Galveston Historical Foundation was founded in 1954 specifically to save a historic building, the 1839 Samuel May Williams’ house, from demolition. Since then, GHF has been responsible for the preservation of many individual places and structures that contribute to Galveston’s amazingly rich architectural, cultural and maritime heritage. Through acquisition, through the Revolving Fund which buys a structure, stabilizes it and sells it with protective covenants to competent new owners, and through the variety of preservation assistance programs of the Preservation Resource Center and the office of Preservation and Conservation Services, GHF has had a strong impact in heritage preservation here for more than half a century.
Some of these historic properties are owned and/or operated as destinations for heritage tourism. In keeping with our mission statement, they may be categorized as architectural, cultural or maritime attractions, as below.
While the scope of its mission and activities has greatly expanded over the past 53 years, the preservation of historic structures and places remains at the core of what GHF does. Seven historic structures are owned or managed by GHF and made available to the public for tours and rentals. Each of the historic properties listed below has an important story to tell about the founding or flourishing of Galveston, and each is worth a visit.
Begin an exploration of Galveston’s architectural, cultural and maritime heritage by purchasing tickets at the GHF shop on The Strand to any of the GHF museums and attractions, including the dramatic presentation of Galveston’s signature natural disaster, the Great Storm of 1900, and the story of its first European settlement in “The Pirate Isle of Jean Laffite” at the Pier 21 Theater. The GHF shop on The Strand is located in one of the oldest buildings on The Strand.
Galveston was a base of maritime operations from its first occupation by Europeans. The city is here because it is a seaport. In preserving and restoring the 1877 ELISSA one of the small sailing cargo ships that carried the wealth of Texas cotton to Europe and left consumer goods and passengers, GHF honors this heritage. Exhibits at the Texas Seaport Museum (TSM) tell the stories of the port, from a searchable data base of thousands of immigrants who came through “the Ellis Island of the Southwest,” to the rise of the African American longshoremen’s union under the leadership of one of Reconstruction’s most influential ex-slaves. An extensive TSM exhibit explains another aspect of the port: the shrimping industry, which provided lunches and livelihoods for generations of Galvestonians. The shrimper Santa Maria, which worked continuously in Galveston Bay until she was given to GHF in 2002, represents a fishing heritage over a century and a half old.
Finally, there is no better way to experience the natural history and human impact of our harbor than to get out on the water with a knowledgeable guide; an experience available every day aboard Seagull II.