Texas Almanac, 1980-1981 Page: 31
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GALVESTON-PAST, PRESENT 31
kept the city from growing and progressing. Old-
timers say Galveston was never an open city, that
when the 20th century brought in the new morality,
Galveston did not join in. Galveston simply remained
what it had always been: a seaport and western town.
The open city era, with its attendant rum-running,
Postoffice Street bawdy houses, open drinking, gam-
bling, and attendant vices and disruptions, did nothing
to boost Galveston except to make it famous as the Las
Vegas of its day. Ninety-five per cent of the Galveston
people had nothing to do with it, simply standing by to
watch and by giving their tacit approval. The city at
large did not benefit.
Along the way, Galveston developed an inferiority
complex as Houston, which had stood in the Island
City's shadow for 70 years, overtook and surpassed it
- not little by little, but with a great rush. Galvesto-
nians had to stand by and watch Houston, 50 miles
away, claim its perquisites of preeminence: The main
or regional offices of the railroads and government;
headquarters for steamship lines and religious and
fraternal orders; the expansion of professional, com-
mercial and manufacturing enterprises begun in
Galveston; and the removal of civic and business lead-
ers from the Island to the mainland city. Houston also
has developed its own world-famous medical center.
That great Texas metropolis, now the nation's fifth
city in size, attracts almost enough new residents
annually to populate a community the size of Galves-
ton and is spreading in the direction of the island. The
newest shopping mall in the Houston orbit is located
only 23 miles away from the mainland end of the
Galveston causeway. Experts predict that, within
another 50 years, Houston will encompass all of
Galveston County except, possibly, Bolivar Peninsula.
Galveston, an island sandbar of 2-by-30 miles, off
the Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico, reflects the
diversity of a seaport community, with more than half
of its total population being black or Mexican-Ameri-
can. Its economy today rests on the beachfront tour-
ists, its great city-owned port, which has been modern-
ized into a valuable profitmaker and once again is an
important world port; Its University of Texas Medical
ranch; and in the 1976 Bicentennial celebration that
ushered in a period of historic restoration as a solid
economic base for this island city.
The University of Texas Medical Branch is the oldest
and largest medical school in Texas, having begun
classes in 1891. Although steeped in heritage and tradi-
tion, the medical school has earned a reputation as an
innovative leader in medicine, not only in the South-
west, but across the nation.
According to school officials, admission to the
school of medicine is now based on more than a stu-
dent's college record, entrance examination score and
other academic indices. A student's work history, life
objectives, social interests and other personal infor-
mation are taken into consideration to get an overall
view of the student as a person.
With more than 6,300 employees, the Medical
Branch is Galveston Island's largest employer. It is
estimated that one out of every five families living in
Galveston depends on UTMB for its primary source of
income. More than 2,000 of these employees working at
the medical branch live on the mainland of Galveston
County. The School of Medicine and Graduate School
are comprised of 418 full-time, 48 part-time and 264
volunteer faculty members.
Each year the school awards doctor of medicine
degrees to some 200 students. Estimated replacement
value of the medical complex at present is $225 million
and the annual budget is $124 million. The annual pay-
roll is $73 million. Dr. William Levin is president.
Since its inception the school has turned out some
6,900 physicians, and of this number 3,850 are practic-
ing in Texas at the present time. The campus, 85 acres
in size, is comprised of 56 major buildings.
Present enrollment at UTMB, Galveston, is: School
of Medicine, 789; graduate school, 186; allied health
sciences, 299; nursing school, 277; house staff, 342.
Recently completed buildings on the campus in-
clude the 510.2 million child care center and the $32.5
million John Sealy Hospital addition. Soon to be under
construction are an Ambulatory Care Center and a $40
million Texas Department of Corrections' inmate fa-
cility already funded by legislative appropriation.
Located in Galveston on Pelican Island is the
Moody College of Marine Sciences and Maritime Re-
sources. It Is a branch of Texas AAM University.
