R E V I E W B O O K
Queen of the Gulf History of Hotel Galvez looks across 100 years of Galveston Island’s ebb and flow by GERALD MOORHEAD, FAIA
Carol M. Highsmith, Hotel Galvez: Queen of the Gulf takes readers on a 100-year journey through the concurrent histories of Galveston and its preeminent beachfront landmark. The book places the newly renovated hotel in historical context with the addition of archival images, including postcards (opposite page) of the sun parlor and beach scenes.
T E X A S
A R C H I T E C T
5 / 6
2 0 1 1
PHOTOS BY ELIZABETH HACKLER; ARCHIVAL IMAGES COURTESY MITCHELL HISTORIC PROPERTIES
Illustrated with new color photography by
PUBLISHED LATE LAST YEAR BY MITCHELL HISTORIC PROPERTIES to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Hotel Galvez, this handsome volume blends the beloved landmark’s history with Galveston’s over the past century. Gary Cartwright’s narrative swirls back and forth through time to recount events and personages. Cartwright, author of the previous Galveston: A History of the Island, spins episodic tales of the hotel’s clientele, famous and infamous, and reminiscences of “ghosts and other guests.” He even includes a tasty gumbo recipe, along with a profusion of historic postcards and archival photographs. The old snapshots of local bathing beauties and visiting celebrities captured in “grin and grabs” are complemented by rich images of the recently restored “Queen’s Castle.” “To appreciate the Galvez in all its grandeur – to understand why it is called Queen of the Gulf – one should view the hotel from the sidewalk along Seawall Boulevard,” Cartwright states early in the book. “The Galvez dominates the eastern end of the Island in a way a queen’s castle dominates her fiefdom. A six-story stuccoed brick building with creamy lime plaster, the hotel features a central section that rises to eight stories under a hipped roof. On either side are two wings whose glassed-in semicircular bays project outward toward the Gulf… On the wings’ gabled roofs are inset Mission-style parapets, which are key elements of the building’s blended Spanish Colonial and Mission styles. … Four hexagonal towers with metalribbed vaults define each corner of the central section, whose top-most windows are framed with pilasters and crowned with round arches. A four-story square tower pops up from the roofline above the main section’s southeast corner. The hotel is one of Galveston’s few buildings showing Spanish architectural influence; the style subtly evokes the state’s colonial Mexican heritage…” And indeed, Cartwright traces the city’s lineage all the way back to the shipwreck of Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 on the “Island of Misfortune” and to other early Spanish explorers. The Galvez was completed in June 1911 to the designs of Mauran & Russell, the St. Louis firm that had been busy in Houston since about 1910 building the City Auditorium, the Majestic Theater, and the Texas Company Building, and would soon start on the Rice Hotel. For unknown reasons, the consortium of investors – Ike Kempner, Bertrand Adoue, John Sealy, and H.S. Cooper, who collectively called themselves the Galveston Hotel Company – bypassed the hometown star architect, Nicholas Clayton. The Galvez was built atop foundations of 600 wood piers driven 30 feet deep to form an extension of the new seawall. The site was elevated even
The May/June 2011 edition, Context, features projects that strike a balance between a building’s unique program and the desire for synthesis...