I Dream of Galveston: Pier 21 Theater, Seawall & More

Following are more of our favorite Galveston attractions.

Pier 21 Theater

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 Pier 21 Theater features two theatrical presentations about Galveston’s historic past: The Great Storm and The Pirate Island of Jean Lafitte.

The Great Storm is a 27-minute, powerful, wide-screen multi-image presentation of the greatest disaster in Galveston history, the 1900 hurricane in which an estimated 6,000 people lost their lives. Photographs, eyewitness accounts, and dramatic sound and light effects honor the indomitable spirit of Galvestonians, who refused to accept defeat and rebuilt their city. Showtime is every hour on the hour.

The Pirate Island of Jean Lafitte tells the story of early island inhabitants and the pirate captain Jean Lafitte. Was the famous islander a pirate or patriot? Smuggler or businessman? Merciless murderer and thief, or hero in time of war? These are the contradictions of the legendary Jean Laffite, and the premise of this 18-minute film directed by C. Grant Mitchell. Showtime is every hour on the half-hour.

Admission: The Great Storm $5; The Pirate Island of Jean Laffite $4

Location: Pier 21, Harborside Drive

Information: (409) 763-8808

1859 St. Joseph Church

1860 St. Joseph’s Church is a deconsecrated historic church building managed as a community and historic resource by Galveston Historical Foundation. (Credit: galvestonhistory.org)

The oldest German Catholic Church in Texas and the oldest wooden church building in Galveston, St. Joseph’s was built by German immigrants in 1859-60. Bishop John Odin, the first Catholic bishop of Texas, recommended that a church be built for the German-speaking Catholics of the growing city. The church was dedicated in April 1860, to St. Joseph, the patron saint of laborers.

The building is a simple wooden Gothic Revival structure, rectangular with a square bell tower with trefoil window. The softly painted interior features a coffered ceiling with painted quatrefoils and other Gothic symbols.

Although damaged in the 1900 Storm, the church was repaired, enlarged, and redecorated within the year, retaining its original architectural character. In 1905, St. Joseph’s was raised 2 ½ feet for $290. In 1968, the Catholic Diocese closed the church and sold the contents at public auction. Upon learning that the building was to be used as a warehouse, Galveston Historical Foundation stepped in and leased the property. Most of the original furnishings were recovered, re-installed, and the structure was stabilized.

Galveston Historical Foundation continues to maintain the building and opens it for special occasions, prearranged group tours, and private functions.

Location: 2202 Avenue K

Information: (409) 765-7834

1839 Samuel May Williams Home

This rare combination of Creole-plantation and New England architectural styles was built in 1838 for Samuel May Williams, secretary to Stephen F. Austin and founder of the Texas Navy.

City of Galveston co-founder Samuel May Williams built his house on a large lot, well away from town. Today, the city surrounds it. (Credit: galvestonhistory.org)

Williams played an important role in early Texas history. The son of a ship captain, he was born on October 4, 1795, in Providence, Rhode Island. He learned the trades of bookkeeping and international commerce while employed by his uncle in Baltimore. After working in Buenos Aires and New Orleans, Williams arrived in Mexican Texas in 1822, settling in San Felipe de Austin. In 1838, Williams, along with Michel B. Menard and other early Texas businessmen, helped found the Galveston City Company. A year later the city of Galveston was incorporated.

Williams died on September 13, 1858, at the age of 63, without a will. The four surviving Williams children divided the property and sold the house to Philip Tucker. The Tucker family lived in the house until 1953, when it was sold to the Galveston Historical Foundation. The foundation restored the house and operated it as a house museum until 2007. Today it is a private residence, and closed to the public.

Location: 3601 Avenue P

Phone: (409)762-3933

The Seawall

Running parallel to Galveston Beach and the Gulf of Mexico is the island’s famous Seawall that stretches for more than 10 miles and rises 17 feet above mean sea level. The Seawall was built to protect Galveston from hurricanes, following the Hurricane of 1900 devastated the island.

The Seawall is as much a playground as it a protective barrier for the City against the ever changing tides of the Gulf of Mexico. Whether you enjoy biking, strolling, or just people watching, the Seawall is the place to visit!

Please Note: This is the sixth in a series of stories on favorite Galveston attractions

Texas Spoken Friendly

My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been…

Worth Pondering…
I still see her standing by the water
Standing there lookin’ out to sea
And is she waiting there for me?
On the beach where we used to run.
—Glen Campbell

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