Thursday, December 29, 2016

Those Places Thursday: Corpus Christi's Harbor Bridge

There's something about driving into Corpus Christi, Texas, over the Harbor Bridge that always says "you're home!" to me.  As usual, I didn't think much of taking pictures of the bridge while I lived there from April 1979 through October 1984 (other than one nighttime attempt from the crest of the bridge, coming into town in my car), but it seems I have taken a picture on every other visit - like this one from July 2000:

Above:  View of the Harbor Bridge from the USS Lexington, July 12, 2000 / Amanda Pape /

Below:  Harbor Bridge Aerial View, circa 1987 [I think 1984] / Jay Phagan / CC BY 2.0

The photo above is about as close as I will get to the view I experience coming over the bridge and entering Corpus Christi.  That's because I think the photo above was actually taken about 1984 rather than the 1987 estimated by the photographer.  The present-day Omni Hotel (the first large building along Shoreline Drive, on the left, nearest the marina) still looks to be under construction; it opened on Valentines Day, 1985, as the Hershey Hotel.  The Holiday Inn just behind it also opened in 1985, and appears to have a construction crane on it in this photograph.  However, there is no sign yet of the twice-as-tall One Shoreline Plaza between them, which was begun in 1983 but not finished until 1988.

The Harbor Bridge has an interesting history.  Besides the Texas Department of Transportation archives photos below, a number of 1950s construction photos are available in the William H. Parker Photograph Collection at the Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi.

Texas Department of Transportation archives via

Texas Department of Transportation archives via

The Harbor Bridge replaced the 1926 bascule bridge (a drawbridge), visible in the two photographs below.  Its 97-foot width was a tight squeeze for cargo ships entering the port, and as traffic at both the port and on the road increased, so did delays.  My kinsman, city Mayor A. Albert Lichtenstein, was a big supporter of a toll tunnel under the channel, but the City Council, on March 24, 1954, voted to go for a high bridge instead -- mainly because the state highway department would pay for it.

Construction of the "High Bridge," as it was originally called, began in June 1956.  According to Murphy Givens' article, "Building Harbor Bridge was decade’s big event" on page 11A of the January 21, 2015, Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 

Construction of the Harbor Bridge was started on each side of the ship channel with the cantilever trusses meeting in the middle. When the two spans met they were off by a few inches, which had been expected. One side was jacked up until the two spans fell into line. The new bridge dwarfed the bascule bridge under it. Harbor Bridge opened to traffic on Oct. 23, 1959.

Texas Department of Transportation archives via

Texas Department of Transportation archives via

When I lived in Corpus Christi, the only lights on the bridge were typical streetlights installed to illuminate the pavement for drivers.  According to the article, "One year later, Harbor Bridge lights continue to draw onlookers, delight" by Rhiannon Meyers in the December 26, 2012, Corpus Christi Caller-Times:

The first bridge lights were put up in 1986 by the Central Business District Association, a predecessor to the Downtown Management District. The lights were turned off in February 1998 after numerous circuit failures and corrosion damaged a quarter of the lights.
A public-private partnership between the Texas Department of Transportation, the city of Corpus Christi, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority and American Bank helped relight the December a synchronized array of colors and patterns.
Since then, the bridge has been featured as the focal point for a Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra concert, that featured a musically coordinated light show, and during the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.

The $2-plus million, 11,000-LED lighting system can be programmed to create color changes and patterns in 950+ fixtures to commemorate various events.  It's a popular backdrop for portraits.

Below:  Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge Lights - 2016 / Amanda Pape / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

On August 8, 2016, ground was broken for a new Harbor Bridge.  The primary reason is safety, as the new bridge's approaches will be straighter, but it will also allow for taller ships (such as cruise ships) to use the port.  The current Harbor Bridge has a 138-foot clearance, the new bridge will have a minimum 205-foot clearance.  The project is expected to cost a billion dollars and take four years.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Merry Christmas (1965)!

