South Padre Island’s 1st Civic Center

1st Queen Isabella Causeway 1954

1st Queen Isabella Causeway, opened in 1954, connected Port Isabel to South Padre Island Texas

Isla Blanca Park Brochure South Padre Island Texas 1954

1954 brochure announcing the opening of the Queen Isabella Causeway and South Padre Island's Isla Blanca Park

© 2011 Rod Bates: The 1950’s were pivotal years for Port Isabel and South Padre Island.  Area lawmakers and developers had finally realized their dream of constructing a bridge from the Texas mainland to the Island and the result was an unprecedented growth.  The new Queen Isabella Causeway brought scores of fisherman and beach goers to the island.  Padre Island could now be explored from the comfort of the family car, and the curious were driving to the island by the thousands. However, developer John L. Tompkins was ready for them.  Tompkins was so enthusiastic as a promoter of the new beach resort that he was known as “Mr. Padre Island”.  And Mr. Padre Island had a good reason to be so enthused, as he owned almost the entire 5-mile tract that is today the City of South Padre Island!  He worked with Cameron County and secured Isla Blanca Park at the Islands south end, to give visitors a playground destination, with the infrastructure needed for family enjoyment.  South Padre’s fishing, swimming, Picnicking and camping were all open to the public and accessible from the family car.

Isla Blanca Park was an immediate hit with area visitors and even featured an amusement park when it first opened.  However, the parks biggest asset was beautiful South Padre Island, with its natural resources. The park was well designed with excellent parking and facilities and remains today as a very popular beach destination.

The centerpiece of Isla Blanca’s new facilities was the Sea Pavilion, South Padre Islands first Civic Center.  The Sea Pavilion, later known as the Isla Blanca Park Civic Center, was located just north of the jetties on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.  It boasted over 15,000 feet of floor space, room enough for over 1,000 people to attend a convention or a party function.  The ultra modern design of the building was right in step with the times and foretold a bright future of the new international playground.  The original peaked roof was damaged in 1967 by hurricane Beulah, and was replaced by a very modernistic design that lasted until the building was demolished in the

Isla Blanca Civic Center

Isla Blanca Civic Center located on the southern tip of Padre Island. Can you determine which version is shown? Send your comments to

1990’s. Through out the life of the Pavilion it served a variety of functions such as conventions, dances, receptions, reunions and even as a church!Today, all that remains of the Isla Blanca Civic Center is a single spire from the roof, located at the Historic Port Isabel Museum, an open patch of grass and sand, and the pleasant memories of time spent at the Sea Pavilion by the point.

© 2011 Rod Bates


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