Texas Independence Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program


City by the Sea Museum, Photo by Heidi Simmons

By the time members of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred colony sailed into the Matagorda Bay to settle the area in 1822, the remains of the French shipwreck La Belle had already been laying on the bottom of the shallow bay, undiscovered, for almost two centuries. Almost a hundred years later, the town of Palacios was established along an inlet of Matagorda Bay but the shipwreck remained invisible to Palacios residence despite lying close enough offshore that fishing boats must have passed over it every day. But Palacios citizens were pretty busy with other things, including constructing their new town. One of the first public buildings completed in the new settlement was called the “Pleasure Pavilion”, a two-story open air pier along the waterfront with two large wings on either side. The Pavilion served as entertainment center, including dancing, skating, basketball, and, of course, fishing. A hurricane destroyed the original Pavilion in 1934 and Hurricane Carla, the devastating storm of 1961, destroyed the replacement. In 1991 Palacios residence constructed yet another new pavilion in its place. In fact, today Palacios maintains three piers, all lighted, creating ideal conditions for night fishing. Palacios is also home to over 400 shrimping vessels, adding credence to its title as “shrimp capital of Texas”. And the La Belle? Texas Historical Commission archeologists discovered its resting spot in the 1990’s and brought over a million artifacts to light. Palacio’s City by the Sea Museum celebrates the discovery by participating in the La Salle Odyssey, a seven museum exhibition of La Belle artifacts.