HISTORY AND RESTORATION IN GALVESTON
In the mid-nineteenth century Galveston and its
port were already the commercial hub of an expand-
Ing Texas, with cotton flowing out from much of the
Southwest and manufactured goods and immigrants
coming in. Following the War Between the States and
the Reconstruction Era, thriving merchants and bank-
ers built imposing Victorian commercial buildings
near the waterfront along a wide street grandly called
The Strand (after London's) and dubbed "The Wall
Street of the Southwest." With such prosperity the
wealthiest families built grand stone and brick man-
sions along palm-lined boulevards, while hundreds of
lesser folk constructed substantial frame houses and
high-rise cottages all over the city.
Following the great storm of 1900, Galveston re-
sponded vigorously by building a massive seawall and
raising the grade-level of the city by from five to 12
feet in the lowest places. But in spite of this great out-
burst of energy which followed the disaster, Galveston
by the 1920s found commercial growth by-passing it for
nearby Houston with its newly dredged ship channel
and its beginnings as an oil capital.
Yet it was this very Ipck of economic growth in the
early 20th century which saved Galveston's 19th cen-
tury areas from large-scale demolition. Remarkable
for historians and preservationists, there are more
than 1,000 nineteenth century residential and commer-
cial buildings intact today on Galveston Island, consti-
tuting one of the finest concentrations in the nation.
Ironic twists of history both created these structures
and permitted them to survive.
By the 1960s, this reprieve for 19th century Galves-
ton buildings was yielding to economic pressures, and
arbitrary demolitions and spots of strip development
were causing the loss of key structures. Preservation
by inaction, rather than by design, had run its course.
Fortunately, Galvestonians, as well as visitors were
beginning to recognize what a vast treasure of 19th
century buildings the Island possessed. A major devel-
opment at this point stimulated the beginnings of
actual preservation efforts in Galveston. The Galves-
ton Historical Foundation, begun in 1871 as the Galves-
ton Historical Society, had been re-activated in the
1950s. In 1954, the 1839 home of Samuel May Williams, a
leader in the Republic of Texas days, was set to be
demolished. Seven spirited and outraged ladies of the
historical group, under the leadership of Mrs. Paul
Brindley, stopped this, single-handedly raising the
funds to purchase and preserve the property. Equally
important, they had incorporated the society as the
Galveston Historical Foundation and extended its pur-
pose to the saving of historic structures.
By 1969, the Historical Foundation, with a grant
from the Galveston-based Moody Foundation, carried
out a survey and planning project so that two locally
zoned historical districts could be established: a 40-
block residential area in the East End and a 10-block
commercial area around The Strand. Simultaneously,
the Junior League of Galveston took the pioneering
steps of purchasing and restoring two key Strand
buildings, the First National Bank Building as a cul-
tural center and the Trueheart-Adriance Building for
its own offices.
At the same time in this tumultous period, the His-
torical Foundation was leading a community effort to
prevent demolition of one of the city's grand man-
sions, the 1859 Ashton Villa, an Italianate structure
located on Galveston's principal residential street,
Broadway. After years of struggle, and acquisition
grants by the Moody Foundation, the U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development, Ashton Villa was
saved, with title in the city and restoration and admin-
Istrative responsibility in the Historical Foundation.
Finally, the Kempner Fund of Galveston quietly
initiated with the Historical Foundation a program
under which six houses in the East End district were
restored and sold to young professionals, and the His-
torical Foundation saved St. Joseph's Church, a small
frame structure built in 1859.
In 1973 the Historical Foundation and the Galves-
ton County Cultural Arts Council developed the idea of
a revolving fund, the result of such efforts being a
grant of 5200,000 from the Moody Foundation and S15,-
from the Kempner Fund to establish such a sys-
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Texas Almanac, 1980-1981, book, 1979; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth113815/m1/33/: accessed April 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.