransas is a thriving tourist community whose 2000 census showed a
permanent population of approximately 3,400; the summer tourist influx, and the wintering

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retirees from the north, boosts this number by thousands. Large hotels and condominiums on the
beach, as well as tourist cottages, shops, and restaurants, comprise much of the urban fabric of
Port Aransas. In 2005, the town celebrated its Sesquicentennial. It now 151 years old, and
shows no signs of slowing.
         .




*        *        *          *   *       *   *      *      *       *      *       *       *
The majority of the names, dates, and other historical information used in creating this historic
context came primarily from the following two secondary sources: Kuehne, 1973; and Ford,
2005. These and additional sources are credited in the bibliography at the end of this document.
Additional information was supplied by members of PAPHA.
*        *        *          *   *       *   *      *      *       *      *       *       *




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SURVEY RESULTS
         The Port Aransas Historic Resources survey encompassed a roughly 70-block area
containing Old Town and an adjacent historic neighborhood to the south. Within this area,
Preservation Central documented a total of 196 historic resources. Non-historic resources (those
built after 1960) were generally not documented. High preservation priority was assigned to 16
properties, or 8% of the historic resources documented. These represent exceptionally intact
examples of a significant architectural style or construction method, or resources known to have
particular historical importance. Most resources classified as high priority are considered
individually eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The high priority
resources of Port Aransas include residential, commercial, and religious properties. All high-
priority resources would be considered contributing features of any National Register historic
districts or local historic or conservation districts defined within the survey area.
        Medium preservation priority was assigned to an additional 98 resources, or 50% of the
historic resources surveyed. These are good or typical examples of an architectural type or style
that have suffered relatively few exterior alterations. They would be considered contributing
features of any National Register historic districts or local historic or conservation districts
created within the survey area. The remaining 82 historic resources, or 42% of the total
surveyed, were assigned a low preservation priority. These resources are considered to lack
integrity—either from having been so severely altered that they no longer convey a sense of their
historic character, or from being in exceptionally poor condition and beyond repair. The two
resources constructed after the historic period (ca. 1975 and 1980) that were included in the
inventory were also classified as low preservation priority, but are not discussed in this report
and do not factor into any statistics or determinations herein. They were surveyed because they
are close to historic age and/or have architectural features of note, and may need to be considered
for preservation in the future. All low priority resources would be considered noncontributing
features of any National Register historic districts or local historic or conservation districts
within the survey area.
        The Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey documented two categories of built
resources: buildings and sites. The survey area did not find noteworthy historic structures or
objects. Primary attention focused on buildings, with 195 documented in the survey effort.
Created principally to shelter human activity, buildings include houses, commercial buildings,
courthouses, libraries, and schools. One site, the Mercer Cemetery, was noted.
       In terms of use, the vast majority of resources in the survey area are domestic in nature,
with 180, or 92% of all resources, falling into this category. Of these, 13 are either vacation
cottages, tourist courts, or inns. As specified in National Register Bulletin #16, the U.S.
Department of the Interior places hotels and similar properties in the ―Domestic‖ data category.
The survey area includes very few commercial resources: seven, or 3.5% of the total resources
surveyed. These include retail stores, an auto service facility, and a warehouse. The remaining
resources in the survey area are primarily institutional or civic features, significant to the
community despite their relatively small number. These include five religious buildings, one
educational facility, two civic buildings, and one funerary site. No features related to
transportation, infrastructure, defense, industry, or agriculture were found in the survey area.


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       The following discussion outlines the salient features of domestic and commercial
resources documented in the Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey.