Christmas morning, 1965, in the Pape house at 8015 Sharpview, Houston, Texas.  My back is to the camera in the lower right corner.  Across from me in a matching robe is my sister Karen.  My sister Mary is the little one bending over on the left.  Dad is sitting watching us, and my brother Brian (I think) is barely visible at his feet and behind me.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Those Places Thursday: Sheraton Marina Inn, Corpus Christi

Originally I wasn't going to post about the hotel that was originally the Sheraton Marina Inn - until I learned more about its history.

The Sheraton Marina was designed by Richard Colley - the same architect who designed the Memorial Coliseum and the 1952 City Hall.  The 180-room hotel was built in 1966 and opened on June 19 of that year.

Above:  Corpus Christi Bayfront, ABT 1982, with the Sheraton Marina Inn at left / Amanda Pape / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Below:  Radisson Hotel 1991 [cropped] / Jay Phagan / CC BY 2.0

The hotel was refurbished in 1985, and remained part of the Sheraton chain through at least January 1990.  By 1991, it had become part of the Radisson chain, and by October 2004, it was part of the Best Western chain.  The look of the hotel has not changed much over the years - it was blue back when I saw it nearly every day between April 1979 and October 1984.  Back from at least 1974 to at least 1987, you could play tennis on the roof of the parking garage - but that apparently is no longer the case.

Above:  The Best Western Corpus Christi, 18 June 2016, with the Friendship Monument in front.

Below:  Early Sun on the Marina, view from the [Best Western] hotel balcony [circa 29 March 2008] / Karen / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I don't ever remember being in this hotel, which had a restaurant and bar on its top floor with an obviously wonderful view.  My husband tells me there were telescopes there - and he tells me some interesting stories about them!  I chose the photo above from those with Creative Commons licenses in because it was taken from this hotel, and looks like it was taken with a telephoto lens.

The boat in the bottom left corner of that photo is in the approximate former location of my husband's sailboat slip - back when slips lined this side of the Lawrence Street T-Head, which is no longer the case.  From a higher floor - like the eleventh, where the bar was located - you could easily see down into the boat with a telescope.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday: Clara, Rhea, and Walter Pape

This past summer, my second cousins Kim, Debby, Val, Claudia, Beverly and I worked together to get gravestones made for their grandmother and our great aunt(s) and great uncle.  They were all buried in the Pape family plot at St. Henry Catholic Cemetery in Chicago, but for a variety of reasons, never had markers placed.  My cousins wanted to do one for their grandmother, Maria "Rhea" Gertrude Cecilia Pape (1892-1977), as well as our great aunt Clara Martha Pape (1889-1975), who was close to Rhea.  I decided to purchase the marker for our great uncle Walter Francis Pape (1900-1975), who, like Clara, did not have any children. In the end, we all went in together for the stones, which were designed by Gast Monuments to coordinate with that of their parents, John Pape (1851-1945) and Gertrude Kramer Pape (1859-1919).

The stones were installed by the end of October, and the following month, on a beautiful day, my friend Amy Windler got the following photos for me.  The first shows the stones in reference to John's and Gertrude's upright marker, with Clara to the left, Walter just in front, and Rhea to the far right.  We are going to inquire about moving Walter's stone to be located between John and Rhea.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: St. Agnes Girl Ornament

A Christmas tree ornament my parents gave to me when I was in college (along with a similar one for that school), representing my high school.  SAA stands for St. Agnes Academy in Houston, Texas - the school colors were black and gold.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Those Places Thursday: Rodd Field / Bill Witt Park, Corpus Christi

Each time I visit Corpus Christi, I stop at Bill Witt Park.  It is the former Rodd Field Naval Auxiliary Air Station (during World War II) and former NASA Texas Manned Space Flight Network Tracking Station.  It was acquired by the City of Corpus Christi in 1979 (while I was working for its Park and Recreation Department) as part of the federal government's Surplus Property for Parks program (now the Federal Land to Parks program).

Above:  Me at Bill Witt Park, July 10, 2000.                        Below:  Same park sign on June 18, 2016.

