Galveston Jetty, Texas
The land that is now Galveston was part of the original Austin Colony when Michel B. Menard and a group of his associates bought the site in 1836 from the Republic of Texas, intending to create a new town. Town lots were made available in 1838, and the city was incorporated in 1839. Galveston’s harbor became an active port with ships from all over the world bringing their goods there. Galveston prospered and grew over the next several decades. But all that came to a halt on September 8, 1900.
With little warning a great hurricane with winds exceeding 120 miles per hour and tidal surge devastated the island and killed more than 6,000 people. At the time of the 1900 Storm, Galveston had a population of 37,000 and was the fourth largest city in Texas following Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. One-third of the city was completely destroyed, more than 3,600 buildings.
A storm wall was built to protect the harbor and assure that another storm would not devastate the town. However, the narrow entrance to the harbor would easily silt up, and long jetty walls were built out into the Gulf to abate the silting.
A lighthouse was proposed soon after to mark the entrance to the now-protected harbor. World War I was underway and there were delays in funding and building the lighthouse. Finally, the Galveston Jetty Lighthouse was first lit in 1918, standing on a steel skeleton at the end of the south jetty. Built of concrete and steel, the 84 foot tall cylindrical tower held a third order Fresnel lens with a focal plane of 145’ above the gulf. The tower incorporated a three story keeper’s quarters.
The lighthouse served for 54 years before being deactivated by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1972. In 1974, the original Fresnel lens was given to the Galveston County Historical Museum where it is on display today.Unfortunately, the tower was allowed to fall into disrepair once it was decommissioned. The Coast Guard announced plans to tear it down in the late 1990’s. Instead, no action was taken and the steel supports deteriorated. On May 2, 2000, a thunderstorm struck the lighthouse and toppled it onto its side.
While there have been some who wish to save the lighthouse and move it to a safer location, no action has yet been taken. The toppled tower remains at the end of the jetty - broken and open to continued damage from weather and storms. The U.S. Coast Guard owns the site.
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