Domestic Resources –Dwellings
        Dwellings in Port Aransas are generally modest houses with front-, side-, or cross-gabled
roofs and minimal stylistic embellishment. Due to the devastating effects of multiple hurricanes,
the earliest houses in the survey area date to ca. 1915 to 1920, while the vast majority of historic
dwellings were constructed from 1930 and 1960. Almost all are frame houses with asbestos,
wood, or a wood replacement siding. By a considerable margin, the most common cladding
material is asbestos, which accounts for 90, or 50%, of the 180 historic-period dwellings.
Various types of wood siding are also prevalent, found on 49 dwellings (27%). An additional
eight houses have aluminum or vinyl siding, both typical wood replacements. Only three houses
have stucco cladding, and masonry is even less common. The extensive use of asbestos siding is
unique in comparison with national trends, explained in part by the timeframe in which most
houses were constructed and the material’s durability in a coastal climate.
        Most houses in Port Aransas present a casual interpretation of the traditional architecture
popular in coastal towns, such as the Cape Cod style in New England. In response to their
climate and setting, they have large windows open to the sea breeze, and storm shutters are a
common feature. More elaborate houses have cupolas or decks to take advantage of beachfront
views. Of the historic-period dwellings documented in the survey, characteristics of a particular
style were ascribed to only 63, or 35%. These houses generally exhibit only slight influence of
the styles popular throughout the nation at the time of their construction, including Craftsman,
Prairie, Period Revival, Minimal Traditional, Ranch, and Modern styles.
        Craftsman-influenced houses are the most prevalent style in the survey area, accounting
for 52 dwellings. Initially associated with the California firm Greene and Greene, the Craftsman
style had its roots in the Arts and Crafts Movement, which championed the use of handcrafts in
interior and exterior decoration. Ironically, the
Craftsman-influenced bungalow was well
suited for large-scale mass production, and it
was the dominant form of residential
construction throughout the nation during the
early 20th century. The style is characterized
by a moderate to low-pitched roof with
unenclosed eaves and exposed rafter tails, false
knee braces in gable ends, and a prominent
front porch with tapered piers or columns. It is
commonly associated with the bungalow plan
type, which generally has two rows of side-by-
side rooms, staggered front to back to provide
space for a substantial porch. Later examples Craftsman Bungalow, 217 E. Brundrett Ave.
are often cross- or side-gabled houses with a
small front stoop and more limited stylistic embellishment. Craftsman-influenced houses in the
survey area were constructed between 1920 and 1950. Good examples of the type can be found
at 217 E. Brundrett Ave. and 432 E. Palm Dr.

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        The Prairie style originated with the
turn-of-the-century domestic designs of Frank
Lloyd Wright and other Chicago architects.
Prairie School-influenced dwellings were
considered the epitome of style during the first
and second decades of the 20th century.
Adapted to bungalow plans, the style
frequently translated into low-pitched roofs,
overhanging boxed eaves, full-width porches,
and hipped-roof dormers. Most vernacular
examples lack the ribbon windows, geometric
patterning, and heavy horizontal emphasis that
typify true high-style Prairie architecture. Two Prairie Style-influenced house, 400 block S. 12th St.
houses in the survey area exhibit slight
influence of Prairie School design, primarily evident in their overhanging boxed eaves. They are
located in the 400 block of S. 12th St. and at 500 E. Lantana Dr.


        Period Revival styles, such as Tudor
Revival and Colonial Revival, were common
during the Depression.       They connote a
romantic view of the past and can be seen as a
reactionary response to the economic and
social uncertainties of that time.       Tudor
Revival houses have steeply pitched, cross-
gabled rooflines, and more elaborate examples
often include decorative half-timbering in the
gable ends. Colonial Revival houses feature
balanced facades that are relatively
undecorated except for an accentuated entry
bay. Found in both one- and two-story forms,        Tudor Revival-influenced house, 325 E. Oakes Ave.
Colonial Revival houses are most commonly
side gabled. The survey area includes one
house with moderate Tudor Revival influence,
located at 325 E. Oakes Ave, and one house
with Colonial and Classical Revival
influences, found in the 200 block of S.
Oleander St. This house, thought to be a mail
order kit house purchased from Sears &
Roebuck Co., was built by a descendent of the
Mercers, the original family of Port Aransas.
It is the most architecturally and historically
significant residence in Port Aransas, yet it is
endangered. Currently, it faces threat of
demolition due to proposed development.             Classical Revival-influenced house, 200 block S.
                                                    Oleander St.
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        The Minimal Traditional style, a categorization applied in retrospect to houses popular
from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, was an outgrowth of economic frugality in the post-
Depression and immediate post-World War II eras. The style loosely adapted Colonial or Tudor
Revival details to modestly sized houses, although even these influences were sparely applied.
The style's low-pitched, side- or cross-gabled roofline has enclosed eaves with little to no
overhang. The Ranch style, more prevalent after 1950, has a low-slung, side-gabled or hipped
roof with deep overhangs, designed to elongate and flatten the house's appearance in relation to
its surroundings. Its long, linear profile required a wider lot than standard for prewar houses.
Both Minimal Traditional and Ranch-style houses minimized the importance of the front porch;
the Ranch house instead emphasized a sense of connectivity with the landscape through picture
windows and sliding glass doors on the more
private elevations. Integral carports or garages
are common to both styles and are frequently
used to attenuate the lengthy profile of the
Ranch house. High-style Modern architecture
was also adapted to houses built from the
postwar era into the 1960s. Mid-century
Modern houses generally have flat or low-
pitched gabled roofs, emphasized structural
elements, and no traditional decorative
detailing. The survey identified one Minimal
Traditional, two Ranch, and four Modern
dwellings. A good example of a house with
Modern-influenced design is in the 700 block Modern-influenced house, 700 block E. Tarrant Ave.
of E. Tarrant Ave.




