Galveston Island, Texas– Each year, Galveston Historical Foundation asks the public for nominations to the “Heritage at Risk” list of historic sites and properties in Galveston County. Houses on the list are at risk of being lost due to damage, neglect or proposed development. The Heritage at Risk List is not limited to buildings, but also includes landscapes, sites, objects, and monuments that compose the cultural landscape of Galveston County.
There are three major criteria for consideration on the list:
- Listed properties or resources should be locally, regionally or nationally significant
- Resources must have an identifiable threat to their preservation such as proposed demolition, critical damage, or significant deterioration
- The preservation of the site will contribute to the promotion of Galveston County’s heritage
2015 HERITAGE AT RISK LIST
For more information and history on each property listed, as well as updates on previous “at-risk” properties, please visit www.galvestonhistory.org.
- 1424-1428 STRAND STREET, GALVESTON (Built c.1870, Rebuilt 1908, Remodeled 1932)
Early 20th century insurance records for this corner, lots 13 and 14, indicate the age of the buildings as “old” or built “about 1870.” Galveston City Directories, beginning in 1908, indicate the structures were used as tenant property until 1928, when purchased by Manuel Ramirez, and his wife, Modesta. Ramirez was listed in the city directory that year as a carpenter and it is likely he did much of the work that occurred prior to the opening of his restaurant, Dove Chili Parlor , established in 1932. Also known as La Paloma Mexican Café as well as Modesta’s Café, the restaurant was a meeting place for many of the Hispanic immigrants that called the area home. In 1938, Ramirez hired Manual Flores to design “warrior Indians” and a “wishing well” for the chili parlor. Mr. Flores was a mason by trade and when offered the commission by Ramirez, he sold his League City property and relocated to Galveston, living above the restaurant while he created the designs. A father of eleven children, Mr. Flores worked closely with the masons of Galveston through the years. He also designed and created the nitch, or arch, that covers the Virgin Mary at The Queen of Angels Church in Dickinson, Texas, which still stands at 41000 Texas Highway 3. His artwork at 1428 Strand is a source of Mexican/Hispanic pride and heritage, worthy of preservation.
- 1517 and 1519 CHURCH STREET, GALVESTON (Built 1886, rebuilt 1888)
Lot 3 of block 375 contains two structures: a one-story, two-bay, wood-framed “shotgun” house constructed in 1886 and a two-story, two-bay, wood-framed “shotgun” house, listed as “old” on insurance record with a note that it was “rebuilt” in 1888. Both properties were intended as tenant houses for African Americans and were most likely built by Moses Knodell, dealer in “paints, oils, window glass and painters supplies” at 1920 Strand. Both properties contribute to the East End Historic District, representing the diminutive residences that were once abundant in the district, particularly in alley ways. The threat to the properties is both have been vacant for several years and are minimally maintained. Although appearing to be in fair condition, the current owner has indicated a desire to demolish both structures. Both houses could be restored and occupied, even connected to create a single residence.
- 2818 BALL, HENRY BEISSNER HOUSE (Built 1891)
According to the Galveston Architectural Guidebook (page 204-205), the Henry Beissner House, constructed in 1891, is “one of the most unusual houses of its period in Galveston. It was out of the ordinary to build such a substantial house in a neighborhood that was, in this block, respectable but not fashionable. The character of the exterior detail, especially the Japanese-like gridded band in the broad front gable, is not repeated on any surviving Galveston houses. What also makes this band, and the rest of the elaborate wooden detail on the exterior surface of the Beissner House unusual is that it was originally stained rather than painted.”
The Beissner house has, for decades, been vacant and in danger of demolition by neglect. The house was sold to the current owner years ago with the promise that the new owner would restore the house as a community center for the neighborhood. After more than two decades that promise has yet to be fulfilled and the house continues to deteriorate. Possibilities for the structure could still include a community center, or, it would be restored as a single family home at its current location or even moved to another location.
- OLD BARBOUR’S CHAPEL BAPTIST CHURCH, 801 MARTIN LUTHER KING, TEXAS CITY (Built 1913, renovated 1945)
In the early part of the 20th century, Reverend R. C. Barbour moved to Texas City from Galveston, where he led the congregation at Macedonia Baptist Church. With a vision to provide spiritual leadership to African Americans, in 1913, he purchased a parcel of land on the corner of Eighth Street South and First Avenue North (now Martin Luther King Avenue), located in the city’s second division. A small wooden church building was soon erected. The wharf on Bay Street served as the baptismal pool for new concerts. Rev. Barbour continued for seven years, leaving in 1920 to return to Galveston before eventually moving to Tennessee. The wood church became the property of the Old Landmark Association. Over the next few decades the organizational structure of the church grew, shepherded by seven pastors between 1920 and 1943 when the Rev. J. H. Scott took the helm as the first full-time pastor. In 1945, the wooden church was renovated and became known as the “little church with a big heart.” After the Texas City Disaster in 1947, Barbour’s Chapel opened its doors to the community for emergency medical care, food, clothing and temporary shelter. It was the first African American Church in Galveston County to establish and educational fund to encourage and provide financial assistance to its college students. Today, the old church is located within the designated “green belt” surrounding the refineries and petroleum plants located at Texas City’s port. In 2006, a new edifice was built and the congregation was moved from Old Barbour’s, affectionately known as “The Castle”, to the new location at 7420 FM1765. Old Barbour’s Chapel is a very special place in the hearts of African Americans of Mainland Galveston County. It is located a block from the only other landmark that symbolizes African American heritage in the community, Booker T. Washington African American School. With the appropriate care, Old Barbour’s could become a facility to house and display historical documents and artifacts as well as a place for classes, activities and special events. Most of all, its existence would help to preserve, and be a reminder to all citizens of the community’s shared heritage.
For more information on Galveston Historical Foundation’s Heritage at Risk list, contact Will Wright, Director of Communications and Special Events at (409)765-3404 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.