- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (AP) - The lighthouses that guided ships ashore, the first casino and the causeway that helped turn South Padre Island into a world-class resort community will now be featured in a local museum.

For years, Dennis Franke dreamed about showcasing the island’s history. Now, its first exhibits are on display at the South Padre Island Convention Center.

“We have a start-up museum,” said Franke, a realty company co-owner whose family helped develop the island. “We want to document the history of the Island before it slips away.”

He’s worked with local historians Steve Hathcock and Rob Bates since 2010 to track down pieces of the island’s history, calling the exercise “like pulling teeth” to find history nobody knows about, Franke said.

The museum’s exhibits feature photographic displays that help tell the island’s history.

“Most of it is a photographic history,” Franke told the Valley Morning Star (http://bit.ly/L7wNQY). “We don’t have a lot of bricks and mortar. The island doesn’t have artifacts like other towns because most of it was built of wood and it’s withered away.”

So far, the museum’s exhibits include the island’s first commercial resort, Franke said.

At the turn of the 1900s, Tarpon Beach featured a casino with guest rooms and a bathhouse near the island’s southern tip in an area where Bridgepoint Condominiums now stands.

“We identified the buildings and structures built with the development,” Franke said. “It’s a development most people never heard about. You’d catch tarpon right in the surf.”

Franke said old plats depict the development of some of the island’s buildings.

Another exhibit displays plans for a causeway project proposed in 1930, but never built, he said.

Now, Franke said, he’s developing an exhibit about the lighthouses that stood on the island from 1850.

“Little by little we’ll put a nice museum together,” he said. “There’s some significant history nobody’s really heard about. I think it will be a real point of interest for local people and people who come on vacation.”

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Information from: Valley Morning Star, http://www.valleystar.com