Tag Archives: Texas History

Galveston, Oh Galveston!

I have already sailed from Galveston Island on the Carnival Magic through its silt filled green Gulf coastal waters on a 7 night fun cruise. Now I am staying in the town properly and at the Tremont House Hotel no less. Located on the Strand and owned by the Mitchell family, the Galveston born oilman, George Mitchell, buys and restore historic properties, it is a gorgeous property as well as historic monument. A few families have become dominant in the scheme of things here in Galveston which I will report on later.
I have to admit, my only knowledge of Galveston is the Glen Campbell song from the 1960’s. What a surprise to find out that Galveston was one of the wealthiest U.S. cities in the 19th century, a centre of commerce for the Southern United States with many firsts like the first post office, first opera house, firsts of all kinds until it was almost completely destroyed by a Hurricane in September 1900. The loss of lives was horrendous, at least 6,000 souls were lost and the bodies never given conventional burials so the true number will never be known.
And the surviving magnificent Victorian homes and buildings are a testament to a bygone era before Houston took over as the new power house of the Gulf. I get to take a tour of the Bishop’s Palace which was the former home of the Gresham family. Mr Gresham was originally from Virginia but Mrs Gresham had been born in Corpus Cristi. She was an artist and gardener and both were very personally involved with the décor and furnishing of the house. The Calalily chandelier in the entrance way, which had been personally selected by Mrs Gresham, was delicate and in beautiful condition. The house was eventually sold to the Catholic Diocese of Galveston and became Bishop Byrne’s residence. An upstairs bedroom was converted into a small chapel. The stain glass windows made in Europe were unbelievable in their detail and striking colours. Throughout the house were the most unusual and striking stain glass windows.
But I really enjoyed touring the Pallister House as part of a once a year opportunity to see how modern owners live in these historic homes. It was originally built by a Yorkshire born Robert Pallister who was born in 1851 and it was owned by this family for many years. The décor was breath-taking and it was such a shame that I hadn’t brought my camera. The brightly decorated basement area was cheerful while the front parlour was the perfect balance of modern and historic pieces. The dining room was gracefully decorated as well. What a pleasure to see people taking such pride in their homes.
It was sad to then tour through the neighbourhoods to see the oak trees that have been destroyed by Hurricane Ike. The remaining trunks of these magnificent trees had been carved into beautiful sculptures. Once again, nature had made its mark on this quite unique island.