At the time the original Tarpon Inn was built in 1886, Port Aransas was a small fishing village named Tarpon after the abundant sport fish that drew many fishermen to this area of Texas. The Inn was destroyed by fire in 1900, and its replacement was destroyed by a hurricane in 1919. The structure that stands today was built in 1925 to resemble the original barracks-style hotel.
Rocking and Watching the Dogs Drive By
The expansive porch of the Tarpon Inn has several wooden rocking chairs for relaxing and watching the world go by. The hubster and I enjoyed coffee in the morning and soft drinks and snacks in the evening rocking in these chairs. We also enjoyed waving at the friendly folks who drove by in cars and golf carts with their families and dogs. We decided that Port A must be a dog-friendly place because almost every vehicle had a dog on board. Some were sporting Santa hats and others were just enjoying the ride.
The Inn’s lobby walls are lined with tarpon scales. Each scale is signed by the person who caught one of the silver kings — with the fisherman’s home town, the weight and length of the fish and the date it was caught.
One of these scales was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 8, 1937.
Many of the scales that adorn the walls were signed by people in the 1920s and 1930s.
Tarpon Inn Rooms
The main Inn has 24 rooms that open onto the front porch. Each room in individually decorated with antiques.
National Register of Historic Places
The Tarpon Inn was added to the National National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Texas Historical Marker
A Texas Historical Marker was also dedicated in 1979.
Text of historical marker — In 1886 Frank Stephenson, a boat pilot and assistant Aransas lighthouse keeper, opened an inn at this site in an old barracks. He called the facility “Tarpon Inn” for the abundant trophy fish in nearby gulf waters. The Inn served as a landmark for sailors, and Port Aransas was known for a time as “Tarpon”.
In 1897 Mary Cotter and her son J.E. Bought the two story inn from Stephenson. After the building burned in 1900, two new structures were built in 1904. When the 1919 hurricane destroyed the main structure, the dining facility was used until it was sold in 1923 to James M. Ellis and his wife. Ellis soon rebuilt this inn to resemble the old barracks. He placed 20-foot poles in 16 feet of concrete with pilings at the corner of each room to reinforce it against future hurricanes.
For a time guests could reach the inn only by boat. It became a tradition to sign and date a Tarpon scale and place it on the wall in the front room. Among the famous patrons was president Franklin D. Roosevelt who fished here in 1937. Duncan Hines spent his honeymoon here and recommended the food for the next 25 years. The inn has housed many area residents during storms and served as headquarters for the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Military units.