2017-05-18 / Front Page

Respect and reuse

Liberto reconstruction keeps Old Town charm
Dan Parker
News editor


Rick Liberto stands on his family property on Tarrant Street in Port Aransas on Thursday, May 11. His relatives have owned the parcel since the 1940s. They recently completed a project in which they deconstructed their two bungalows and rebuilt them so they were bigger while retaining the look of Old Town Port Aransas architecture. 
Staff photo by Dan Parker Rick Liberto stands on his family property on Tarrant Street in Port Aransas on Thursday, May 11. His relatives have owned the parcel since the 1940s. They recently completed a project in which they deconstructed their two bungalows and rebuilt them so they were bigger while retaining the look of Old Town Port Aransas architecture. Staff photo by Dan Parker Editor’s note: With development surging over the past several years in Port Aransas, the area known as Old Town has lost some of its vintage feel as the owners of some older buildings have elected to demolish and build anew rather than preserve the aging structures. This story is part of an occasional series by South Jetty that spotlights property owners who choose to restore, refurbish and repurpose these older buildings which, some would argue, help supply Port Aransas with its longtime appeal as a quaint coastal community.


Clockwise from upper left: Rick Liberto stands in the small tower on his family’s property on Tarrant Street; this dining room table was made out of floor joists salvaged from a 1940s-era cottage that once stood on the property (and the long-leaf pine floors in that old cottage were used to build the walls in this photo); a painting by Larry Felder shows the original two bungalows as they looked not long after they were built (that’s Ada Edwards, one of the original owners, standing on the front porch, and the historic Lydia Ann Lighthouse in the background); the exterior of a pool cabana on the property is wrapped with floor joists cut from the old cottages; the pantry was designed specifically to hold an old cupboard that was in one of the original cottages; and a garage with corrugated metal walls has been preserved and is being turned into a poolside game room. Clockwise from upper left: Rick Liberto stands in the small tower on his family’s property on Tarrant Street; this dining room table was made out of floor joists salvaged from a 1940s-era cottage that once stood on the property (and the long-leaf pine floors in that old cottage were used to build the walls in this photo); a painting by Larry Felder shows the original two bungalows as they looked not long after they were built (that’s Ada Edwards, one of the original owners, standing on the front porch, and the historic Lydia Ann Lighthouse in the background); the exterior of a pool cabana on the property is wrapped with floor joists cut from the old cottages; the pantry was designed specifically to hold an old cupboard that was in one of the original cottages; and a garage with corrugated metal walls has been preserved and is being turned into a poolside game room. A few years ago, Rick Liberto and his relatives decided they’d outgrown the two side-by-side cottage type vacation homes that the San Antonio family has owned on Tarrant Street since the 1940s.


Staff photos by Dan Parker Staff photos by Dan Parker But did they bulldoze them and build a McMansion in their place?

No way. Liberto said they loved the old houses – and all of Old Town Port Aransas, for that matter – too much to do something like that.

They painstakingly took the structures apart, piece by piece, preserving as much of the old lumber as possible and re-used much of it in construction of two new houses that stand in the same spot. The new houses are bigger and have more modern amenities, but they retain largely the same basic look and simple feel of Port Aransas beach houses built long ago.

Liberto said he’s ecstatic about how the project has turned out. “It’s everything we wanted and more,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”

Besides Liberto, family members who visit the small compound from time to time include Liberto’s sister, Denise Pfeiffer, and brother, Tony Liberto, and, and their families, all of San Antonio. Then there’s their mother and father, Pat and Frank Liberto, also of San Antonio.

Rick Liberto’s great grandmother, Etta Edwards and her sister, Katie McGonigal, both of San Antonio, originally purchased the Tarrant Street property in the late 1940s. They built two houses that have stayed in the family and remained as vacation homes ever since.

The buildings were one-bedroom bungalows that had no air conditioning but sported hand-cranked windows that let in the Gulf breeze.

The family started the deconstruction and repurposing project in 2014 and are just wrapping it all up this year.

The project began with workers carefully salvaging a lot of the lumber from the original structures. Long-leaf pine floors in both of the old houses ended up being reused as interior walls in the new houses.

Floor joists were cut out of the old houses and used to line the exterior of a cabana next to a new swimming pool out back.

Floor joists also were sent to a San Antonio furniture maker, Libor Helesic, who used them to build a dining room table that comfortably seats 14.

The ceilings are made of cypress planks nailed together with old-style square nails pounded in with actual hammers, not nail guns.

A garage with a corrugated metal veneer remains in place. It is being turned into a poolside game room. The original kitchen counter rescued from one of the old houses is going to become a bar counter in the game room.

Here’s another example of how important heirlooms are to the Libertos: They designed a pantry especially to hold a wooden cupboard that had been in one of the original houses since it first was built.

The Libertos even preserved the towering palm trees that grew on the property. They dug up nine palms and rearranged them to fit in better with the new site plan.

The houses are surrounded by a grass lawn and gardens.

“It was very important to me to have green space around us,” Liberto said.

Combined, the original houses were a total of about 2,000 square feet. The new structures are about 8,000 square feet in size, but they don’t feel like mansions.

“They still feel like cottages,” Liberto said. “I didn’t want to build big, grand bedrooms and bathrooms. They’re all well-appointed, but they’re not out-sized. The goal was to retain the integrity of the architecture of Old Town,” he said.

The architect on the project was Kristen Weber of Poteet Architects of San Antonio. The builder was Dias Construction of Rockport.

Other contractors included Flip Burleson of Port Aransas, Byron Buche of San Marcos, Southern Landscapes of Corpus Christi and Coastal Innovations of Rockport.

Liberto said he’s hoping his family’s project will inspire other folks to trend toward preservation in Old Town Port Aransas and not completely fill their lots with new construction.

“I think it’s important to preserve, especially Old Town, because it has such a quaint feel,” he said. “My fear is that there will end up being a lot of row homes with zero lot lines, and houses as big as the lots. Those are killing the atmosphere of … an historic, quaint fishing village. My wish is that Port Aransas maintains its character.”

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Congrats! Looks just like

Congrats! Looks just like Cinnamon Shore. lol

Thank you Mr. Liberto for the

Thank you Mr. Liberto for the beautiful renovation! I agree with everything you said in this article. Let's hope people will follow your lead. We all love the quantness of Old Town!