Speculator and developer Elihu Harrison Ropes (1845-1898) had been a publisher, realtor, and insurance agent in New Jersey before coming to Texas on a vacation during the late 1880s. A venture along the Gulf Coast resulted in his plan to develop a deepwater port for Corpus Christi in order to promote industrial development and thus stimulate the town's growth and economy. Ropes' dream for Corpus Christi also included building a railroad from the port to the lower Rio Grande Valley and the development of the Port Aransas cliffs along what is now Ocean Drive.
Backed by Eastern investors, Ropes began his plan to dredge a 14-mile channel through Mustang Island. His equipment, however, was constantly in need of repair, and when the financial Panic of 1893 hit the country, the project was abandoned. Likewise, his dream for the cliffs resort area was not fully realized, as the grand hotel he constructed, known as the Alta Vista (burned 1927), was never opened to the public.
When the Panic of 1893 led Ropes' financial supporters to withhold their money, Ropes left Corpus Christi for New York, where he died in 1898. Although Ropes' goals lay unfulfilled, they did stimulate an interest in Corpus Christi's potential for development.