Galveston is a historic city with incredible Victorian architecture. At the end of the 1800s it was known as the “New York of the South.” The 1900 Hurricane when over 6,000 people perished changed things, but this port city rebuilt and has a rich history equal to cities like Charleston or New Orleans. Once the largest city in Texas, this historic port city is worth a weekend exploration.
I suggest staying in the heart of downtown at The Tremont House. It’s housed in a building that dates back to 1879.
You know you’re in a historic hotel with the high ceilings and enormous window. Add the floral print drapes along with dark wood furnishings and simple linens, you can imagine what it would have been like to stay in a hotel in Galveston’s heyday of the late 1800s.
For one of the best views on the island, head up to the Rooftop Bar on the fourth floor to take in a sunset. It’s the city’s only rooftop bar and you get great views of the harbor and historic downtown. It’s the perfect place for bubbles or a nightcap in the glow from an eight-foot lighted manzanita tree and illuminated pots among the sectional sofas and bar-high tables. It’s romantic, elegant, cozy, and a perfect way to end a day on Galveston Island.
Let me give you a little history on this Galveston institution. The original Tremont House was built in 1839, the year Galveston was officially founded. The two-story hotel at the corner of Post Office and Tremont Streets was considered the grandest hotel in the Republic of Texas. It drew a sleuth of prominent visitors including six future or sitting American presidents, foreign ministers of France and England, Sioux chiefs, and Confederate then Union soldiers during the Civil War. Sam Houston delivered his last public address from the Tremont House. During the great fire of 1865, the Tremont House succumbed to the flames that raged for days in the Strand District and destroyed entire city blocks.
In 1872, a second Tremont House opened. The four-story building was even grander than the first. It attracted dignitaries from all over the world and touted being the only hotel with a passenger elevator. But, in 1900 an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people perished in a devastating hurricane. Galveston’s economy plunged into a depression and the glory of Tremont House quickly faded away. The second hotel was condemned and then demolished in 1928.
True to a southern spirit, you can’t keep a good dame down for long. In 1981, billionaire oilman, developer, and philanthropist George Mitchell, along with his wife Cynthia, acquired the Leon & H. Blum Building. In 1879 the building was a dry goods concern. In 1985, the third Tremont House opened and captures the spirit and elegance of its two predecessors. At the time, it was the first major hotel to open in downtown Galveston in sixty years and was a catalyst for the historic downtown’s revitalization. The opening coincided with the revival of Mardi Gras celebration in Galveston. Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, LLC manages the Tremont House along with the historic Hotel Galvez and waterfront property Harbor House.