In those days (late 1970s), governmental entities could obtain the federal surplus property for free, but the land "must be used for public park and recreational use in perpetuity," with the recipient bearing the costs for any such development.  After completing a thorough formal application process that took nearly a year, the city was awarded 126.97 acres in August 1979, and an additional 9.25 acres containing a hangar in November 1979.  Proposed developments for the original acreage included a softball complex, fitness trail, a recreation center using existing buildings on the site, picnic areas, playgrounds, multi-purpose sports fields, and open space.   The hangar was envisioned as a gymnasium with facilities for tennis, basketball, handball, and racquetball.

I took the photo below at the acceptance ceremony held on August 22, 1979.  Corpus Christi Mayor Luther Jones, on the right, accepts the deed from Edwin Shellenberger, assistant regional director for recreation programs for the South Central Regional Office of the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS).  Mr. Shellenberger is wearing a Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation t-shirt in the photo, because his luggage was lost on the flight from his office in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The woman to the right of Mayor Jones is Mary Lou Huffman, who was chair of the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Advisory Board at the time.  Note that the lower two thirds of this sign was incorporated into the Bill Witt Park sign pictured above.

Above:  Rodd Field Tracking Station acceptance ceremony, August 22, 1979.

The picture above is of the Rodd Field Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) in 1943, in its heyday.  There are photos and stories about this period at the Brown Shoes Project website on early Naval aviation, and Paul Freeman has a wonderful website with photos from the station throughout its entire history.  The original 861 acres were acquired in 1940 for Naval Cadet flight training and as an auxiliary landing field for the nearby Naval Air Station Corpus Christi.  Rodd Field eventually had four paved runways ranging from 4,800 to 5,138 feet long, taxiways, a ramp area, three steel and metal 200-square-foot hangars (two originally, with one including a control tower, with a third added by December 1942), and a street grid with a total of 75 buildings.

The two oldest hangars were relocated from Rodd Field to Chase Field in nearby Beeville in 1954.  By 1958, Rodd NAAS had been closed, and the property was first declared surplus in 1958.  The General Services Administration (GSA) sold portions of it in 1960. Most of the 75-building street grid, at the top of the photo above, became an industrial park, and the site of the two removed hangars, at the bottom two in the photo above, became a rebar fabrication company.

GSA transferred the 136 acres of the northern portion of the base (the part that later became Bill Witt Park) to NASA in 1964.  They opened the Texas Manned Space Flight Network Tracking Station there in March 1967. The hangar housed the station's administrative offices, computers, and communications equipment.  The 30-foot dish antenna was about a half-mile north on the property, near two buildings that, as of June 18, 2016, still stood.

During the Apollo Program, Rodd Field served as a remote station for tracking and telemetry as well as voice communications, and as a lunar vehicle uplink facility to Mission Control Center Houston. The tracking station was closed by 1974, and the property was transferred back to GSA - who, along with HCRS, gave it to the City of Corpus Christi in 1979.

Above:  from a U.S. government brochure about the tracking station / No known copyright restrictions

Below:  The NASA tracking station dish antenna is clearly visible in the upper left corner, and the last NAAF hanger in the lower right corner, in this enlargement from the single frame aerial photo Entity ID:AR1VBVF00020013, taken October 9, 1967, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey via EarthExplorer / Public Domain

Compare the photo above, taken in October 1967, with the photo below, taken in April 2010, of the same area of Rodd Field.  The circular pad for the tracking station antenna in the upper left corner has the antenna on it in the 1967 photo, only the pad remains in 2010 (and only half of it today; a youth football or soccer field has been built over the other half).  The hangar is visible in 1967, only the outline of its location remains in the 2010 photo (and that is pretty much gone in today's aerial photos).  Most remarkably, with the exception of city park lands, much of the old Rodd Field is now covered with subdivisions, like that intruding from the left in the photo below.

