Napoleon’s Hat in Corpus Christi

The Harbor Bridge runs between Nueces Bay and Corpus Christi Bay

I spent nearly 45 minutes this morning looking at Napoleon’s Hat which is also known as The Harbor Bridge.  Its funny shape earned it the nickname back in the 50’s. 

There was an accident on the bridge that shut down traffic so I ended up travelling the 5-6 miles from Portland to the bridge at 7′ per second.  That sounds faster than the 5 miles per hour that I averaged as the car and I crawled across Nueces Bay. 

Those of us living on my side of the bridge have been enduring construction on the bridge which started about this time last year and will be finished about this time next year.  It’s all an effort to finish repairs, sandblasting and repainting the structure at a cost of $23 million and change.  Part of the contractor’s work is to complete a contract that ended abruptly in 2004 when the previous contractor ran out of paint.  That sounds like a dog ate my homework excuse. 

Our bridge has been around since 1959; it took 4 years to build and cost $19.5 million.  The new bridge that’s being considered will cost between $850 million and $1 billion depending on which design is used and when construction starts.  Just the feasibility study costs $8 million.  They started it in 2007, ran out of money, applied for a stimulus grant in 2009, and are back at feasibling.  I think the reasoning for building a new bridge is that ships keep getting bigger and we (Corpus Christi) are losing out commerce to ports that can hand mega-ships.

Harbor Bridge, 1966

The various plans for a new bridge will swing out way over the bay or back over the ship channel.  I so seriously hope that our bridge stays in use; I don’t even want to imagine 8-10 years of lane closures. 

Oh!  I hope I get to see it built.  The sand in my hour-glass is bottom heavy so I might not have to worry about lane closings!  That puts things in perspective.

Wooden bridge from Corpus Christi to Portland, 1912

Life got easier when the bridge was built which made life easier for folks who drove over the previous bridge structures.  A wooden causeway connecting Portland and Corpus Christi was first constructed in the early 1900’s, but was repeatedly rebuilt and destroyed by several storms.  I can still see the ghost of the wooden causeway when we have a low tide. 

The wooden causeway after the 1919 hurricane.

The 1919 hurricane took out the wooden bridge which was rebuilt later.  Up to the 1930’s, steam boats were used to make the trip.  That sounds like a quieter and calmer way to travel at least once.  I’d have a miserable time if I had to do that every day. 

Nueces Bay has a long history.  It was formed after ice from the last ice age melted (about 9,000 years ago).   Sea level stabilized about 6,000 years ago so the depth of 6′ to 10′ at high tide has been consistent.  There was one deep pass which horses had to swim across called Hall’s Bayou; that’s the area that was dredged to make the ship channel.

"A Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas" by John Russell Bartlett, 1854. Bartlett's account states, "When these winds blow so violently, they drive the water from the Nueces Bay into the Gulf...Many of the bars are then nearly dry. At these times the people go to the bar with their wagons, and with a spear or fork pick up the finest fish, weighing from ten to a hundred pounds

A shell reef permitted foot traffic early native Americans to cross the bay during low tide when the water depth was only 18.”  Reef Road cut 50 miles off the trek from Nueces to San Patricio County when travellers had to go around the bay rather than directly across it.  The big drawback in crossing on the reef lay in the fact that the trail was crooked.  In the mid-1860’s, the Nueces County Commissioners Court ordered that posts be placed along the reef to mark the road and to warn ships of its existence. Pranksters were known to remove the posts from time to time, leaving travelers stranded in the bay when the tide came in. Horses that spooked and got off the reef easily became mired in the soft bottom and drowned.

I was just thinking that if I had to travel by horse or wagon or steam boat, I’d probably not work in Corpus Christi.  I hate waiting in traffic, but I’ll take our 82 feet wide, 5,817 feet long and 243 feet tall Harbor Bridge any way.  Even with the 45 minute wait this morning, it’s a heck of a lot better than a 2 hour horseback ride.  I like old Paint the Car a whole lot more than old Paint the Horse!

About texasgaga

I am a mom, a grandmom (Gaga to my 2nd oldest grand-child), a sister, a friend, a construction estimator, a homeowner, an active member of a 12 step recovery group, an artist, a reader, a survivor, a do it yourself wannabe, a laugher
This entry was posted in Corpus Christi, Texas, Travel, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Napoleon’s Hat in Corpus Christi

  1. Loved this little piece of someone else’s local history: beautifully written, thank you.

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