Domestic Resources –Inns, Vacation Cottages, and Tourist Courts
        As the tourism industry in Port Aransas grew, so did the need for tourist
accommodations. Tourist cottages were a popular choice in many beach communities—the idea
of a casual retreat suitable for an entire family meshed well with the relaxed atmosphere in towns
like Port Aransas. Several notable examples of tourist cottage groupings exist in Port Aransas,
lending a ―summer-holiday‖ atmosphere to the town. Collectively, they speak to tourism’s role
in Port Aransas’s physical development and economy, and are among the most unique and
significant properties in the survey area. Vacation cottages, as well as hotels, inns and similar
resources, are designated as ―domestic‖ property types, with historic use sub-categories that
distinguish them as temporary vacation residences.
        Vacation cottages can be found in small groups or alone; they can share a lot with a
larger house, can be placed on the beach, or nestled into trees. Cottages such as these were
commonly built in the 1930s and 1940s. Their styles and building materials vary regionally, but


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gabled wood-frame structures, sided in wood
or asbestos shingles or siding, are most
common.      The circa 1930 Sea & Sand
Cottages, at Avenue E and 10th Street,
although arranged somewhat in a court style,
can also be considered good examples of the
early vacation cottage style, in that they are
side-gabled frame buildings, each with a
private porch.




                                                    Sea & Sand Cottages, 10th St. at Ave. E


        A variation on the vacation cottage is the tourist court. In a tourist court, the freestanding
cottages are arranged around an interior courtyard, with common space between the units. This
was intended to create a sense of community.
A separate office was usually included in the
complex.     Often, an amenity such as a
swimming pool was placed in the center of the
court. Tourist courts were common from
about 1935 to 1965. Earlier versions were
usually front- or side-gabled frame structures,
some with small front porches; later versions
were often of cinderblock with shed roofs and
had more utilitarian stoop entries. As the
automobile culture accelerated in the mid-20th
century, tourist courts offered more accessible
accommodation for the tourists’ cars. Tourist
courts naturally evolved into, and were Craftsman tourist court at 340 N. Alister St.
ultimately supplanted by, motor courts, or
motels.
        Port Aransas has several excellent
examples of tourist courts. An early example,
dating from the 1930s, is a series of Craftsman
style cottages arranged around a court at 340
N. Alister Street. They are wood-framed
buildings with wood double hung sash
windows and exposed rafter ends. A two-story
building on the property could have served as
an office or community space. The complex is
now vacant. At 603 E. Avenue G lie a series
of front-gabled rock cottages built circa 1940.
                                                    Rock tourist court at 603 E. Ave. G
They feature honeycombed rock with wide

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mortar joints, and 6/6 divided light windows. The rock used in their construction is the same
rock type that comprises the base of the Aransas Pass jetties. These cottages housed troops
during World War II. A later example is the collection of modernist cottages in the 100 block of
N. Alister Street, which are constructed of concrete block and feature slightly angled shed roofs.
        Inns date back to Roman times and by their basic definition are accommodations for
travelers. The inn as it evolved in Europe migrated to Colonial America as a structure built
specifically for the needs of travelers, with sleeping rooms and a communal dining room or
tavern on the lower level where meals were served. Some included parlors, or in warm climates,
porches or verandas. In the 1800s they added shared baths, and when the development of
railroads made leisure and business travel more common, the inns became larger and more
complex, with more extensive plumbing, large restaurants, bars, barber shops, and other
amenities, and can be considered early versions of the modern hotel. Simple inns remained
common in smaller towns.
        The Tarpon Inn, at 200 E. Cotter Street, has a history that dates to 1886, when the
original structure was built in the style of military barracks, using wood salvaged from a Civil
War barracks. It burned, and was replaced in 1904 by two buildings in a similar style. While the
original structure was built to house the
Mansfield Jetty workers, the subsequent
versions were intended to be used for tourist
accommodation.         The 1919 hurricane
destroyed the larger of the two buildings, but
the smaller continued to be used as an inn until
a new, larger inn was constructed in 1925.
Once again, efforts were made to echo the
original design as much as possible. The small
1904 building was moved to the rear of the
new inn to become the dining room wing.
Long verandas on both floors take advantage
of the ocean breezes. The Tarpon Inn is listed
in the National Register of Historic Places.        Tarpon Inn, 200 E. Cotter St.