Above: The site of the NASA tracking station dish antenna is still visible in the upper left corner, and the outline of the last NAAF hanger in the lower right corner, in this enlargement from the NAIP GEOTIFF Entity ID:M_2709721_SE_14_1_20100424, taken April 24, 2010, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey via EarthExplorer / Public Domain

Below:  from page 3 of the August 1982 "City Quill", the City of Corpus Christi employee newsletter

So what happened to Rodd Field?  First, after the acquisition, it was named Bill Witt Park, in honor of a former director of the City of Corpus Christi Park and Recreation Department, 1951-1974.  As indicated from the City employee newsletter, above, that I worked on (by this point I was with the Information Services office, and I took all of these photographs), by August 1982, the park had a "lighted, four-field softball complex complete with a concession stand / restroom / press box building in the center, bleachers, an automatic irrigation system and other amenities."

A second softball or baseball complex was completed sometime after 2003 and before 2010.  The park is also full of soccer and youth football fields, with a restroom/concession building and playground nearby.  The old runways and ramps serving as park roads and parking lots, and picnic tables appear in the trees near the old tracking station site.  The city acquired an additional 175 acres adjacent to the south edge of the park in 1987-1988, which became Oso Creek Park.  The 1.5-mile Bear Creek Trail, completed in 2015, runs along the eastern edge of Bill Witt Park and connects it to nearby neighborhoods, schools, and other parks, including it terminus at Oso Creek.

However, the recreation center and gymnasium proposed back in 1979 never came to be.  The hangar, already in bad shape then, continued to deteriorate.  A 1996 Army Corps of Engineers report described it as “an attractive nuisance to teenagers who frequent the public park” and recommended its demolition, and it was finally (and quietly) torn down between 2006 and 2008.

Two buildings near the tracking station area that were considered as possible recreation center sites still stand.  They, too, suffer from vandalism and decay.  They seem to be popular sites for flying quadcopters mounted with GoPro cameras and other remote-control aircraft (and vehicles).

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Talented Tuesday: Christmas Music

Musical members of the family sing Christmas carols at Nana's (Elizabeth Florence Massmann Pape's) 80th birthday party in Chicago on December 19, 1982.  Standing from the left:  Karen Streff, Judy Pape Schaller, Geraldine Guokas Pape, Rosemary Streff Grandusky, and Beth Streff Malone.  Playing the piano is Tai Streff.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Christmas Card Twins

My cousin Ruth's twins Danny and Julie, I'm guessing about 1996.

© Amanda Pape - 2015 - click here to e-mail me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

(Not-So-) Wordless Wednesday: Pearl Harbor Memorial, Sherrill Park, Corpus Christi, Texas

A Pearl Harbor Memorial marker was dedicated at Memorial Day observances in 2007 at Sherrill Park along the Corpus Christi Bayfront. The marker was donated by one Pearl Harbor survivor and local resident, Harry P. Ogg, and honors other members of the local chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association who were on or within three miles of Oahu and survived the attack.

Here are the names etched on the marble memorial I photographed (above) on June 18, 2016:

Acuna, Miguel L. 
Alexander, Marvin T. 
Batterson, Robert E. 
Beardsley, Russell N. 
Beamon, Thomas E. 
Bean, Harold R. 
Beir, Edward N. 
Blackmon, Benjamin 
Bowman, Leon G. 
Boyer, Roger R. 
Brauer, Carl M. 
Brown, Eager W. Jr. 
Byram, Richard R. 
Champion, Elmo M. 
Chandler, Hiram F. 
Cochran, Earnest A. 
Connolly, Jack L. 
Cordy, Albert 
Cox, Aubrey 
Crow, Joseph J. 
Crow, William T. 

Dunn, Abner J. 
Durham, Clarence W. 
Eckel, William H. 
Edwards, Ford O. 
Ellison, Len H. 
Eslick, Garlen W. 
Featherling, Howard E. 
Garret, William P. 
Gill, Noel L. 
Grebbien, Louis J. 
Gunn, Hamilton W. 
Harrington, Earl R. 
Hasker, Raymond F. 
Hatcher, Carl L. 
Heath, Davis C. 
Hobbs, Billy 
Johnson, Albert E. 
Johnson, Alpan W. 
Johnson, Donald D. 
Kerns, James T. 
Koch, Leo B. 

