Heritage, Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 1993 Page: 8
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W hen Galveston Historical
Foundation stepped in to prevent the
demolition of a group of four historic
homes, known collectively as Rainbow
Row, in October 1990, it was not the first
time Texas' oldest historical society had
come to the rescue of a local landmark.
The effort took on added significance
when the Resolution Trust Corporation
agreed to donate the houses to the Foundation,
marking the first time the federal
agency had donated property to a nonprofit
organization. The redevelopment
of Rainbow Row gave GHF a rare opportunity
to use historic preservation to help
meet the community's needs for affordable
"Rainbow Row opened our eyes to new
opportunities for combining our long-time
missions of historic preservation and community
redevelopment," said GHF Executive
Director Betty Massey. "It was an
important demonstration for Galveston
and Texas of the feasibility of using preservation
to meet social needs."
Located one block from the East End
National Historic Landmark District,
Rainbow Row consists of four nearly identical
houses that are listed on the National
Register of Historic Places as part of
Galveston's Central Business District/
Downtown Multiple Resource Group. The
two pairs of twin houses were built as
rental properties in 1904 by Robert Palleser,
a prominent local contractor whose works
include Galveston's Grand Opera House.
The two-story, side hall, double gallery
homes feature turned posts and balustrades,
jigsaw brackets and arches in a local combination
of the Queen Anne and Italianate
styles. The buildings are typical of the
small houses built in Galveston in the late
19th and early 20th centuries. Noted Texas
preservationist Ellen Beasley called the
grouping, "the most significant collection
of Galveston vernacular houses remaining
in this city today."
Rainbow Row got its name after a previous
owner painted the four houses in a
variety of colors. Although renovated in
the 1970s as rental properties, by 1990 the
homes had been abandoned to years of
neglect and vandalism. The houses became
the property of the Resolution Trust
Corporation as the result of the failure of a
local savings and loan institution. The
federal agency decided the houses were
irredeemable assets, ceased trying to sell
the homes, and applied to the City of
Galveston for permission to demolish the
buildings at a cost of $40,000. It was at this
point that Randy Pace', director of GHF's
Residential Preservation Program, and David
Bowers, the program's volunteer vice president,
intervened. They requested a 60-day
stay of demolition from the City while the
Foundation explored options for saving the
ing opportunities and returned the homes
to the tax roles."
Finally, on December 14, 1990, in a
ceremony on the steps of Rainbow Row,
the Resolution Trust presented the deed
to the four homes to Galveston Historical
Foundation. Restoration work began almost
"We had to come up with creative
ways to fill the gap between the cost of
On December 14, 1990, former GHF President Pam Froeschner accepted the deed to Rainbow Row from
Timothy Putnam of the Resolution Trust Corporation.
"(The Rainbow Row restoration project) was an
important demonstration for Galveston and Texas
of the feasibility of using historical preservation to
meet social needs."
GHF proposed that the RTC donate the
property to the organization for use in an
affordable housing initiative for low- to moderate-income
families. Although the RTC
had the authority to convey irredeemable
assets to non-profit organizations, the agency
had never exercised that option. Throughout
the fall of 1990, GHF worked diligently, first
with local, then with regional RTC officials
to reach an agreement.
"The RTC could only make the donation
after the agency determined it would save
taxpayers' money," said Pace. "Not only did
the project save the $40,000 cost of demolition,
it ultimately provided affordable hous
rehab and the selling price," said Pace.
"We involved the community from the
In order to control rehabilitation costs,
GHF formed partnerships with a variety
of public and private entities. The
Galveston County Sheriffs Adult Probation
Department supplied labor to clean
out the houses, while a medical fraternity
painted one of the homes; the City of
Galveston committed $35,000 in Community
Development Block Grant funding
to the project; Browning Ferris Industries
donated dumpster service for the
13 months of the renovation project, and
8 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1993
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 1993, periodical, Summer 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45416/m1/8/: accessed March 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.