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PART II - Port Aransas - History, Hurricanes, Hotels...

Post Card Image from Port A Museum of Tarpon Inn

...continuing with the museum and history of Port Aransas, along with the 1919 Hurricane and its devastation on the Coastal Bend of Texas, I would like to share some more images around the little fishing village and tie in some interesting facts. At least interesting to me. Port Aransas, a small town on Mustang Island is the only town on the island! As recently as 3000 years ago there was no island. In the 1500s the island was inhabited by the cannibalistic Indians, the Karankawa tribe. At one time the island, Mustang Island, was called "Wild Horse Island" because of the wild horses roaming the sand barriers and dunes. Rich in history, the American Indians, Spanish and French exploration, pirates such as Jean Lafitte and his buccaneers having buried treasure and never found again because of the constantly shifting sands from the wind and surf, the Civil War, the building of the lighthouse previously mentioned in another post [read here], a ferry for crossing the channel to another island reef, and other European settlement. Port Aransas, as it's called today, was once known as Ropesville but was changed to Tarpon in the late 19th century [1899] because of the vast amount of large fish being caught. In 1919 the hurricane [a category 4 in today's ranking] nearly wiped the tropical hamlet off the map so to speak. Despite the precarious area of Port A, as the locals call it, - its locale, and horrendous storms of the early 1900s [and again in 1970 with Hurricane Celia], the residents knew in their hearts of the potential haven for tourists. At one time a massive fish kill [nature, not created by humans] prompted a zoologist to investigate and began structure of the MSI [Marine Science Institute] which has expanded over the years. But, let me get back to "Tarpon". As we toured the small local museum and viewing its history through the last century, we learned of a few celebrities who ventured onto Mustang Island. Probably the most famous would be President Franklin Roosevelt. He arrived here to fish. Other than celebrities, tho, the lore of the area can interest anyone with a bit of knowledge of its past. As we walked through the museum in the center of town, a few photos and write-up display showed our president on his tour and fishing extravaganza. He stayed bedded down at the still standing Tarpon Inn. Now, I have driven by this block-long building many-a-times on my way to the beach and the jetty on the Gulf Waters; never really paying much attention to it. Of course after finding out that Roosevelt stayed here, and reading the little tidbits of the by-gone times of its existence, I became a bit more interested in it. Just recently, a week or two after we visited the museum, I pulled off the town's street into a parking lot near the Coast Guard facility and walked across the street to the Tarpon Inn and read the Texas State Historical Landmark Sign. Taking pictures of the hotel from the exterior, I walked along the street and noticed the hotel's lobby door was open. I walked in and asked permission to photograph the interior section/lobby. Built in 1886, to accommodate the construction workers building the South Jetty [as you see it today if you happen to be on the beach], the hotel construction material was from Civil War Barracks surplus lumber. When the jetty was complete it was converted to a hotel in 1887. After the 1919 hurricane destroyed it partially, it was sold and rebuilt to resemble the once known barracks in 1923. What interested me mostly was the fact that the infrastructure was solid! By this, I mean, the pilings were set in concrete and they go through the entire structure from ground floor to the 2nd story level and into the attic!! With this aspect, the solid reinforcements used in its construction it has withstood all storms from that point. Two of the walls of the Tarpon Inn are covered with tarpon scales. Each of the scales has the signature and hometown of the angler who caught the tarpon as well as the size, weight and date of the catch. Some of the people who have stayed at the Tarpon Inn include: as I mentioned previously, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who fished there in 1937; Duncan Hines, who spent his honeymoon there; Hedy Lamarr; Victor McLaglen; Aimee Semple McPherson; Clyde Beatty; Bob Lilly; and physicist Edward Teller. On the exterior signage, the tarpon scale of the catch by Roosevelt on his fishing excursion is permanently adhered to the sign. In 1979, the Tarpon Inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was recognized as a Texas Historic Landmark.

To add I'd like to send along my thanks to the hotel concierge for allowing me to photograph the interior lobby and her expertise on the history of the building. Also, she allowed me to photograph the courtyard in the exterior 'backside' of the hotel. The smaller building is also part of the original Tarpon Hotel. I'm 99% certain she told me that it was 'moved somewhat' by the currents and hurricane surge of 1919 and reset on the foundation as it stood after the storm ---it is now being used as a ballroom/conference room. Again, with her knowledge, she informed me this building [picture below] can also be 'rented' for weddings, prom parties, and such---


  1. What an interesting post! It was very nice of them to allow you to take and share your pictures. I would love to visit there!

  2. I love this place and I so enjoyed reading your informative post. My teenager is already planning our annual end of school trip there. There's nothing like that beach~

  3. I love this kind of information.

  4. You did a great job with this story, what changes this place has gone through. I think my favorite picture is the beautiful one with the rocking chairs...the last one.

  5. What a fantastic post! I love this.

    In Key West there are thousands of Tarpon hanging around the old dockside.

    Sunday hugs from Port Canaveral,

  6. What a fabulous place, so rich in history.

  7. Anonymous4/22/2013

    Love the blue porch photo for HBM and wonderful historical post ~ ^_^

  8. Anonymous4/22/2013

    I truly enjoyed the history lesson on Port A. It was nice that you were allowed to take photos and share them with also.

  9. Great history lesson, Anni. What a lovely place to hold a wedding. Thanks for joining in to Blue Monday.

    Happy Blue Monday!

  10. Not been there in sch a long time. Thanks for an interesting history.

  11. Wouldn't it be a dreamy spot for a wedding reception. It is just gorgeous with the blue and white. Being a history bluff I enjoyed all of it too.

  12. Beautiful post! Have a fabulous week!

    Liz (mlc)
    Liz (yacb)

  13. Sounds like an amazing place to visit. Have a great week!

  14. Intriguing history! Amazing that this little island has a short life span but extensive history! Good one!