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Ocean Drive

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1889. Ocean Dr., from Ayers St. to Oso Bay

At Ayers Street, which formed Corpus Christi's 1908 boundary, the urban grid turns southeast in response to the arc of the bay. Here the city of Corpus Christi connected with the plat of Port Aransas Cliffs, the ambitious, large-scaled resort community planned by the legendary Colonel Elihu H. Ropes at the end of the nineteenth century. Ropes, a former Singer Sewing Machine Company advertising manager, backed by East Coast capital, sensed Corpus Christi's potential to develop into a major port and tourism resort, the “Chicago of the Gulf,” as he described it. Similar to Henry L. Kinney and to other over-extended nineteenth-century entrepreneurs, Ropes proceeded quickly to implement his “gigantic enterprises” after his arrival in 1889, organizing a series of companies with himself as president. Along the way, he caused a speculative frenzy among the local population, which doubled in number at this time as land values rose from $8 to $1,000 an acre.

The real estate component of Ropes's hyper-scaled plans was Port Aransas Cliffs, a 1,280-acre site that the colonel purchased, graded, and platted in 1889. With success contingent upon quick results, Port Aransas Cliffs was abandoned and left untended following the financial Panic of 1893. As Ropes's investors backed away, the once glittering entrepreneur vanished, never to return, leaving the legacy of the “Ropes Boom” as a colorful episode in the history of Corpus Christi.

Port Aransas Cliffs, however, reemerged in the early twentieth century to be replatted into new subdivisions. The original plat's street names, as well as the pattern of elongated blocks, are still traceable in today's urban map.

As the bayside subdivisions were laid out, they were linked by Ocean Drive, a scenic coastal boulevard, and probably the most significant legacy of the Port Aransas Cliffs interlude. Extending for six miles before crossing into Oso Bay and beyond, the drive provides sweeping vistas of the bay and downtown. Numerous parks along the bay, envisioned by Ropes in the original plat, were donated to or acquired by the city to safeguard view corridors from obstructive development. On the land and ocean sides, the palm-lined drive collects a series of houses—some with their own peculiar names—showcasing the evolution of domestic architecture in Corpus Christi from the 1920s into the later decades of the twentieth century. Perpendicular to the drive, Louisiana, Carmel, and Brawner parkways were created between 1925 and 1949 from natural drainage channels relegated to underground pipes, and added landscaped east–west thoroughfares aligned with residential properties.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Gerald Moorhead et al.
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Citation

Gerald Moorhead et al., "Ocean Drive", [Corpus Christi, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/TX-01-CC29.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 245-247.

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