An Assessment Of Galveston's Historical Sites

Categories: Hurricane Ike

Here is a summary from the Galveston Historical Foundation -- via their temporary digs in Austin -- about how the old and cherished buildings on the island fared during Ike:

First reports from the scene indicate the following:

The 1861 U. S. Custom House, GHF's headquarters, was flooded by as much as 8 feet of water, causing damage to files, archives, equipment, systems and inventory. Structural damage seems to be limited to an upstairs door onto the gallery, although the extent of roof damage if any is not yet known.

The 1877 tall ship Elissa, restored by GHF in 1982 and a proud symbol of Galveston, seems to have ridden out the storm with little damage beyond the loss of several of her sails. Large steel piles driven deeply in to the harbor bottom allow the vessel to remain attached to the shore even beyond the estimated 18 foot rise of water on Friday.


The Texas Seaport Museum at pier 22, Elissa's home berth, did not do as well, suffering considerable damage to the brick and wooden pier structure, and a suspected total loss of the wooden workshops which serve the maintenance needs of the ship. The Seaport Museum itself, in the 1990 Jones Building, is suffered little damage. The shrimp boat Santa Maria in her slip at Pier 19 had only minor damage.

The 1857 Italianate mansion Ashton Villa at 24th and Broadway lost two to three windows on the second floor, and had as much as 18 inches of flooding on the first. Damage to furniture on the first floor and windowless parts of the second floor must be extensive.

The 1889 Gresham House at 14th and Broadway, known as the Bishop's Palace and the most visited historic attraction on the island, seems to have weathered the storm with little damage, as it did during the Great Storm of 1900. The bottom floor of the building, which contains offices, a ticket counter, and has been in the process of renovation as a visitors center, is actually a little below grade. It was subject to as much as three feet of flooding.

The city's two oldest residential houses, the 1838 Michel B. Menard House and the 1839 Samuel May Williams house, suffered surprisingly little visible damage.

Garten Verein, the 1880 German dancing pavilion in Kempner Park managed by the foundation, seems to be undamaged.

The wooden 1859 St Joseph's Church building, the state' oldest German Catholic Church lost one window, but was otherwise undamaged. Its wooden steeple, somewhat truncated in the 1900 storm, still stands.

Damage to the contents of the foundation's warehouse on Mechanic street was extensive, as it was inundated with at least 10 feet of active water. Most of the physical equipment used during Dickens on The Strand, the foundation's popular holiday festival, was destroyed. The foundation's Salvage Warehouse at the Sealy Garage building suffered window damage and flooding of several feet.

Could have been worse, we guess.

Update -- An e-mail from Kathy Van Dewalli of The Grand 1894 Opera House:

A Blog/Letter from Kathy Van Dewalli, Marketing Director at The Grand

Dear friends, patrons and supporters of The Grand -

As most of you have probably surmised, The Grand is still not operational after Hurricane Ike. Galveston Island scored a direct hit from Ike and most of the Island suffered some type of damage (flood or structural). The island is still without power and clean-up efforts are just underway.

I was fortunate enough to get on the island to view the damage to the theatre. Fortunately
our Grand "gal" suffered no structural damage (at least viewable to the naked eye) but did suffer flooding in our street level (and basement level) areas. This includes (unfortunately) our backstage lower dressing rooms, the orchestra pit as well as some water damage to the first few rows of seats in the auditorium.

The stage has some silt from water but our beautiful painted curtain (the "Staley curtain") as well as the other curtains, are all fine. The star dressing room backstage suffered some water damage as well but our "star" photos that line the room are all okay.

The box office area, entry stairs and Edna's Room all withstood about 6 feet of water (add another two feet from curb to street!) and are wet and muddy - but will recover.

The good news - all our records, (ticketing, patron records, historical records) are high and dry in our offices on the third floor. As soon as power is restored to the island we can communicate with our patrons through regular channels and let them know just when we will be back up and performing!

As we were in the middle of renovation efforts when Ike hit - we fortunately had all the windows boarded up and they kept the building's upper levels safe and dry. All of our lobby areas are free from damage. I guess it goes without saying that we will be postponing our season until the theatre has been cleaned and polished and free of Ike's visit. As soon as we can access our records, we will be contacting all our patrons and keeping them abreast of our plans.

We will try to get information on our website, but as I am in a family's home that
also suffered a power outage - I'm having trouble with internet access at the moment.

-- Richard Connelly

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