Galveston Historic Hotels
There are two historic hotels in Galveston. The Tremont House is down on the Strand. The owner, George Mitchell, brought Mardi Gras to the island in the 1980s and it continues as a big 10-day celebration to this day. The other hotel is the Hotel Galvez across from the seawall. Phil Harris married Alice Faye in 1940 and spent his honeymoon in the penthouse. And, Dan Rather gained national fame sitting in the Galvez reporting as Hurricane Carla came to Galveston in 1960. From this recognition, he got a news job reporting in the Kennedy White House and the rest they say is history.
The Galvez was known as the “Queen of the Gulf” on the day she opened in 1911. For nearly a century, this charming hotel built in a Spanish Mission style has been the choice for guests as diverse as Franklin Roosevelt and Howard Hughes, as well as the famous stars mentioned above. Palm trees line a stretch of grass in front of the property’s double doors. Mahogany beams cross the ceiling of the expansive lobby and down a long hallway known as the Loggia. The veranda (where Dan Rather reported from) overlooks the formal gardens and the hotel’s outdoor tropical pool. And, of course, the famed Balinese Room used to be right across the street.
Currently, more than 2,000 buildings in town are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Strand, once known as the Wall Street of the Southwest, has dozens of Victorian Office Buildings with antique stores, art galleries, and gift shops. It’s a fun place to roam around and the cruise ship terminal is only a block away. Several ships now call Galveston home which has definitely stimulated the economy.
There are so many things to do on the island. There are several Victorian homes and churches you can tour. Climb aboard the tall sailing ship The Elissa, check out the Galveston Railroad Museum, or take in the movie, The Great Storm, at the Texas Seaport Museum. The downtown area (which many people don’t realize is there because they only go to the beaches and seawall area) is known as the Strand. It was once called “the Wall Street of the South” and has many wonderful Victorian buildings that have been converted into shops and restaurants and is a fun place to explore. This area is the heart of Mardi Gras in the spring as well as the Christmas festival, “Dickens on the Strand.”
Naturally, the biggest attraction is the sandy beaches. Besides that, you can gorge yourself on freshly caught seafood, especially shrimp, at a number of restaurants all over the island.
Tragedy struck once again September 13, 2008, as Hurricane Ike made landfall on the east end of Galveston Island. It left behind the damage of 100 mph winds and a storm surge estimated between 17 and 20 feet. Today the Island continues its journey of recovery and rediscovery since the hurricane.
I am not sure what it is about this island but it constantly calls to me, so I try and visit at least once a year. I used to live there a while back and maybe I will be able to again sometime. Hopefully, the sea breeze will call you to this wonderful romantic Victorian Island.
About the Author
Editor’s Note: To read more in-depth about this area, check out Kileen’s book “Journey Beckons”. You can order through her website: www.kileenprather.com or at Amazon either in book format or the Kindle edition. Her latest, “Journey To Port” now also on Kindle.