Point Bolivar Lighthouse

Point Bolivar Lighthouse

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After the Civil War, Galveston became the point through which many European immigrants entered the American Southwest. So it was only natural that an important lighthouse — the Point Bolivar lighthouse — be raised and maintained at the entrance to Galveston Bay.

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The Gulf coast of Texas is quite similar to the Atlantic coast of North Carolina. In both cases, a series of offshore barrier islands, and an intervening bay-like waterway, offer substantial protection to the state’s mainland.

Scattered among the barrier islands are various passes and inlets through which maritime traffic can safely proceed. These entryways provide access to the intracoastal waterways as well as to a number of important ports, most notably Port Arthur, Galveston Bay, and Corpus Christi Bay.

Galveston Bay is probably the most famous of the three. It is protected by the Bolivar Peninsula to the north and Galveston Island to the south. It was on the Bolivar Peninsula that the Point Bolivar lighthouse was raised in 1852, during the heyday of lighthouse construction along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

The first tower at Point Bolivar was dismantled during the Civil War by Confederate troops, who used the tower’s iron to make cannon balls and mini-balls for rifles.

In 1873 a new 116-foot tower was raised at Point Bolivar. It was again constructed of cast-iron plates, but this time a brick lining was installed inside the tower.

The Point Bolivar lighthouse gained national recognition in September 1900 and then again in August 1915 when a number of local residents sought refuge in the tower from deadly storms. During the 1900 hurricane, more than 120 people found shelter in the tower — literally huddled in the tower’s spiral stairway.

During the 1915 hurricane, some 60 people sought refuge in the same place from the hurricane. It was the infamous September 1900 hurricane that killed more than 8,000 of Galveston’s 30,000 residents.

In the years that followed the disastrous 1900 hurricane, the Army Corps of Engineers raised a ten-mile-long and 17-foot-tall sea wall around Galveston, which has since become Galveston’s version of the Ocean City boardwalk.

The Point Bolivar lighthouse was decommissioned during the 1930s. Although the lighthouse is not currently in operation and is on private land, it is a popular site for people visiting the greater Galveston area.

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