South Padre Island, a barrier island
on the Texas Gulf Coast, offers a plethora of activities. Whether you
are a tourist or local,
South Padre Island
offers something fun for
everyone and lots of attractions for people of all ages. For those who
love the beach, there are banana-boat rides, parasailing, surfing, kite
surfing, snorkeling, surf fishing, offshore fishing, scuba diving,
sailing, speedboats, leisure boats and many other types of beach-related
activities. On the shore there is horseback riding, bicycling,
volleyball, football, Frisbee, all kinds of photography and painting
opportunities due to the spectacular beauty of the scenery. You can even
go shell-collecting and make unique jewelry or shell art from your
finds. Using metal-detectors is also a popular hobby that produces rare
treasures. Our Beachcomber Museum offers real maps to real treasures
that were lost among sea-faring ships on their journeys. South Padre
Island is rich in history and offers historical sites and statues that
tell exciting stories of treasure, some found already and some waiting
to be discovered yet.
Thanks to Sam and his
blog known as the
SPI History Channel
Thanks to Michael Leahy of San Antonio for finding
a few old pictures from the late 1940's on Flicker. I downloaded
three because they looked neat. The first one is entitled "Lee's
Cafe" which was reported to be the only cafe on the Island back in
1946. In fact, the legend says it was the only
building on South Padre
Island! We do know there may have been some coastal patrol stuff but
it sure does look stark. Apparently everything was washed away by
the Great Hurricane of 1933.
Below is a picture of the south jetty at Brazos Santiagos Pass. I
still can't figure out if the wooden structures are railroad
trestles or what. All that is left of the structure are some square
concrete blocks used to support the wood.
This is my favorite in the collection. How did you get to Padre
Island in 1946? Well there were ferries at times, but the most fun
was Mrs. Dyke's Taxi, shown here in Port Isabel. It looks amphibious
- not sure if the old causeway was open but there were no roads on
SPI back then.
If you want to learn more such as about the Gulf Coast Causeway
Company the National Park Service has a
great website here. Apparently, the Causeway company formed in
1925 wanted to build a roadway from Port Isabel all the way to
Corpus Christi, 110 miles away. The idea was based on the Florida
Keys, which had a railroad and highway. A sports arena, gambling,
and giant park were planned, along with cottage and motor court
developments. If the Depression and Hurricane of 1933 hadn't
happened, we might see more of what they accomplished.
On Tuesday April 18, 2007 the historic
"whale-back" house on Tarpon Street was moved in order to make room
to a 48-unit condo. Since the house couldn't be trucked across Queen
Isabella Causeway, Marine Services was hired with their tugboat and
barge, shown below.
During the first attempt, a truck on the barge pulled and a tractor
pushed from the rear. The tractor at the back used a little bit too
much power, so the house and barge shifted, no longer lined up on
the ramps. The uniquely Texas term "kattywampus" comes to mind.
However, these salvagers and house movers, acting more like a circus
carny group, would not let such a small thing get in the way ...
The above picture is an early shot of re-aligning the house, boat,
wheels, and creation of new ramps. The big tractor was used to pull
the barge back in line, which was a feat because of the fast
out-going tide. Meanwhle the tugboat was pushing at almost full
throttle and fearless men scrambled underheath the house with heavy
pipes, dunnage, winches, and tackle.
At last all was prepared and Ray of A-1 moving tried once to pull
the house with his souped-up truck, which nearly came on board but
the house setlled backwards. Smoke was everywhere - exhaust, burning
clutches, burning tires, hydraulic oil, and not to mention most of
the workers smoked like stoves. I tried to help out from the peanut
callery, as it was getting close to 7:00 p.m. "How about that stinky
old tractor to just push a little?"
Finally, with what has to be the oldest and strinkiest backhoe I
ever witnessed, the house rolled up and over the dunnage with a
great scream of the truck and a sigh from the house ... and honking
of horns and applause. You never saw such a happier crew, which had
been working since nearly dawn.
The house-on-a-barge stayed overnight, to be moved the next day on
the high tide. If you have any subsequent pictures of the barge
moving down to Port Isabel please let me know and I'll be more than
to post some up here.
