United States / Port Isabel, TX

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1923 Point Isabel Coast Guard Building. The Federal Government has operated a coastal installation at Point Isabel since 1852. This structure is the third permanent building erected here, one of a line of nine stations established along the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to the Texas-Mexico border. Originally consisting of a main floor, attic, and lookout tower, all elevated off the ground on wood and concrete pilings, the structure served as barracks and headquarters for the U.S. Coast Guard unit that patrolled the coastline and conducted sea rescues. #32

?, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Alta Vista Apartments. Constructed in 1931 for the Gaskill-Hodgson Company, this Mediterranean Style structure is the oldest apartment building in Port Isabel. A survivor of numerous coastal storms and hurricanes, the complex originally consisted of three each one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and efficiency apartments. Prominent features of the two-story stucco building include its asymmetrical massing, arched-entry porches, covered balconies, and red tile roof. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1988 #132

700 Polk St, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Padre J. Nicolas Balli. Padre Island, off the South Texas coast, is named for Padre Jose Nicolas Balli (177?-1829), whose family migrated from Spain in 1569 and became large landowners in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. In 1800 Balli applied to King Charles IV of Spain for 11 1/2 leagues of land on the island, and in 1804 started its first settlement, Rancho Santa Cruz. Padre Balli served as collector of finances for all the churches in the Rio Grande Valley and founded the first mission in present Cameron County. Padre Balli's ministry was a great influence on the lives of early South Texas settlers. #3909

?, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Port Isabel (Old Point Isabel). Site of a ranch settlement, owned by Don Rafael Garcia, called "El Fronton de Santa Ysabel" (Bluff of Saint Isabel) about the year 1828. The Mexican custom station was located here in 1844, after the villages of Brazos Santiago and Boca Del Rio were swept away by storms. Goods landed here were at once freighted inland to Matamoros. After the Mexican War (1846-1848), the United States Post Office of "Point Isabel" was created on April 9, 1849. Efforts to build a railroad line to Brownsville in the 1850s did not succeed, but after the Civil War, in 1866, public demands for a rail line to Brownsville were met by Rio Grande steamboat interests, who chartered but refrained from building the road. In 1871, competitors formed the Rio Grande Railroad Company, obtained a charter, and put the line into service in 1873 from Brownsville to a terminus here (450 feet south of this marker). The line served until 1933 when a deep water channel was built to Brownsville. #4074

?, Port Isabel, TX, United States

Fort polk
Fort Polk. A mexican village developed on this point, settled by mexican ranchers in the 1700's. The village was abandoned prior to the U.S. Declaration of war with Mexico in 1846. U.S. Forces led by general Zachary Taylor occupied the point on March 24, 1846. Taylor erected a depot here to receive supplies from New Orleans. The six-sided Fort, named for President Polk, consisted of 4 sides of Earthen Embankments and 2 sides open to the shoreline. The Fort was abandoned in 1850 but the settlement it attracted eventually developed into Port Isabel. Remnants of the Fort were visible until the 1920's. #4796

?, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Old Point Isabel Lighthouse. The beacon for the commerce of the Rio Grande; Erected by the United States Government in 1852; Extinguished during the Civil War; Discontinued, 1888-1895; Permanently discontinued, 1905 #3780

421 East Queen Isabella Blvd, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Charles Champion. The son of Joseph Champion, an Italian immigrant who settled in Texas in 1855, Charles Champion was born on February 2, 1870, in Old Point Isabel. He served as district clerk in Hidalgo County before purchasing the Hess General Store in Old Point Isabel in 1894. He renamed it "The Champion Store," and continued to operate the business in the small frame structure. In 1899, Champion erected this two-story brick building and named it "The Key of the Gulf." The first floor housed the general merchandise store, the U.S. Customs House, and the post office. Champion served as the second postmaster of Point Isabel. In the early 1900s, Champion provided the impetus for the fishing industry that employed many local citizens and became an integral part of the local economy. By 1908 Champion and Judge J.B. Wells owned the Santa Isabela land grant, which included Point Isabel. Long a proponent of a deep water port in Point Isabel, Champion died in 1926 before its completion in 1933. Champion was buried next to his wife Margaret Orive and other family members in the Point Isabel Cemetery. (1996) #14006