Kurmadas, Leo J. 
Lawson, Charles J. 
Little, Clarence T. 
Loyd, Walter W. 
Mallard, C.W. 
Manning, Alfred D. 
Martin, Joseph S. 
Martin, Martin W. 
McClelland, James A. 
McKinney, Joseph C. 
McDaniel, T. J. 
McNatt, James W. 
Miller, Hamilton S. 
Montalvo, Henry 
Morgan, Whittle P. 
Ogg, Harry P. 
Oltman, Forest A. 
Parsons, John C. 
Perez, Jose A. 
Petersen, Wallace T. 
Rabalais, James P. 

Ragusin, Marcus C. 
Ramsey, Charles S. 
Rector, Jimmy O. 
Revoir, Charles L. 
Roberts, Cyrus Lee 
Robinson, Clifford R. 
Seiser, Edwin O. 
Sierman, James A. 
Shaw, Strather S. 
Smith, Jesse R. III 
Spencer, Gaston R. 
Strakos, Louis P. 
Tarnawski, Michael S. 
Timlin, Charles S. Jr. 
Vrana, Leo R. 
Walbert, Herman H. 
Wentrecek, Daniel E. 
Woodward, Eugene G. 
Younts, Cameron L. 

Above:  Pearl Harbor Memorial [8 October 2008] / Terry Ross / CC BY-SA 2.0

As of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, at least four of these gentlemen were still alive, according to a December 1 article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times:  Marvin T. Alexander, Robert E. "Bob Batterson, Abner J. Dunn, and Walter W. Loyd.  At age 95, Mr. Batterson still serves as a volunteer on the USS Lexington museum in Corpus Christi.

Sherrill Park was named for Warren Joseph Sherrill, the first Corpus Christi resident to lose his life in World War II, on board the USS Arizona.

This post was done for The Honor Roll Project begun by Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: A 1937 Christmas Card from Aunt Gret and Uncle Lee

Back on March 28, a couple third cousins, John and Mari, found me via my blog.  They are the children of Mary Ann Pape Bates (1932-2013), who is the daughter of Karl James Pape (1889-1958) and Catherine Gertrude Schwall (1892-1977).  Karl is my grandfather Paul Pape's first cousin - Karl is the son of Lorenz Pape (1862-1932), the brother of my great-grandfather John Pape (1851-1945).

Karl and his family lived in Wilmette, Illinois, for much of his adult life.  Also living in Wilmette was his first cousin Lee Pape (1893-1979), my grandfather Paul's older brother, and Lee's wife Gretchen Anna Reis Pape (1886-1947), an artist.  John sent me the following image, saying, "I just got a framed picture of a card sent out by Gretchen and Lee Pape, probably to my Grandparents, or mom."

That is definitely Gretchen's artwork.  Obviously, her signature is on it (G. A. Reis-Pape), but it's also her style for drawings.  I suspect the snow people represent themselves, as Lee was very tall and Gretchen was very short.  The 210 on the door is for their address, 210 17th St. in Wilmette, which they were living in by 1929 (if not earlier; they married sometime between 1924 and 1927), and Uncle Lee continued to live in until his death.  Under Gretchen's signature is the date, 1937.

Mari explained, "My mother [Mary Ann] kept that greeting card from her mother's [Catherine's] belongings. So John is my brother and I gave it to him to keep as he enjoys Wilmette. I found that going through mother's papers during her last hospital stay, placed it in a picture frame and had it next to her bed. I have kept it the past few years."

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thankful Thursday: Happy 7th Blogiversary to Me!

A Gresham family 7th birthday cake, circa 1948 - 1959

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Corpus Christi's Seawall

It may seem silly, but for me, my favorite thing in Corpus Christi is the seawall.  This two-mile stretch of steel-reinforced concrete connects my three places of work in the city, as well as other special spots for me.

It's also a link to the past for my husband, whose parents were living in the city while the seawall was being constructed (and were married during that time too).  My spouse remembers fishing on the seawall with his father in the late 1940s.

