Port Aransas Visitors' Guide

Museum documents town’s history with its collections

Cliff Strain, director of the Port Aransas Museum, points out features on an antique reel to visitors.

Cliff Strain, director of the Port Aransas Museum, points out features on an antique reel to visitors.

The Port Aransas Museum at 408 N. Alister St. tells the diverse history of the city, which has been occupied by Native Americans, pirates, pioneers, armies and ranchers.

The museum is housed in a historic kit, or mail-order house that was shipped to Port Aransas about 100 years ago and has served over the years as a home for many families.

One of the newest exhibits at the museum is the McKee Tackle Collection that has antique fishing tackle, rods, reels and lures. Some pieces may predate the 1900s. David McKee of Corpus Christi first donated a large collection of vintage and antique fishing tackle in October 2022. Other people also have donated to the collection. The display takes up more than two walls at the museum, but the entire collection has hundreds of pieces.

The collection is set up next to a huge tarpon caught by a lady at the first-ever Deep Sea Roundup fishing tournament (then called the Tarpon Rodeo) in 1932. The full collection will be put on display later at the Preserve, the maritime museum that is under construction on the Farley Boat Works campus.

Another new addition to the museum is a scroll that has the genealogy history of many families in Port Aransas some including the Moores, the Mathews and the Bujans. It lists the genealogy (on a paper about 60 feet long) of about 20 local families that stemmed from one marriage in 1854 between Franz Joseph Frandolig and Hannah Anna Ellen Schwander.

Another exhibit about the ship channel is called “Taming of the Channel.” Learn about the construction of the Port Aransas jetties completed in 1919. Those landmark twin granite breakwaters reach out into the Gulf of Mexico to make it possible for the little seaport fishing village at their feet to keep hold.

Other exhibits in the museum include the Tarpon era in Port Aransas and fish printing. The Tarpon era exhibit includes photos of tarpon and anglers from the late 1880s to the early 1960s.

Along with vintage photos (there’s one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt tarpon fishing), look at maps and other artifacts from Port Aransas’ history such as sugar and creamer bowls from the Tarpon Club.

Visitors also can view the beer-barrel-sized Aransas Pass Lighthouse light lens made in Paris in the early 1800s, the repaired remains of a 1940s Farley boat wrecked by Hurricane Celia in 1970 and the bronze bell from the train that helped build the city’s jetties (visitors are invited to strike the bell with a provided rubber mallet).

You’ll also find copies of more than 38,000 photos and documents pertaining to the history of the city that have been archived in a publicly accessible database. All are available for viewing and purchase, along with oral histories of island locals and movies of Port Aransas in the 1920s.

The museum opened in 2002 through a joint effort between the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association and the City of Port Aransas. It also features guided tours of the Chapel in the Dunes, a mural- ceilinged little chapel that sits on the highest spot in town at a dizzying 26 feet above the sea. It was conceived by and built for the then-sitting Poet Laureate of Texas, Aline Carter, in the 1930s. Chapel tours are on the first and third Saturday of each month. (See related story inside this guide.) Private tours can be arranged with a donation.

Another absolute “museum must do” for visitors is the self- guided “ 8 Wonders of Port Aransas” tour. Pick up a map of the 8 Wonders at the museum or download it from the website. (See related story inside this guide.)

The museum also has a gift shop with photos, books, caps and other memorabilia.

It’s open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with other hours by arrangement.

For more information call (361) 749-3800 or visit the website portaransasmuseum.org.

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