Commercial Resources
         Commercial resources as defined by the Secretary of the Interior’s standards vary greatly
and include office buildings, retail stores, banks, union buildings, restaurants and bars, and
warehouses. Seven historic commercial buildings were found in the Port Aransas survey area.
That there are so few historic commercial properties in the area is due in large part to the
constant destruction of the building stock by hurricanes. The oldest commercial resource in the
survey area is the circa 1920 building at 106 E. Cotter Street, a cross-gabled building with a
porch and shuttered windows, built as a retail establishment and currently used as a restaurant
(The Big Kahuna). The mid-1950s hardware store at 115 N. Alister Street is notable in that it
still retains its original use. The rest of the commercial properties in the survey area are a
warehouse, currently vacant, an auto service garage, and three other retail buildings.


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The Commercial property type pertains only to
those buildings originally built as commercial
properties. Several businesses in the survey
area are categorized as Domestic property
types, as they are housed in historic dwellings
that were later converted to offices or shops.
The survey area does contain a large number
of    non-historic     commercial      buildings,
concentrated especially around Alister and
Cotter Streets, but the scope of this project was
to survey just those properties that fall into the
historic period of significance.
                                                     The Big Kahuna, 106 E. Cotter St.




Other Resource Types
       Historic resources other than those
domestic or commercial include: the Mercer
emetery, which dates to the 1890s and contains
fewer than 10 headstones; a private chapel,
constructed on the dunes by the Carter family,
with interior murals painted by John Patrick
Cobb in the 1970s; and three churches, two of
which (St. Joseph’s Church, now a residence,
and the Presbyterian Church) have Gothic
Revival influence and one of which (the
Church of Christ) is a brick modernist
building. These churches, and the chapel and
cemetery, are all considered high priority
resources.                                           The Carter Chapel, on the dunes near 600 block Ave. B




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RECOMMENDATIONS
        In order to foster Port Aransas’ unique historic character, Preservation Central
recommends that the City of Port Aransas enact a historic preservation ordinance with provisions
for designating and protecting historically or architecturally significant landmarks and
conservation districts. Within the Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey boundaries, the
consultants identified 16 high priority sites which are the best examples of their architectural
type or style in Port Aransas. Of these, six may be eligible for listing in the National Register of
Historic Places due to their local significance and architectural integrity. The Tarpon Inn is
already listed. The remaining nine properties may be eligible for local landmark status.
         The consultants found no distinguished historic districts. In most historic districts,
whether National Register or locally designated, at least 50% of the cultural resources are
historic period properties that retain their original architectural characteristics to a good degree.
For a variety of reasons, including storms that destroyed historic properties, Port Aransas has
considerable new construction and non-historic renovation of older buildings within the town’s
traditional core. Thus, the new and severely remodeled historic buildings comprise a larger
percentage of the building stock than do the relatively unaltered historic buildings. As a result,
Port Aransas lacks clearly defined zones that would be eligible for designation as historic
districts.
        However, the City of Port Aransas could define one or more conservation districts that
would protect the existing building stock – including historic properties – and maintain the local
character in the future. Conservation districts generally adhere to compatibility standards that
specify the size, scale, set back, materials and design of new construction including additions to
existing properties. Application should be made for new construction and demolition within the
conservation districts and applicants should be subject to design review prior to commencing
with the project.


 Specifically, the City of Port Aransas should:
        Establish a local ordinance that protects identified historic landmarks. Such an
         ordinance may convey property tax abatement or other incentives. It would also ensure
         preservation and maintenance of local landmarks. Properties identified in the survey as
         high priorities are:
                  Site 1: 200 block Oleander, the ―Sears House‖*
                  Site 31: 325 E. Oakes, ca. 1930 Tudor Revival House
                  Site 30: 217 E. Brundrett, ca. 1925 Clipped gable bungalow
                  Site 28: 200 block E. Brundrett, ca. 1960 Church of Christ*
                  Site 40: 400 block Alister, Gothic Revival Presbyterian Church*
                  Site 113: 412A S. Station, Cross gable bungalow
                  Site 119: 511 S. 10th Street, Hipped roof bungalow


