High on a sand dune overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Port Aransas, there is a little white Chapel, the oldest functional consecrated church on the Island.
Known locally as the Chapel on the Dunes, it was built between 1937 and 1938 by Aline B. Carter who was called the “White Angel” because of her flowing, white organdy dresses and loving service to the community. Aline commissioned her friend and noted San Antonian artisan Ethel Wilson Harris, of Mission San Jose Pottery and Arts and Crafts Division of the Works Progress Administration, to construct the chapel. The altar and tile work were based on drawings designed by Aline. While attending Wellesley College, Aline received musical instruction for the harp at the Boston Conservatory as well as artistic training at the Eric Pape School of Art in Boston. Aline referred to her chapel as the Chapel of Eternal Light due her love of the morning light from the gulf and the sunset light from the bay shining through the small windows.
After Sunday School every week, Mrs. Carter served ice cream and cake to the Island children who were enchanted by the White Angel, her Bible stories, and the delicious desserts which followed. Mrs. Carter used the Chapel for meditation and inspiration for her poetry books, following the publication of which, she was named Poet Laureate of Texas from 1947-1949. Her books, Halo of Love and Doubt Not The Dream, are in the Ellis Memorial Library in downtown Port Aransas. A native of San Antonio, Aline lived in her Maverick Carter House homestead with her family. There she had the home library converted into a chapel and built a rooftop observatory where she taught young students astronomy. Mrs. Carter, her husband H.C. Carter, and three sons Champe, Frank, and David, would spend their summers on the Island for a month or more at a time. The chapel was later under the care and management of Frank Carter until his passing at the age of 99 in 2018. The Carter Family still owns the Chapel and welcomes the community to visit through tours organized by the Port Aransas Museum.
Many years after the death of Aline in 1972, artist John Patrick Cobb painted the white washed interior with inspiring Biblical murals. The murals depict Old Testament stories along the north wall and imagery from the New Testament on the south wall. John Cobb entered the Rhode Island School of Design in 1976, pursued independent study in Europe and later returned to Austin where he received his art degree at St. Edward’s University in 1983.
Aline Carter opened “pathways to higher thought” for all who knew her. A teacher of astronomy, a poet, an artist, a woman dedicated to helping those of many faiths, Mrs. Carter had a deep concern for all humanity. The intensity of her faith can be felt by all who enter the Chapel on the Dunes.