Above:  Two million dollar seawall now being completed at Corpus Christi, Texas. December 1940 /  Russell Lee / U. S. Government work, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [LC-USF34-038306-D].

Below:  South end of the Corpus Christi Seawall.  McGee Beach is to the left, McGaughan Park is to the right.  The benches and the Mirador (the white gazebo) were added after we moved away.  The Emerald Beach Hotel can be seen at the end of McGee Beach; it was the Holiday Inn - Emerald Beach when we lived there in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The seawall has an interesting history.  I had not realized that Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum was invited to design a seawall for the city in 1927 (his design was not adopted).  I also did not know that the two million dollar project (from bond funds and from the state's share of property taxes from seven South Texas counties) also built the two T-heads and the L-head of the Marina.

The Corpus Christi Seawall is a Texas Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers Texas Section.

Above:  P1000835.JPG [16 April 2007] / John M. P. KnoxCC BY-SA 2.0

Below:  State historical marker installed in 2015 has an error in it.  I think a zero is missing.  It's not 1,100 feet long - that would be just two-tenths of a mile.  Two miles is 10,650 feet, so I think the 1,100 is supposed to be 11,000 (or maybe 11,100).

The seawall, of course, also created the beautiful downtown bayfront area, by adding five hundred feet of mostly-city-owned land.  Prior to its construction, Water Street - so named because it was then at the water's edge - was the eastern boundary of downtown.  The wide sidewalk of the seawall itself is a great place to walk, run, bike, skate, and pedal.

Above:  Aerial view of city [of Corpus Christi] looking northwest from [Corpus Christi] bay, ca. 1984. (Dated by construction of Corpus Christi Central Library building.)  Professional photograph by unidentified photographer furnished to KZTV-10 for use in advertising.  Kenneth L. Anthony Photographic Collection, Item 212-118. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.  Used with permission of Kenneth L. Anthony.  
Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Below:  Detail from the aerial view of city looking northwest from bay, ca. 1984, cropping out much of the top and bottom.  Kenneth L. Anthony Photographic Collection, Item 212-118 (detail). Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.  
Used with permission of Kenneth L. Anthony.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Unlike my husband, I never did any fishing from the seawall, but I have lots of good memories.  Sometimes it was as simple as walking over from my place of work to have lunch and catch a little sun and seabreeze on its steps. I watched the activity in the marina, from shrimp boats returning in the early morning with their overnight catches, to Wednesday night regattas.  I watched Bayfest boat parades and Anything-That-Float-But-A-Boat races, and Fourth of July fireworks from those steps.

Above:  Image from the map I bought when I moved to Corpus Christi in 1979.  The seawall runs all along the right side of the city on this map, from the Art Museum of South Texas in the Bayfront Science Park (the green area at the top) all the way down to the south end of McGaughan Park and McGee Beach (the green area at the bottom).  What is called the "sea wall" on this map is actually the breakwater, which was constructed in 1924 to facilitate the port. 
Click on this image to enlarge it. 

Below:  These markers appear periodically along the seawall sidewalk, all in blue with a palm tree and different numbers.  I have not been able to find out what they mean.  I don't think they were there when I lived in Corpus Christi, 1979-1984.

It's still a spot that calls to me.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving!

decorated hay roll in Tolar, Texas, 18 November 2016

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sentimental Sunday: Nueces County Courthouses, Then (1975-77) and Now (2014-16)

Two blocks west of my original place of work with the City of Corpus Christi (222 Belden) was the 1914 Nueces County Courthouse.  During my years in the City (April 1979 through October 1984), the building was in fairly good shape.  It had suffered some damage from Hurricane Celia in 1970, which led to the County government deciding to put construction of a new courthouse on the ballot.  The bond issue was approved, and the County moved into its new courthouse up on the bluff in 1977.

According to the 1978 application for the historical marker,

The Greek neo-classical building originally was T-shaped but 1930 additions to the west have created a cruciform shape.  Rising six stories above ground, the reinforced steel building is faced in soft gray brick with white classical terracotta trim and is crowned with a red roof, originally of tile.  The building contains quantities of marble and ornate iron work....An open well soars through three floors and the double grand staircase features the marble as well as the iron work.