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                  Site 117: 404 S. 10th Street, ca. 1930 Cross gable bungalow
                  Site 45: 603 E. Avenue G, Rock Cottages*
                  Site 107: 115 N. Alister, Hardware Store
                  Site 160: 106 E. Cotter, Big Kahuna
                  Site 161: 200 E. Cotter, Tarpon Inn, NR listed
                  Site 41B: 620B E. Avenue B, Chapel*
                  Site 81: 300 block E. Oakes, Cemetery**
                  Site 79: 208 E. Oakes, St. Joseph’s Church* (now a residence)
                  Site 8: 340 N. Alister, Craftsman-influenced cottages
         * Potentially eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places
         ** Cemeteries are not eligible for NR listing
        Nominate high-priority resources for listing in the National Register of Historic
         Places and as City of Port Aransas landmarks. The Port Aransas Historic Resources
         Survey documented 16 high-priority buildings in the project area. Of these, only one –
         the Tarpon Inn – has been listed in the National Register. High priority properties should
         be designated as local landmarks and six of those, in addition to the Tarpon Inn, may be
         eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. National Register listing is
         primarily honorary and carries no restrictions against demolition or alteration unless a
         federal undertaking is involved. However, National Register listing allows owners of
         income-producing properties to apply for federal tax credits for approved renovation.
         Furthermore, the presence of National Register properties in a community helps convey a
         sense of history and helps attract heritage tourism.
        Enact a historic preservation ordinance that establishes a program for designating
         and protecting local landmarks and conservation districts. A local ordinance
         provides the practical application necessary to protect and maintain significant features of
         the community, which may generate economic benefits through increased heritage
         tourism. The City of Port Aransas should consult Texas Historical Commission staff in
         the Certified Local Government (CLG) division for guidance in drafting the ordinance.
        Consider the Tarpon Inn and other High Priority sites identified in the survey for
         designation as local landmarks. Other properties outside the survey boundaries may
         also be considered for landmark designation. In addition, properties that possess
         extraordinary historic significance for the community but were not considered high
         priorities may also be eligible for local designation.
        Conduct additional research on the surveyed neighborhoods for possible
         designation as local conservation districts. Boundaries for the potential conservation
         districts should be drawn to define cohesive enclaves of historic with concentrations of
         high and medium priority resources, few modern intrusions, and logical physical
         boundaries.


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        Perform additional surveys to incorporate potential landmarks lying outside the
         present survey area boundaries. Subsequent survey efforts should encompass
         particularly intact or historically significant areas as well as known historic properties
         outside the survey area.
        Develop official design guidelines that Port Aransas can use to consistently regulate
         the type and nature of changes permitted for local landmarks and properties in
         conservation districts. By encouraging sensitive alterations to historic buildings and
         architecturally compatible new construction, design guidelines provide a mechanism by
         which to maintain the historic character of Port Aransas’ commercial and residential
         enclaves. Within potential conservation districts design guidelines should address
         signage, storefronts, awnings, alterations to historic buildings, and the reversal of
         inappropriate alterations. In residential areas, design guidelines should regulate exterior
         modifications, additions, and new construction within historic districts.
        Hold town-hall meetings or workshops to educate historic building owners and
         realtors. Topics should include the Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits available
         to income-producing properties eligible for the National Register or constructed before
         1936. Design guidelines and conservation districts should be discussed to get citizen
         input on proposed restrictions.




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December 2006
Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey                                              Survey Report




BIBLIOGRAPHY


Beck, Alison. 1979. ―Tarpon Inn.‖ National Register of Historic Places nomination and
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Bernstein, Ellen. 2000. ―Some Troubling Images from the Chapel on the Dunes.‖ Corpus
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Ford, John Guthrie. 2005. What You Always Wanted to Know About Port “A” But Got Too
       Relaxed There to Find Out. Port Aransas, Texas: USA Hurrah Publishing.

Harwood, Miller and W.A. Scrivner. 1949. Fabulous Port Aransas. Aransas Pass, Texas:
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Jones, Robert S. 2006. ―University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute‖ in Handbook of
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Kuehne, Cyril Matthew. 1973. Hurricane Junction: A History of Port Aransas. San Antonio,
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Leatherwood, Art. 2006a. ―Aransas Pass‖ in Handbook of Texas Online,
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------. 2006b. ―Mustang Island‖ in Handbook of Texas Online, <www.tsha.utexas.edu/
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Long, Christopher. 2006. ―Nueces County‖ in Handbook of Texas Online,
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McAlester, Virgina and Lee. 2000. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A.
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National Park Service. 1990. National Register Bulletin #15: How to Apply the National
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------. 1991. National Register Bulletin #16A: How to Complete the National Register
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Preservation Central, Inc.                                                               Page 24
December 2006
Port Aransas Historic Resources Survey                                            Survey Report



Roberts, Elda May. 1970. The Stubborn Fisherman: A History of the Roberts Family. Port
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Texas Historical Commission, Visionaries in Preservation program. 2006. ―Port Aransas
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Upchurch, Alice Gray. 2006. ―Port Aransas, Texas‖ in Handbook of Texas Online,
      <www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/PP/hjp11.html>. Accessed Nov. 2006.




Preservation Central, Inc.                                                               Page 25
December 2006

				
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