Recently I was watching HGTV and they had an episode on about a couple buying a home in Galveston, Texas. I instantly loved the city and knew I needed to add it to my ‘Vintage Travel to do list’.
For today’s post lets take a look at some of the reasons and interesting historic points on why you and I should visit Galveston.
Galveston is less than 60 miles from Houston and is the fourth largest city in the United States. It is an island, has a sub tropical climate and was founded by a Pirate, named Jean Lafitte.
In 1900 the city was hit with a devastating hurricane. After the storm, the city decided to shore up its defenses against future storms by building a permanent concrete seawall along a large portion of the beach front (source). This wall is still standing today.
1920’s to the 1950’s the city re-emerged as a major tourist destination centered on casinos and other vice businesses. Featuring venues such as the famed Balinese Room the city became nationally known as the sin city of the Gulf.
The Balinese Room. Originally opened in 1923 as the Chop Suey, then the Sui Jen a few year later. It finally became the Balinese Room in 1942 with its famed south seas motif.
In its heyday, The Balinese played host to high rollers from all over the country, including local legends Glenn McCarthy, Diamond Jim West, and Howard Hughes. The showroom featured headliners such as Frank Sinatra, Sophie Tucker, Burns and Allen, Bob Hope, and Jack Benny. Long before Las Vegas attracted the big names to the desert, Maceo’s Balinese Room brought ‘em to Galveston (source).
Balinese was raided many many times over the years for gambling but was never able to be shut down, until May 30th, 1957. It remained closed until 2003 when a new owner brought it back to its former glory. It lasted till 2008 when another storm unfortunately destroyed it, but the owner seems to want to rebuild in a new location according to his website. I do hope this comes true for Galveston and for vintage lovers like me.
Galveston is also home to the glamorous and historic, ‘Hotel Galvez‘.
- This hotel is the only historic beachfront hotel left on the Gulf Coast of Texas
- Bears the name of Bernardo de Galvez, who surveyed the area in 1786
- Built with $1million after the famous and devastating 1900 storm
- Opened on June 10th, 1911, at 6pm
- Rooms were $2 per night in 1911
- The hotel boasted modern, time-saving tools such as a potato peeling machine, an ice-maker, a dishwasher and an ice cream maker
- Headquarters for the International Pageants of Pulchritude, the beauty pageants that were predecessors to the Miss Universe Pageant (1920-1932)
- Temporary White House for FDR
- Served as WWII Coast Guard Facility
- Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin Stayed Here (most likely to sleep off a night of partying at the Balinese Room)
- Room 501 is Haunted-Legend has it a seaman’s fiancé was staying in room 501 when she heard his ship had sunk, and took her own life. Now she haunts the halls
Inside Hotel Galvez
June 1928-Third International Pageant of Pulchritude held at the hotel.
One event I would love to attend is the Galveston Island Beach Revue which is a revival event of the first Bathing Girl Revue started in 1916 by the Galveston Beach Association (An organization formed early in the 20th century to promote tourism).
Want to see what the Bathing Revue was all about? Then check out the silent film below on the 1925 Revue (the swimsuit fashions are fantastic!). (Video Link)
Here is another video of Dorothy Weaver talking about her memories of the early days of the revue and the fun that was to be had on the beach.
Galveston is not just all beach there are also gorgeous Vintage Homes and even a East End Historical District.
The Bishop’s Palace-1892. WOW!
The Grand Staircase of the Bishop Palace.
Lastly, I must make note of the ‘Galveston World Famous Victorian Holiday Festival‘. This event looks like a lot of fun!
Hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Galveston, now who wants to join me to discover what else this beautiful city has to offer? AND if you have been there, please share what one should see when visiting.