PORT BOLIVAR, Texas — Owners of the 147-year-old lighthouse on Bolivar Peninsula are developing plans to repair the historic structure, an effort that comes as the lighthouse was named to the Galveston Historical Foundation Heritage at Risk List.
The Galveston County Daily News reports the lighthouse is the first building on the Bolivar Peninsula placed on the Heritage at Risk List, which is meant to bring awareness to at-risk historic structures in Galveston County, Galveston Historical Foundation Executive Director Dwayne Jones said.
Built in 1872, the Bolivar Point Lighthouse, at the end of Everett Street on Bolivar Point, needs about $2.5 million in repairs, said Mark Boyt, whose family and other relatives own the structure.
That figure came from a professional assessment of the property the family commissioned, Boyt said.
"It's very important to the whole southeast Texas region," Boyt said. "We want to do something to save it before it's too late."
Boyt's grandfather, E.V. Boyt, bought the lighthouse from the federal government in a 1946 public auction, he said.
The paint is largely gone from the lighthouse and sections of cast iron need to be replaced, Boyt said. Crews will need to weatherproof the building, clean the bricks and repair some masonry, Boyt said.
The family has repaired the lighthouse keeper's houses and some masonry, but will need to raise more money for the full restoration, Boyt said.
"For many years, there wasn't really an emphasis on doing anything," Boyt said.
That has changed in the past few years, he said.
"The interests of our families have kind of aligned and everyone sees there's a serious need to do something," Boyt said.
When it was built by the federal government in 1872, a 52,000-candlepower beacon guided ships through the undredged ship channel from the Gulf of Mexico into the Port of Galveston, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
The lighthouse replaced an earlier one that Confederate soldiers destroyed during the Civil War to avoid assisting the enemy, according to the historical association.
The tall brick lighthouse, which extends 117 feet above sea level, was sheathed in cast-iron plates riveted together, anchored to a 9-foot concrete foundation, and originally painted with black and white stripes, according to the association.
"It withstood the storms of 1900 and 1915, provided shelter for residents, and saved many lives," according to the association. "In 1917, soldiers at Fort San Jacinto accidentally shelled the lighthouse during target practice in a dense fog, shaking up the lighthouse keeper and his family."
Bolivar Lighthouse was retired in 1933, when the South Jetty Light replaced it. Plans to convert the tower and grounds into a public park failed, and in 1946 the government sold the lighthouse as surplus property to the E.V. Boyt interests, which closed it to the public, according to the association.
Ultimately, the Boyt family would like to open the lighthouse up to the public, Boyt said.
The family probably wouldn't charge people to walk into the lighthouse and would likely only open in response to demand, he said.
"We owe it to the community to provide some access," Boyt said.
As it stands, the structure isn't safe for the public to walk under or in, he said.
The family has applied for grants and are seeking donations to repair the structure, Boyt said.
Placing the lighthouse on the list doesn't necessarily afford the structure any additional protections, Jones said.
"That's a way sometimes to draw attention to something and might increase opportunities for funding," Jones said.