317 E. Railroad St, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Point Isabel Coast Guard Building, 1923. #14999

?, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Port of Matamoros. The Port of Matamoros was established in 1824. Commercial cargo, shipped mainly from New Orleans and other U.S. ports, was unloaded at the port and transported overland to Matamoros, Reynosa, Camargo, Monterrey, and Mier. Mexico maintained a garrison and at least one Navy vessel at the port. This area was the site of numerous naval encounters between the U.S. and Mexico in 1836-37, during and after the Texas Revolution. Jurisdiction over the port was finally settled in 1846 when forces of U.S. General Zachary Taylor occupied the area at the outset of the Mexican War. #4082

?, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Point Isabel, C.S.A.. After Texas seceded and joined the Confederacy, the Federal Navy in late 1861 blockaded this port with the U.S. "Santiago de Cuba". Commerce stoppage caused removal of customs offices to Brownsville and some civilians to neutral Bagdad, Mexico. The Confederates ceased to use the lighthouse, and it became a watch tower for blockade runners, and thus Laguna Madre their haven. Boats from the U.S.S. "Brooklyn", in May 1863, attacked vessels in port and a Confederate unit near the lighthouse. The Confederates tried to blow up the tower--a defense measure--but only succeeded in damaging fixtures. The French, supporting Maximilian in Mexico, prohibited the landing of war material at Bagdad. Defying both the French and U.S. Naval patrols, Mexican lighters from the Rio Grande landed here in Sept. 1863 with a large cargo of C.S.A. arms. In Nov. 1863, U.S. forces from the expedition of Gen. N.P. Banks occupied Point Isabel. The blockade was lifted and the port reactivated. In Aug. 1864, the Confederates drove the Federals across the bay to Brazos Island. The next march, Federal Gen. Lew Wallace (later author of "Ben Hur") met Confederate officers here to talk peace. #4063

?, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Port Isabel Cemetery. Encompassing almost one acre of land, the Port Isabel Cemetery is located on property granted to Don Rafael Garcia by the government of Mexico in 1829. The land was known as the Santa Ysabel Grant, and Garcia soon established a ranch he named El Fronton de Santa Isabel (Saint Elizabeth's Bluff). Garcia continued to reside at his home in Matamoros, Mexico, and the ranch was operated by hired workers. According to local tradition, the workers on El Fronton de Santa Isabel Ranch began to use this site as a burial ground as early as the 1840s. No grave markers from that time period survive, however, and the oldest marked graves in the cemetery date to the 1880s. The ground was consecrated for use as a Catholic cemetery by French Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in December 1849, although it has served as a community burial ground for people of all faiths throughout its history. Later owners of the land included members of the Champion (Campeoni) Family, who immigrated to America from Italy in the early 19th Century. The Champion Family donated the cemetery property to the Catholic Church in 1926. It remains an important element of Port Isabel's cultural history. #4076

?, Port Isabel, TX, United States

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Queen Isabel Inn. Built by 1906 to lodge Rio Grande Railroad Company passengers and tourists, especially fishermen and hunters, the Queen Isabel Inn was first known as "Point Isabel Tarpon & Fishing Club". The hotel hosted family train excursions from Brownsville as early as 1907. Prominent visitors to the inn included president-elect Warren G. Harding in November of 1920. By 1930, indoor plumbing, electrical service, and a popular dining room made the hotel an attractive destination for vacationers. The Rio Grande Valley Fishing Rodeo was organized here in the summer of 1934 to promote tourism. The hotel was the headquarters for the contest, later renamed the Texas International Fishing Tournament. Hurricanes in 1933 and 1967 removed the hotel's original porches and pitched roof. The hotel has served as the site for many important civic and social events and has been associated with the lives of persons significant to Port Isabel's history. The Queen Isabel Inn sparked the beginning of the hotel and tourism industry in the area and endures as an important landmark business in Port Isabel history. #4143

300 S. Garcia Street, Port Isabel, TX, United States