While I’ll admit that I didn’t know very much about Galveston before boarding my flight to Houston, I left with the utmost respect for the island and the locals that made my weekend here so memorable.
Impressing me most, however, is the history associated with the area. September 8, 1900 marked what is still the most devastating natural disaster ever to strike the country, a massive hurricane killing thousands and essentially destroying numerous buildings, houses and trees.
After building a 17ft wall around the port to protect the island from future storms and re-building the city several feet higher than originally constructed, Galveston then survived another hurricane fifteen years later and then the more recent Hurricane Ike (damage featured below). Despite these major setbacks, the locals are more in love with their hometown than ever before.
My personal favorite part of Galveston history centers around the legendary Pirate Jean Lafitte, who stayed in the city for a time. After Lafitte established the colony of Campeche in Galveston in 1817, he was forced to leave the island. He did leave Galveston Island but not before burning his town on his way out. I’ve always secretly wanted to be a pirate given my bohemian tendencies and learning about the notorious Lafitte helped me realistically understand what it was like to live a pirate life.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a real-life ghost, you may have luck in Galveston. Although I stayed at the beautiful Tremont Hotel ghost free, there have been one or two cases of spirit activity. It’s more likely you will spot on at Hotel Galvez, an equally stunning architectural masterpiece. During the month of October they offer ghost tours to the public and if you are a guest there the tour is always available. If you need a little liquid courage before wandering around searching for one, I recommend their Sunday brunch. It’s amazing and living in New York, I’m a picky bruncher.
Mansions and Palaces
Surprisingly, despite the tremendous devastation that Galveston has suffered through, their historical district is very much in tact, mainly due to local tenants restoring houses to resemble their original form. Moody Mansion and Bishop’s Palace (designed by Nicholas Clayton and depicted in the photo below) are two perfect examples of Victorian architecture and Gilded-Age extravagance. Audio guides are available and are a good resource for someone interested in the history of Galveston.