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Matagorda Island Light

Coordinates: 28°20′15″N 96°25′26″W / 28.33750°N 96.42389°W / 28.33750; -96.42389
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Matagorda Island Lighthouse
Matagorda Island Lighthouse
Matagorda Island Lighthouse is located in Texas
Matagorda Island Lighthouse
Matagorda Island Lighthouse
Matagorda Island Lighthouse is located in the United States
Matagorda Island Lighthouse
Matagorda Island Lighthouse
Nearest cityPort O'Connor, Texas
Coordinates28°20′15″N 96°25′26″W / 28.33750°N 96.42389°W / 28.33750; -96.42389
Arealess than one acre
Built1872 (1872)
Built byU.S. Coast Guard, Lighthouse Service
NRHP reference No.84001624[1]
Added to NRHPSeptember 18, 1984

The Matagorda Island Light is located on Matagorda Island in Calhoun County, in the U.S. state of Texas. Once under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard, the lighthouse is now managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.


Building of a lighthouse to guide sea-going vessels into Matagorda Bay through Pass Cavallo was authorized by the Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1845 . When President James K. Polk signed the Texas Annexation documents on December 29, 1845, it became the responsibility of the United States.[2] In 1847, the United States Congress authorized $15,090 to build the lighthouse. Legislative red tape caused a series of delays, and the contract to build the lighthouse was finally awarded to Murray and Hazlehurst of Baltimore in 1851. The new 55 feet (17 m) cast iron lighthouse became functional on December 21, 1852. Gulf storms and subsequent beach erosion caused the lighthouse to be rebuilt on higher ground. The light tower was raised 24 feet (7.3 m) in 1857 to enable the beam to be seen from a greater distance. A new lens was installed in 1859.[3]

During the Civil War, the Confederate States Navy tried to blow up the lighthouse to keep it out of Union hands.[4] Damage inflicted by the Confederate troops necessitated rebuilding of the lighthouse at a new site in 1873 at a cost of $32,000. A new iron conical tower was added, with the lens 91 feet (28 m) above sea level.[5]

The 1886 Indianola hurricane destroyed most of the town, and caused the water to rise 4 feet (1.2 m) inside the tower. The resulting structural swaying caused the lens to fall out. In 1956, the tower was automated by the United States Coast Guard, making it the first time the tower was not operated by human keepers.[3]


The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which manages the lighthouse, installed a new rotating solar-powered marine lantern in 1999. After having been out of commission since 1995, the light was re-lit at Midnight as the year turned over to 2000, to celebrate the new millennium. The lighthouse underwent a renovation completed in 2004, at a cost of $1.23 million. The renovation was made possible through private donations through the Matagorda Island Foundation, and with a grant from the United States government.[6]


The resting place for lighthouse keepers and their families can be found near the lighthouse.[7][8]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Baker, Dr. T. Lindsay; Phenix, Harold; Holland, F. Ross (2001). Lighthouses of Texas. TAMU Press. ISBN 978-1-58544-145-7.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "The Annexation of Texas Joint Resolution of Congress March 1, 1845". PBS. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Texas Lighthouses". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  4. ^ Underwood, Rodman L (2008). Waters of Discord: The Union Blockade of Texas During the Civil War. McFarland. pp. 7, 78, 79. ISBN 978-0-7864-3776-4.
  5. ^ "THC-Matagorda Island Lightouse". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  6. ^ "Renovated Matagorda Island Lighthouse Shines Again". Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  7. ^ "History of Matagorda Lighthouse". Matagorda Lighthouse. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  8. ^ "Lighthouse Cemetery". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 13 September 2011.