In earlier chapters, we learned that the United States government came to own the far East End of the island, used it for military defensive purposes, that it accreted mightily and that a seawall finalized in 1925, topped by a road, split the property into two sections, north and south, with the military installations being mainly to the north.
The new seawall road, affording great views north and south and of the ships using the channel, attracted visitors. But for a few years that was it. There was no Boddeker Road. This chapter will trace the history of public and associated commercial uses to the present.
In 1928, efforts by Robert Sealy to rekindle and create sufficient facilities for sailing culminated in the creation of The Galveston Yacht Club. After considering an Offatts Bayou location, his attention turned to the far east end of the seawall where deep keel races could be viewed from the shore.
An inaugural race commencing at the South Jetty radio tower was held on May 26, 1928. In October, government permission was sought to dredge a yacht basin just south of the seawall, on the channel side of the South Jetty ,plus to permit building a 300-foot-by-20-foot pier and clubhouse.
The county was prepared to create a shell-surfaced ramp for access from the seawall to the site. Permission was granted and a lease signed by the War Department early in 1929. But, with conditions, including two military items, that boat houses must not interfere with range views of artillery and dredging must avoid a cross channel submarine firing cable.
Additionally, no fishing in commercial boats would be allowed and railings would be located across the private road atop the seawall to prevent general public entry to the ramp and thence to the military reservation.
This last item was interesting because there were clearly some parallel discussions by the county concerning a public driveway from the seawall to the beach.
Dredging began in May 1929, and the basin — albeit with a temporary dock — was opened on July 20, 1929. It was big enough that W.L. Moody lll planned to keep his new 53-foot Trunk Express boat there.
In early 1930, representatives of the County Road and Bridge Committee and the Wharf’s Committee met to discuss creating a shell road from the east end of the seawall to the beach, using the ramp created for the beach club, “in time for the tourist season” and to permit a loop drive using the beach.
The road was referred to as South Jetty Road, and its first incarnation totally paralleled the jetty. It would, coincidentally, serve a new small boat harbor and the pier still to be built by the Wharfs Committee. Siting, grading, a bridge across the mouth of the lagoon and creation of the shell base was completed by the end of April.
In that same month, The Galveston Yacht Club aired plans for a well-equipped clubhouse, space for personal campanas and a breakwater to provide safe swimming for children — the Beach Club — and it was opened the following August.
Hurricanes in 1932 and 1934 did substantial damage to the jetty road and boating and club facilities. After the hurricane in 1932, the jetty road needed partial relocation. Just before the hurricane in 1934, the jetty road was surfaced with asphalt and the pilings for the yacht club runway were driven.
But if the yachting and boating waned a bit through damage, The Daily News society columns made clear that the Beach Club and its clubhouse continued to be maintained, well supported, well into 1941. Former Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas has fond memories of playing there.
One sign of the future occurred in 1935 when Commissioner James A. Boddeker called attention to the fact that two ramps for small boats between the Beach Club and the Beach were available, one owned by the county and free and one privately owned and available on a launch fee basis. The remains are still viewable.
But eventually, the lease for the Beach Club site had to revert for military purposes. New gun emplacements adorned the seawall itself, with range views across the Beach Club and the buildings were removed.
South Jetty Road was closed and severely damaged by subsequent storms.