Galveston’s most remarkable characteristic,
and a prominent reason its history is studied so
extensively, is its ability to evolve often despite
notable resistance. As a town that has always
been influenced by visitors whether immigrants,
international tradesmen, or tourists, this ability
to transition and accommodate the trends of the
world is not merely a side effect—it is a necessity.
Galveston is a city rich in history, with many
monumental events and people connected to
the island. The Great Storm of 1900 and the story
of Galveston’s most famous native son Jack Johnson
are two well-known examples, but another date that
is important to all of American history also has direct
ties to Galve
When Galveston artist Doug
McLean arrived at the Omega
Bronze foundry in Smithville
earlier this year, he knew he was finally
about to see his vision become a reality.
After months of sculpting “Hope,” an
interpretation of a plaster study by
Pompeo Coppini honoring the victims
and survivors of the 1900 Storm,
community fundraising efforts provided
the means to translate his work into
Four names, 146 years, and counting. The United States National Bank of Galveston became an island institution after it was purchased and brought to prominence by local magnate Isaac H. Kempner in 1902. Founded in 1874, the Island City Savings Bank was first renamed Texas State Bank in 1903, followed by a second renaming in 1924 that coincided with the completion of its new, twelve-story headquarters at 2201 Market Street in the heart of downtown Galveston.
Galveston is often heralded for its survivor spirit. Yet even this lofty (and well-deserved) label, given for the community’s ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable forces of nature, underplays the fact that time after time, this island city has done far more than merely survive. Even the mainstream narrative of island history often reaches its dramatic climax on September 8, 1900, lazily crediting The Great Storm with a consequent economic devastation that instantly transformed Broadway mansions into museums.
Much like the cities that celebrate it, Mardi Gras is richly unique. While many other holidays have been hijacked by marketing firms and diluted by societal evolution, Carnival remains authentic. While most traditional festivities are more or less mandatory via the declaration of them as nationwide observances, Mardi Gras is only celebrated regionally and has grown organically, with a history that parallels the early growth of certain American cities that were heavily influenced by European cultures.
“When your life path deals with certain experiences, I believe that it is part of our purpose to use those experiences for the benefit of others.” Cynnara Wodecki speaks with a wisdom seemingly far beyond her years, yet her life and her business are testaments to the power of extracting the beauty from the dark, cavernous corners of the human condition.
Downtown Galveston is known for its historic architecture, but the buildings themselves would be long forgotten - or worse, lost - if it were not for the endless creativity and tenacity of the small business owners who continually use their brilliance to infuse the would-be relics with new life and purpose. Now, in addition to an array of boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, the area is home to Galveston’s very first medispa.
Enjoy a guided tour of the island’s coolest spots on a new electric bike from Zipp-E-Bikes. There is no better way to see the island than on a quiet and easy to ride E-bike. Your guide will take you on an adventure that highlights everything the island has to offer- history, industry, wildlife, beaches, and more.
Like layers of an onion being peeled back one by one, there is always more to be revealed about Galveston, its people, its places, and even its food. Consider shrimp - not which dish is best, but rather the history behind it, the men who dreamed of it and devoted their lives to it.
In a city such as Galveston, where the history is not only captivating but also a distinct facet of the cultural identity, the buildings are as storied as the community. When these two evolve together, rather than demolishing one at the whims of the other, ideas come to be planted in seemingly illogical places - banks become restaurants, warehouses become retail centers, and theatres become churches.
Over on Pelican Island, some say the spirits of hundreds of people who died of disease waiting aboard floating ships just beyond Quarantine Station Number 2 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have finally made their way to shore. The lost souls are said to have been spotted roaming the beach there during inclement weather. Others speak of the days of pirates and tales of millions of dollars worth of treasure that is rumored to have been buried on the small island - pirate ghosts can be extremely protective of their booty.
The fertile sands of Galveston cultivate not wheat, soy, or cotton, but success. The 19th century pioneers who transformed a tiny island into a powerhouse of creative entrepreneurship and international commerce set a standard of excellence for Galveston that has magnificently shapeshifted into myriad forms over the 20th century and today, yet always remained constant. At times, this remarkable evolution has taken place not only collectively, but also within a single family.