Port Isabel Lighthouse to close for exterior repairs

PORT ISABEL — The Port Isabel Lighthouse will undergo repairs to its façade that will require it be temporarily closed starting in the next few weeks. It’s not yet clear precisely when or for how long the historic site will be off-limits to the public, but officials are looking for an option that will get it back open as quickly as possible.

Port Isabel Marketing Director Valerie Bates said some of the stucco at the top of the lighthouse tower and paint on the railing needs to be replaced. The damage came to light after the regional director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which oversees the park, conducted an inspection.

“We’re looking at issues that were already looking problematic when the lighthouse reopened,” she said. “Having to deal with winter elements and temperature changes, that’s part of the reason why some surfaces didn’t adhere as they should have.”

Bates said the tower is in good condition aside from a “small problem area.” The repair work is under warranty and won’t require the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to make additional payments.

The lighthouse reopened in January after a 15-month closure for renovations, during which it was encircled by scaffolding.

“It seems to be universally agreed that nobody wants to put scaffolding around the entire tower, so they’re’ looking at solution that won’t require that,” she said.

Bates said it appears repairs will have to take place at the same time schools are closed for winter break. Though she would prefer they be done when school is back in session, which means less traffic at the lighthouse, work has to begin soon to ensure it’s within the timeframe of the warranty.

Visitors still can climb the lighthouse 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day until it is temporarily closed. Bates said the structure typically is only closed to visitors when rain makes the steps too slick to climb.

“None of these issues affect the safety of the public at all,” she said. “They’re all really dealing with surface finishes.”

The lighthouse’s history in Port Isabel goes back 165 years. Congress authorized funds to construct the lighthouse in 1851, and it was completed two years later. It stood through the Civil War and was decommissioned in 1905. It’s the only lighthouse on the Texas Gulf Coast open to the public, and it’s Texas’ smallest state park.

“We really do appreciate the partnership we have with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and what they have done to restore and maintain this historic structure,” Bates said. “It’s something the city of Port Isabel would not be able to take on their own.”