Port Isabel, historically known as Point Isabel, sits on the shores of the Laguna Madre, an ecologically sensitive body of water shielded from the Gulf of Mexico by Padre Island, a long, thin, sand barrier island extending 130 miles north to Corpus Christi.
El Frontón de Santa Isabel, as it was originally called, was settled as a ranch in 1828 with a land grant awarded to Rafael García by the Mexican government. Its strategic location near the Brazos de Santiago Pass, a navigable entranceway into the Laguna Madre, enabled the new ranch to serve as the port city for Matamoros, since the mouth of the Rio Grande was too shallow to allow ships to enter the river.
Upon their arrival in 1846, Zachary Taylor and his troops erected the earthen Fort Polk, which functioned as a military supply depot until it was abandoned in 1850. Serving as the port for Brownsville through the early twentieth century, Point Isabel was platted in 1849 with several public spaces. A wide avenue with rail line in the tradition of a typical Texas railroad town was designed in the plat to incorporate the Rio Grande Railroad with terminus at Brownsville.
By the early twentieth century, Point Isabel, in tandem with other border towns, sought economic diversity by turning itself into a tourist resort. In 1954, the Queen Isabella Causeway finally linked Port Isabel to Padre Island, boosting visitation. In 1974, as the causeway expanded, half of a city block was removed along the entire length of the town to incorporate a new divided boulevard, demolishing many 1920s Spanish Mediterranean shops and hotels.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.