Texas Maritime Museum

The Aransas Pass (Lydia Ann) Lighthouse

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History of the Aransas Pass Lighthouse

The Texas coastline, with its barrier islands and peninsulas, is punctuated by openings or passes that grant access to protected bays and harbors. One such significant gap is the Aransas Pass, situated between Saint Joseph Island to the north and Mustang Island to the south. This pass serves as a crucial conduit to the port of Corpus Christi nearby.

 On March 3, 1851, the United States Congress authorized a budget of $12,500 for the construction of the Aransas Pass Lighthouse. The need for a lighthouse was underscored by Lieutenant Commander T.A. Craven of the Coast Survey, who, during his mapping of the Texas coast, recommended a lightship to mark the pass. This suggestion was based on the dynamic nature of the pass, which was slowly migrating south due to the deposition of sand on the southern end of Saint Joseph Island and erosion at the northern tip of Mustang Island. Despite Craven’s recommendation, a committee decided to build a brick tower instead. Consequently, the federal government acquired 25 acres on Harbor Island for this purpose.

 Aransas Pass Lighthouse Construction Challenges and Completion

The journey to the lighthouse’s completion was fraught with difficulties. In late 1855, a schooner carrying construction materials for the lighthouse ran aground on a sandbar, resulting in the loss of the cargo, though the crew was saved. It wasn’t until the following year that the much-needed bricks, lantern room, and lens finally arrived. By 1857, the tower and the keeper’s quarters were completed, marking the lighthouse as a beacon of hope and safety for mariners navigating the treacherous waters of Aransas Pass.

The Aransas Pass Lighthouse During The Civil War Era

The Civil War brought significant turmoil to the lighthouse. At the onset of the war, the lens was removed. In 1862, Confederate forces attempted to destroy the tower, inflicting substantial damage. It wasn’t until 1867 that the light was repaired and reactivated, making it the last Texas lighthouse to return to service after the war.

 Modernization and Decline

The advent of electricity in 1928 marked a new era for the Aransas Pass Lighthouse. Diesel generators were introduced to power a radio beacon, enhancing the lighthouse’s functionality. During a severe dust storm in 1935, the beacon operated continuously for two days as visibility plummeted to a quarter mile due to the dust-laden air.

However, by the 1950s, the gradual shift of the pass rendered the lighthouse less effective. A new light was erected in 1952 at the Port Aransas Coast Guard Station, leading to the deactivation of the Aransas Pass Lighthouse shortly thereafter.

 Preservation and Revival

In 1955, after no government entities expressed interest in the lighthouse, it was sold to Everett Bohls of Austin for $25,151. The property changed hands in 1973 when Charles Butt, president of HEB, purchased it and undertook a restoration of the lighthouse tower and outbuildings. On July 4, 1989, the lighthouse was relit using a 19th-century lens, marking a symbolic return to its former glory.

 A Living Legacy

Today, the Aransas Pass (Lydia Ann) Lighthouse stands as a testament to the resilience and historical significance of maritime navigation aids. Still owned by the Butt Family, it remains the only Texas Gulf Coast lighthouse with a live-in caretaker.

Information Sourced From: Lighthouse Friends and Lighthouse Digest

Visit the Texas Maritime Museum at 1202 Navigation Circle, the museum is open 10-4 Tuesday through Saturday.

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Aransas Pass Lighthouse, Lighthouse, Navigation

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Since 1989, the Texas Maritime Museum has been your portal to the treasures of Texas maritime history, preserving and sharing the seafaring stories that define our coastal heritage.

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