On November 16 – 17, 2022, a reproduction 3rd Order Fresnel Lens was installed in the Port Isabel Lighthouse. A celebration followed on December 9, 2022. The Lens is on public display at the top of the Lighthouse. It will be illuminated nightly to a soft glow and will be fixed (not rotating). Visitors are asked to refrain from touching it. Your respect of the Lens will help preserve it for future visitors.
Click on image below for project wrap up.
A press release went out on 11/27/22 announcing the Dedication event to the public.
Texas Historical Commission celebrates relighting of Port Isabel Lighthouse with Free Public Event
Witness the first official lighting of the historic lighthouse in 117 years.
The Texas Historical Commission (THC) and the Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site will commemorate the first official lighting of the historic lighthouse in 117 years at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 9, 2022.
The THC funded and coordinated the reproduction of a 3rd Order Fresnel Lens to be fitted into the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse. The new installation will offer visitors a glimpse into the working past of the lighthouse and the service it provided to the Gulf Coast.
“The Port Isabel Lighthouse is a major heritage attraction for visitors, offering a glimpse into the past of the community and its maritime history,” said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the THC. “Thanks to the support of the Texas legislature and our statewide leaders, visitors will now see the lighthouse much as it would have appeared more than a century ago.”
About the Lens
The Fresnel Lens changed the world and saved countless lives – the new technology was a monumental step forward in lighthouse lighting technology and maritime safety. The lens could produce an unlimited number of flashing combinations and intensified the light so it could be seen at greater distances, allowing mariners a greater deal of safety in their navigations near shore.
At the Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Site, Dan Spinella and the team at ArtWorks Florida have replicated a functional Fresnel lens, pedestal, and lamp, based on a 19th century plan showing the design of the lens specific to the site.
There are a number of Fresnel lenses operating inside lighthouses, but you can also find them inside tons of everyday items: magnifying glass, cameras, traffic lights, solar panels, modern VR technology, and many more applications.
About Port Isabel Lighthouse:
Operated by the City of Port Isabel, the Port Isabel Lighthouse is a Texas Historical Commission state historic site. It was built in 1852 to protect maritime traffic in the Brazos Santiago Pass. The Point Isabel Lighthouse (later changed to “Port Isabel”) was active off and on until it was decommissioned in 1905. As the last Texas lighthouse open to the public, visitors can explore the exhibits in the reconstructed Keeper’s Cottage before climbing up the 72-foot lighthouse and enjoying beautiful coastal views.
The 1888 lens was removed from its perch and the tower sat darkened until it became a Texas State Park in 1952. For the past several decades, the lighthouse has been ornamentally illuminated, continuing its service as a beacon for travelers and locals.
In 2019, the property was transferred from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission. The THC quickly began work to source funds and support refitting the lantern room with a historically accurate reproduction of a 3rd Order Fresnel Lens, guaranteeing an authentic and welcoming environment to anyone who wishes to explore the tower and observe the Gulf Coast from an extraordinary vantage point.
About the Texas Historical Commission
The THC manages 34 state historic sites, the Texas Heritage Trails Program, the Texas Main Street Program, and many more heritage tourism and historic preservation initiatives across the state. For more information, visit thc.texas.gov.
Video & photo courtesy of ArtWorks, Florida. Dan Spinella.
FACTS ABOUT THE LENS
• Lens Assembly Weight and Height: 750 lbs., 5′ 3″ tall.
• Pedestal Assembly Weight and Height: 1,350 lbs., 8′ 1 3/4″ tall.
• Total Assembly Weight & Height: 2,100 lbs., 13′ 5 1/4″ tall.
• Lens Diameter: 3′ 6″.
• Lamp Assembly: 40 lbs.
• Original 3rd Order Fresnel Lens: Radius 19.7″; Height 5′ 2.05″; Weight 1,984 lbs.; Number built (384); Number in U.S. in 1900 (65).
• The Port Isabel Lighthouse does not operate as a navigational beacon and hasn’t since 1905.
It is possible to see the 3rd Order Fresnel lens when visiting the Lighthouse. Take photos and video, but DO NOT TOUCH. Your respect of the Lens helps preserve it and the access to it for future visitors.
Left: At the full 1,000 wattage. Each bulls-eye causes a light beam to flash into the horizon. When a 3rd Order Lens was installed in the Port Isabel Lighthouse like this one, maritime traffic would have been notified in newspapers so they would know to look for the light beam.
On April 19, 1853, this short announcement was published in the New York Herald, “Notice to Mariners. The lighthouse at Point Isabel and the beacon at the entrance to Brazos harbor, were lighted 20th ult., 1853.”