In line with the trade that brought founder Henry Kinney to Corpus Christi, many of its early residents moved to town to build shipping businesses of their own. In the early decades of the city, piers and wharves were built out into Corpus Christi Bay all along Water Street.
The Central Wharf was built by John Willet in 1853. If you stand in front of the ESC Region 2 building on Water Street today and look toward the Bay, you’re standing at the base of what was Central Wharf, which was built between Lomax (formerly William) and Sartain (formerly Laguna) streets. The land between you and the bay today was added as part of the construction of the seawall in the 20th century.
This wharf was the town’s main shipping pier for much of its existence, until the 1913 construction of the Municipal Wharf. After the Civil War, mail was delivered to the Postmaster via mail boat three times a week. Huge loads of wool, hides, skins, tallows, horns and even cattle were left on steamers from the wharf regularly.
Visible in the distance on the bluff, under the “C” of Central on the image above, is Corpus Christi’s oldest surviving home, the Centennial (Britton-Evans) House. It was built by Forbes Britton, who was a partner in a shipping firm then owned by George Evans, an import-export merchant. Before the Port opened in 1926, the Central Wharf and others on Water Street were integral to Corpus Christi’s shipping business and were big business for Corpus Christi’s economy.