You can get some idea of what the interior offices of the 1914 Courthouse looked like in 1934 from the work of an itinerant photographer (all but the first two images).

Above: (Old) Nueces County Courthouse (15 July 2015) / Jimmy Emerson, DVM / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Below:  Bas relief figures at top of east wing, 20 June 2016

It's not clear to me what the four bas relief terracotta figures at the top of the main (east) entrance are supposed to represent.  One source said they are the four Cardinal Virtues, and the one on the far left is clearly Justice, with the blindfold, sword, and balance scales.  The one on the far right appears to be holding a Masonic symbol.  It's interesting that those two are depicted as angels, and the other two are not.

The south wing of the building was restored with various grant funds in 2004-2006.  Although some of the doors and windows have since been boarded up for security, the project demonstrated that restoration of the building is possible.  Otherwise, though, the County has done little to maintain or protect the building, and it has suffered from vandalism, scavenging, and neglect.  The building can't be demolished before September 1, 2027, because of a preservation easement placed on the building by the Texas Historical Commission when the county accepted the renovation grants.

Above:  Carytids at south wing entrance, 20 June 2016

Below:  Restored south wing roofline, 20 June 2016

The "new" (1977) Nueces County Courthouse is very different in style.

Above:  Nueces County Courthouse (September 1975, cropped) / Jay Phagan / CC BY 2.0

My husband particularly likes these two art pieces in the atrium of the 1977 Courthouse:

Above:  Longhorn skull and horns in atrium of 1977 Nueces County Courthouse, 17 June 2016.

Below:  Seagulls in atrium of 1977 Nueces County Courthouse, 17 June 2016.

As can be seen on the map below, what really doomed the old (1914) courthouse, in my opinion, was the construction of the Harbor Bridge (Highway 183) and extension of Interstate 37 in 1957-59.  The two major roads wrap around two sides of the building, eating away at the original courthouse block.
Various attempts have been made over the years to reuse the building, but all have fallen through.

Above:  Image from the map I bought when I moved to Corpus Christi in 1979.  The Old Nueces County Courthouse is the red cross-shaped building at the northeast corner of the intersection of Interstate 37 (which runs east from the west edge of the map) and US Hwy 181 (which runs south from the north edge of the map).  The current Nueces County Courthouse is in the orange T-shaped area in the center of the map. Click on this image to enlarge it.  

Below:  Aerial view of city [of Corpus Christi] looking northwest from [Corpus Christi] bay, ca. 1984. (Dated by construction of Corpus Christi Central Library building.)  Professional photograph by unidentified photographer furnished to KZTV-10 for use in advertising.  Kenneth L. Anthony Photographic Collection, Item 212-118. Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.  Used with permission of Kenneth L. Anthony.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Although a bit difficult to see in the image below, the entry to the Harbor Bridge wraps around the south (facing) and west sides of the old courthouse.  There is also a pedestrian overpass with a circular ramp that's directly in front of the south wing.

Above:  Detail from above aerial photo, showing the 1914 Nueces County Courthouse. Kenneth L. Anthony Photographic Collection, Item 212-118 (detail). Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.  Used with permission of Kenneth L. Anthony.

Below:  Detail from above aerial photo, showing the 1977 Nueces County Courthouse.  In the foreground are cranes working on construction of the new Corpus Christi Central Library, which helped date this photo to late 1984 or early 1985.  Kenneth L. Anthony Photographic Collection, Item 212-118 (detail). Special Collections and Archives, Mary and Jeff Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.  Used with permission of Kenneth L. Anthony.

There are plans to construct a new bridge over the Corpus Christi Ship Channel, and remove the existing Harbor Bridge.  This could open up some options for development of the 1914 Courthouse, with one possibility being luxury apartments.  Recently the county put the courthouse on the market.  I do hope the building is purchased, restored, and put to good use.

© Amanda Pape - 2016 - click here to e-mail me.