I don't know the history of the Round House, although I do know a
little about the people who stayed there. Willie Nelson was perhaps
the most famous, and used to jam on guitars there with the likes of
Waylon Jennings. Scarlet and George Colley fell in love there, and
went on to become our Island's foremost dolphin experts. Nancy
Marsden lived there for a while too, and subsequently met her new
husband Mike. It must be some kind of powerful love-shack, if you
ask me, as everyone still is together.
It still looks good now, all painted up and with some new stairs at
the bottom. It is a true architectural wonder, right here on South
Today I braved the horrendous downtown traffic (hah, nothing like
Austin!) and checked out the Miramar, which according to some was
originally named 'Sandy Retreat.' It was the first commercial hotel
within town limits of what today is South Padre Island. I looked
ahead, which had the signs, to the right which had some nondescript
construction, and on the left were these cute little A-frame
bungalows. They certainly looked old, anyway.
The orange building there is of course Uncle Buggies, a fairly
famous dune buggy rental outfit in what looked like an old gas
station. I was looking for the article about the owner who recently
passed away, since he sounded like a very interesting person. With
all the new regulations, dune buggies are now off limits in the
dunes but you can ride along the beach in the northern county parts.
And this would be Jake's, reportedly another old jail, cop-shop, and
town center. I shot the backside because the palms and sun looked
better. Inside there is a very nice courtyard, almost Spanish style.
Photo credit: Laurie Gaudi
Here's another Island curiosity located near Gulf and I think
Amberjack St., the "old brick house." Thanks to several of y'all for
reminding me about this one. Again, we see some influences that
could be considered "modernist" or just plain funky old beach house.
The use of flying angles is impressive - a 45 degree side angle with
a 3:12 roof pitch - no mere cubism here! The large chimney is also
curious, though it adds much to its overall charm.
Indeed, there are quite a few houses built on the Island that were
designed "outside the box." There are hexagon houses, five-sided
houses, an A-frame or two, and at least three geodesic domes. Even
the rounded roof is evident today in some brand new construction, a
rarity these days.
Over the years there has been quite a discussion of which roof types
are best in high winds of hurricane strength (> 74 MPH). One thought
is that steeper roofs would not act as an airplane wing and thus
incur less damage, although I can no evidence of this after a few
tropical storms (knock on wood, none of true hurricane strength in
the last few decades). You will note, however, that many put thought
into angling the house aspect so the northeast side is the
strongest, since that seems to be the prevailing direction during
many tropical storms.
In the abaove picture, the northeast is on the right-hand side of
the picture. As such, the roof angle would be downwind and not scoop
as much wind. Below, an asymmetrical house of five sides, facing
towards the northeast. It is brick downstairs and stucco upstairs.
I appreciate all the phone calls and emails about
the historical house theme we have going here. This is a resource
not just to my credit but for a whole bunch of people, most of whom
know a bazillion times more local history than I. I am still having
some difficulty getting around the "downtown" area because not only
is the median being redone; the side street drainage is also. But I
did manage to find four beauties today.
The Sears house called the 'Seventh Day' was built in 1973 and is
still popular as a Gulfside beach house, being very well
Steve Hathcock referred this house to me as possibly as real old
timer on Sunny Isle St. He wasn't sure of the exact history and
the owners weren't exactly sure if they wanted me to shoot a
picture of their house. I do see some similarities with the old
Coast Guard House.
Above, the Palmetto Inn is included, along with its curved front
aspect, which is highly unusual anywhere. The sign says "since
1945" but according to local knowledge, that is when the family
first started their restaurant business. The present building was
built in the mid to late 1950's, still impressive. It is a true
Here is the last "surfer" trailer
left on the Island, due to squatter's right's one would suppose.
From an aerial view you can see how a bubble-top 1950's travel
trailer was joined up to other partitions. This is the last stand
for a mobile trailer park of about six permanent trailers.
* * *
Is my job done yet? Absolutly not. There are more
cool houses of historical interest locked away in places all over
the Island. I need to verify the location of John L. Tompkins
office, for example, and shoot one or two bayside boat houses which
have those funky Tiki roof-lines. One Island friend has volunteered
to help find old telephone books from the 1950's through 1970's so
as to see if the old house is still there, an interesting concept.
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