Starting Dec. 9, the lights of the Port Isabel Lighthouse will once again glow.
The public is invited to celebrate the lighting of a new reproduction of 3rd Order Fresnel Lens at a free event at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9 at the lighthouse, located near the Queen Isabella Causeway in Port Isabel. It will mark the first time in 117 years that the structure’s lights will be illuminated, and visitors will be able to see the building much as it looked more than a century ago.
The Texas Historic Commission funded and coordinated the reproduction of the lens.
Fresnel lenses, dubbed “the invention that saved a million ships,” can produce an unlimited number of flashing combinations and intensify light so it can be seen from afar. The reproduction in Port Isabel is based on a 19th century plan specific to the Port Isabel site.
The lighthouse was built in 1852 to protect maritime traffic in the Brazos Santiago Pass. It was decommissioned in 1905. Today it is the last Texas lighthouse open to the public. Visitors can explore exhibits in the reconstructed Keeper’s Cottage and climb the 72-foot lighthouse to take in a view of the coast.
The 1888 lens was removed from its perch and the tower sat darkened until it became a Texas State Park in 1952. For the past several decades, the lighthouse has been ornamentally illuminated.
In 2019, the property was transferred from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission. The commission raised money to refit the lantern room with the historically accurate reproduction of a 3rd Order Fresnel Lens.
For more information about the Texas Historical Commission and the sites it manages around the state, go to thc.texas.gov.