Island of Endless History: The Story Continues

But the Hurricane of 1900 changed everything. Galveston’s prosperity suddenly came to a halt on September 8, 1900, when the deadliest natural disaster in United States history hit Galveston Island. At the time of the Galveston Hurricane, these monster storms were not given names, and it is sometimes referred to simply as The Great Storm.

Tour the island's murals and relive Galveston's history. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A storm with winds exceeding 120 miles per hour and storm surge fifteen feet high devastated the island and killed more than 6,000 people. At the time of the 1900 Storm, Galveston had a population of 37,000. One-third of the city was completely destroyed, more than 3,600 buildings, with just a few stone mansions surviving the onslaught.

Bodies were too numerous for conventional burials. At first, they were weighted and buried at sea; later they washed ashore.

The dead were uncovered at a rate of 70 per day for at least a month after the storm.

An ironic footnote to the Galveston Hurricane is the controversial role that weather forecaster Isaac Cline played. Some say that Cline personally had saved many lives. Cline himself claimed he ran along the beach telling people to evacuate, a story which no one seemed able to substantiate. Whatever he did do, one tragic fact that is confirmed is that Cline, a man who basically mocked the elements of nature with his bold and foolish prediction, watched his own wife drown in front of his eyes when his home was swept away by the Galveston Hurricane that he stated would never strike.

Even though a 10-mile-long seawall was built as protection against anoth­er killer storm, the city lost out to Houston as a port and a business cen­ter.

The Pier 21 Theater features two theatrical presentations about Galveston’s historic past: The Great Storm and The Pirate Island of Jean Lafitte. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The fact that a city of 57,000 could be built on a barrier island that offered no fresh water is largely due to the tenacity of the settlers, creative engineering, and the strength of commerce.

Centerpiece of today’s city is the Victorian restoration, in which many neighborhoods have been restored to their 19th-century splendor.

Galveston boasts four districts on the National Register of Historic Places: The Strand National Historic Landmark District, East End National Historic Landmark District, Silk Stocking District, and Central Business District. It is home to three National Historic Landmarks: Tall Ship Elissa, East End, and The Strand. There are approximately 1,500 historic buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

One of the most popular of these landmark districts is The Strand National Historic Landmark District, formerly known as “Wall Street of the Southwest” and now home to more than 100 shops, antique stores, restaurants, and art galleries. The Strand has one of the largest and best preserved concentrations of Victorian, iron-front commercial architecture in the United States.

Today, The Strand is a popular downtown retail center featuring art galleries and studios, specialty shops, restaurants, pubs, delicatessens, and historical exhibits within a 36-block area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, this barrier island city, situated approximately 40 miles southeast of Houston, is a living history adventure.

The list of must-see attractions goes on and on and on.

Tomorrow we explore Galveston Island State Park…

Texas Spoken Friendly

Life happens while you’re making plans—especially when RVing.

Worth Pondering…
Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin’
I still see her dark eyes glowin’
She was 21 when I left Galveston.
—Glen Campbell

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