Thursday, January 13, 2011

East End Historic District, Galveston, Texas

Anyone who is doubts that there exist tres cool locations in Texas best make a beeline for Galveston - I dare say it is a miniature New Orleans, well, maybe Savannah. From an architectural standpoint, it is as if time was frozen circa 1890, the Strand area downtown is magical as are the few surviving mansions on Broadway, known in its day as "Castle Row." So how did this happen, all this fabulous architecture on an island one hour south of Houston ?

The surprise is that Galveston, in the 1890s was the largest port west of the Mississippi. Huge wealth was created on this small island, much evidence then wiped off the face of the earth with the devastating 1900 hurricane (the worst natural disaster in U.S. history). Many of the mansions were totalled. The recent devastation of Hurricane Ike (9/13/2008) is a sobering reminder. That event created a saltwater storm surge that virtually wiped out 40,000 signature southern live oaks in the city. Ironically, these century-old live oaks were planted after the 1900 hurricane. Live oaks derive their name because they are evergreens and do not go dormant in the winter. See

Gresham Castle, Galveston, Texas

Gresham Castle is on Broadway at 14th St. in Galveston. Gresham was a railroad magnate and built this Victorian mansion in 1887 just as Galveston was peaking as the "Wall Street" of the south due to its preeminence as the largest port west of the Mississippi River. Likewise, Galveston was the wealthiest city west of the Mississippi from 1890 until the disastrous 1900 hurricane, which virtually wiped the city off the map. At that time, Houston to the north was in its infancy.