Literally hovering over the Ortíz Center and casting its shadows over the building, the High Bridge, as it is locally known, spans the ship channel, a virtual city unto itself, with twelve miles of storage tanks, grain silos, refineries, cargo docks, and warehouses. Constructed by the Texas Highway Department's Bridge Division, the six-lane, 243-foot-high, 5,800-foot-long structure, with a giant, suspended, tied-arch metal truss at its center span, allowed large tankers to enter the port, while its lengthy, elevated approaches dislocated the urban fabric on both sides of the channel. Ironically, a tunnel alternative eagerly supported by the city as a less expensive and less intrusive option was discarded by the state.
Across the channel, North Beach was historically the city's tourism hub. A mere sand-bar five feet above sea level, it was devastated in the Storms of 1919 and 1970, leaving few architectural hints of its historic heyday during the first half of the twentieth century when its grounds were covered with more than four thousand cottages, lodges, and tourist courts.