Kopernik Shores is on State Highway 4 a mile inland from the Laguna Madre and twenty-two miles east of Brownsville in southeast Cameron County. It was developed in 1967 by John Caputa, a radio personality cum land developer from Chicago, Illinois, who became involved in the real estate business in 1963 with Harold Caldwell. Caldwell owned a 3,250-acre tract of land on the Gulf Coast. Caputa aimed his sales pitch at working-class Polish immigrants seeking a better standard of living. He was able to reach a wide range of people through his radio work. He showed movies of retirees on the beach and later took prospective buyers on train tours of the development. He named the community Kennedy Shores for John F. Kennedy. Unstaked lots sold for $1,200 and houses for $12,500. Most of the sales were in cash, often the life savings of the buyers. Caputa built thirty homes, a restaurant, and a hotel. A sand filter water treatment plant was constructed. Sewer and electricity service were also provided. Hurricane Beulah flooded the area in 1967, washed away some of the land, and destroyed the restaurant, as well as the utility system. Only electrical service was restored. Soon thereafter Caldwell's corporate empire started facing financial problems. In 1968 Caputa acquired 1,000 acres of land and tried to break away from his partners. He partitioned the land into 5,000 lots priced at $5,000 each, invested money in a church and shopping center, and had electricity installed. Residents of Kennedy Shores carried their water from Brownsville. In 1975 Stanley Piotrowicz, an eighty-year-old resident, proposed that the community be incorporated. He became mayor and renamed the place Kopernik Shores in honor of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. In 1977 Judge Darrell Hester of Brownsville abolished the incorporation. In 1978 the town's population was estimated at twenty-six. Caputa died in a car accident as a result of a heart attack in 1979. After his death it was discovered that many of the Kopernik Shore residents did not hold clear title to their land. In 1982 many of the homes still did not have potable water. In 1990 the population of Kopernik Shores was twenty-six. The population remained the same in 2000.
At a Glance
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Kopernik Shores is classified as a Town
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