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Galveston Monthly

Constructing the Seawall

Jun 01, 2019 09:17AM
With the financing securely in place for the construction of the Seawall, construction commenced on the first phase of the project. When completed, the wall against the sea would begin at the intersection of 8th Street and the Harbor, run south to the Gulf, then curve gently toward the
west and run continuously from there to 39th Street.

In preparation, four sets of railroad tracks were laid along this proposed route in order to facilitate the delivery of materials to the work sites. On October 27, 1902, the first piling was driven into place at 16th Street, and the Seawall’s foundation would be completed in its entirety before construction on the upper portion began.

The foundation measured sixteen feet wide and consisted of a total of seven parallel rows of pilings that would be driven into the ground along the line of the future wall. Four of these rows,
set three and a half feet apart, consisted of round pilings, each approximately one foot across and 42 feet long. Behind the row of pilings closest to the beach side, three tight rows of 24-foot
planks were also put in place by the pile driver to reinforce round pilings and to help prevent the undermining of the wall. 

Four machines manned by ten men apiece worked continuously and only stopped when either the dark or the weather prevented it. Other workers followed behind the pile drivers and dug three-foot trenches around the pilings which were then filled with concrete.

Massive cement mixers were placed on platforms with wheeled feet that bridged the sixteen foot span of the foundation. They were then pushed along the foundation to deposit the concrete directly into the trenches below. Rising seventeen feet above the foundation with a concave
face, this upper portion was the final step in the construction of the Seawall. Large wooden forms in the shape of the wall werehammered into place and steadied by beams braced against
the large pieces of granite riprap, then they were filled with concrete. 

The concrete mixer used for the upper portion of the wall towered above the seventeen foot frame. Two mechanical arms stretched out from either side of the mixer- one arm moved
the ingredients of the concrete from the railcars into the mixer, and the other arm swung the other direction toward the wall, dumping the fresh concrete into the frame. 

Completed on July 29, 1904, the original portion of the Seawall extended nearly three and a half miles. Almost immediately upon completion it became a Galveston attraction all of its own, as people were eager to promenade along the magnificent sidewalk.