Victorian with a Texan accent

DRIVING along the streets, I would have thought that I was in an English County. Not until I heard the locals speak. Texan accent.

Hello? Ariel! I’m in Galveston.

My first taste of gumbo. Well, this is stop is as near as I can get to New Orleans.

It’s a drive “not too far” from Houston. The forty-minute ride south off the largest city in the Lone Star State will get you to a charming seaside secret – The Republic of Galveston – as the locals would call their place. It’s like Texas’ little secret, or one of many, this city is an island get-away blessed with amazing sunsets.

The 32-mile stretch of beach alone is enough for me to say this is a place I could call paradise. Add to it the well-preserved Victorian houses and edifices lining the city streets, the largest concentration in the country, in fact. The must-see are the Broadway Beauties – 1859 Ashton Villa, 1892 Bishop’s Palace, 1895 Moody Mansion. Imagine how the early 20th century Galveston’s elite lived.

Galveston Broadway Beauty #2 The 1859 Ashton Villa

Galveston Broadway Beauty # 1 The 1892 Bishop’s Palace
Galveston is soft sandy beaches and amazing 19th century architecture rolled into one. The island is surrounded with amazing beauty and incredible history.

The city was named after a Spanish colonial governor and general, Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Galvez. It became the main port during the Texas Revolution and eventually the largest port in the US during the 19th century.

But this paradise had its share of misfortunes, not by man but from Mother Nature herself. Galveston suffered the most deadly natural disaster to strike the country in the 1900 known as The Great Storm where it claimed thousands of lives and razed a third of the city.

Lifesaver
Efforts were made to protect the city. They raised the entire level of the city by eight feet, 17 feet at the Seawall, slanting the ground so water would run off into the bay. The feat proved to be a success in saving the city when another hurricane as ferocious as the 1900 storm swept down on Galveston in 1915.

It took Galveston years to get back on its feet. The early 80’s was the onset of the city’s renewal capitalizing on the overhauling and promoting the Historic Downtown District where the concentration of Victorian commercial architecture was. It then revived the Mardi Gras celebration, then encouraged the city into preserving and restoring buildings that eventually landed towns on the list of National Register of Historic Places.
Just when everything was on the roll to recovery and rediscovery, tragedy struck once more. Hurricane Ike caused devastation to Galveston in 2008.

As I drove along the streets of Galveston, I would have thought I was not in Texas anymore. The architecture of the houses that lined the streets was so English. It stood proud, some restored, some waiting to be restored, after another calamity has struck the area. But there is always the thought that on a most heartbreaking experience, there is no way but up. I am pretty sure this “republic” will regain its former glory.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 19, 2011.
The Gulf of Mexico. She can be furious.
An abandoned beach hotel

Preserved architecture

Another must-see, the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

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