In the 1970s, a number of previously moved houses became the nucleus of Heritage Park. Created by the city in conjunction with private nonprofit organizations, the parklike environment attempts to generate economic development in Old Irishtown, the decimated residential neighborhood around the courthouse ( CC9).
The collection of residences, ranging from Queen Anne to Colonial Revival and central-hall cottages, is noteworthy not merely for its architecture, but also for the stories it reveals about the original owners and the central neighborhoods where the houses once stood in downtown and uptown. Together, the properties represent the prosperity of a number of ethnic immigrants and their Anglo-American counterparts in Corpus Christi of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Merriman-Bobys House (1851) is the second-oldest house in Corpus Christi. First located on the bluff, the side-gabled cottage acquired a second and a third gabled addition to its rear during the Civil War, thus completing its picturesque three-part configuration. The Charlotte S. Sidbury House (1893), owned by a female rancher, entrepreneur, and civic leader, also sat on the bluff. The Queen Anne residence with Eastlake decorative elements was one of two identical rental houses located side by side that were built to dispose of excess construction materials ordered by the Sidbury Lumberyard in anticipation of the boom created by Elihu H. Ropes in the early 1890s. That a person of Sidbury's social and financial stature was lured by Ropes indicates the sense of anticipation that pervaded Corpus Christi during those brief years.
The Julius Lichtenstein (1905) and Simon Gugenheim (c. 1900) houses, both wood-framed Queen Anne cottages, were originally located a few blocks away in Irishtown and belonged to downtown merchant families. The Mary Alice McCampbell House (1909), built for a widow and her three sons, originally fronted the beach on Water Street in Irish-town. This transitional Queen Anne house survived the Storm of 1919, despite being in the first line of exposure to the tidal surge.
The Grande-Grossman (1904) and French-Galvan (1908) residences illustrate the diverse socioeconomic mix experienced in the area of their original location behind the fine houses of N. Upper Broadway. The Grande-Grossman was built by Benito Grande, son of a Spanish immigrant, who expanded his father's business in Leopard Street, the multi-ethnic commercial artery in uptown. In 1925, it was bought by the Grossmans, a Jewish merchant family that had emigrated from Russia to Corpus Christi in the early twentieth century, and who added a stout, three-sided Craftsman porch to the square-plan house. The French-Galvan House was built by Asa M. French, the engineer-surveyor for the construction of the railroad from Corpus Christi to Brownsville. This Classical Revival dwelling passed into Hispanic ownership in 1942 when Rafael Galván, proprietor of the Galván Ballroom ( CC22), purchased it, further denoting the social and economic advancement of the Hispanic business class in Corpus Christi.
The Captain James M. Ropes House (1890), or the “Steamboat House” as it is popularly known, is the only tangible legacy of Port Aransas Cliffs, the large-scale subdivision platted by the captain's entrepreneurial brother, Elihu H. Ropes. The two-story wood-framed dwelling features a turreted front wing with wraparound porch.