S: The HISTORIC ARTIST LOFTS of Galveston, Texas
BC: The Tremont Opera House, 1885 | This is a personal publication NOT FOR PROFIT
FC: History of The Artist Lofts | The Strand Historic District Galveston, Texas Compilation by Dick Martin | Tremont Opera House - E S Levy Building - City National Bank Building - National Hotel Building - National Hotel Artist Lofts
1: The National Hotel Artist Lofts is an art community located in the center of the historical downtown area of Galveston. The original site of this building was home to the Tremont Opera House, which was the first Opera house in Texas. The Tremont Opera House was built in 1870. In addition to the regular theatrical performances, it was also the scene of the annual Momus ball, held during the Carnival season. A floor for dancing was built over the downstairs seats a few days before the ball, and was torn up after the Carnival was over. The last Momus ball was held at the Tremont Opera House in 1881. The Tremont Opera House was open until 1895, and closed shortly after when the Grand Opera House opened on January 3, of that same year. Willard Richardson, a Houston businessman owned the building, until 1894 when E.S. Levy purchased it. The superstructure, with the exception of the iron portions and a small part of the rear wall, was then torn down in 1895. When the current building was constructed in 1886, it was the first major building in downtown Galveston for architect Charles W. Bulger. Bulgar’s intent was to remodel the Opera House for use as the Levy Department Store. The ground floor cast iron front, formerly hidden behind the modern brick and granite facade, did survive from the Opera House – Bulger incorporated these elements into his new design. The E.S. Levy building was built by an early Galveston Business. The firm started in 1877 as a men and boys clothing and furnishings store. The firm built the E.S. Levy & Co. building in 1896 and moved the location in 1897. When built, this structure was the “first real office building in Galveston”, according to the Tribune. This building has housed many different stores and offices. The Galveston office of the U.S. Weather Bureau was in the Levy building at the time of the Great Storm of 1900. Weather instruments were installed and monitored on the roof. Hurricane warning flags were flown there until both were whisked away by the high winds sometime on Saturday evening, September 8, 1900. Forward by Becky Major
2: 1870 - 1906
3: In 1871 the first real opera house in Texas, originally called the New Galveston Opera House (later renamed Tremont Opera House, even though the entrance was on Market Street) was erected on Galveston Island, and by the end of the nineteenth century, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth,and San Antonio all had established opera houses as well. These houses offered a variety of musical and theatrical venues including opera. The drawing in the center was by C. Drie, and was excerpted from his larger "birdseye" drawing of Galveston in 1871. | Although no photos or drawings can be found of the Tremont stage, to the right is a drawing of the Booth Theater stage in New York City, built by Shakespearian actor Edwin Booth (the brother of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln). The stage was, “in all its appointments an exact counterpart of Booth’s in New York."
4: Below is an 1885 Stereoscope of the Tremont Opera House. To the right is a close-up of Augustus Koch's "birdseye" drawing of Galveston made in 1885, depicting the Tremont Opera House. | Looking North (toward the harbor) on Tremont Street – the Opera House is on the right.This photo was taken in 1890.
5: Trivia about the Tremont Opera House: * The first production was Sheridan's "School for Scandal" on February 25, 1871. * Cost of construction was $150,000. * The grand entrance, twenty-five feet in width, led up to a spacious lobby(twenty-two feet by thirteen feet) on the second floor. * The auditorium, exclusive of the stage, took in an area of fifty-five feet eight inches by sixty-five feet. * The stage extended the entire width of the building and was thirty nine feet nine inches deep, with a proscenium arch fifty-five feet in width. * The Booth Theater in New York, after which the Tremont was designed, was located on 23rd Street in Manhattan (Tremont in Galveston is also known as 23rd Street). * In 1872, Frenchman Henry Toujous gained a position tending the bar in the Opera House Saloon, located under the grand entrance and lobby of the Opera House. When the proprietor died, Toujouse managed the bar until the Opera House was sold in 1894. He opened his own hotel and cafe across the street, and took the ornate rosewood bar with him. When Henry retired in 1913, the whereabouts of the bar was lost until the late 1960s - but it was found, still in use as a bar, at the 7th Street Tavern. The bar was purchased and donated to the Galveston Historical Foundation, and later leased to the Tremont House Hotel, where it was restored to its' original beauty and in use as the Toujous Bar in the hotel's atrium.
6: The E. S. Levy Building was built in 1896. The building is a five-story commercial building. It was originally built to have retail space on the first floor and offices above. The original retail located in the building was E. S. Levy Company, a men and boys clothing store. E.S. Levy remained in the building until 1917. The ground floor was then occupied by Woolworth's who became the ground floor tenant until 1923. A local clothing store, Ben Doherty and Co., leased the ground floor from 1921-1933. George W. Robertston's furniture company and its succession businesses and proprietor, Robertson-Shaw and Silkensen-Shaw, were the ground floor tenants from 1934 until the early 1950s. The upper floors have been occupied by various tenants including the National Weather Bureau. After 1908, the Levy building was owned and occupied by various interests of W. L. Moody, Jr. (1865-1954), a prominent and extremely successful Galveston financial magnate and entrepreneur. One of the major tenants was the National Hotel Corporation, formed by Moody in 1927 and its headquarters and offices were located on the third floor of the Levy building until the 1980s. The building was renovated in 2001 and now has retail space on the first floor and residential apartments above. Levy, E.S., Building - Galveston, Texas - U.S. From: National Register of Historic Places description The E.S. Levy Building was considered the first modern office building in Galveston. The building was served by an elevator, which may have been one of the first electric elevators in the area. The elevator shaft still remains in the lobby of the Artist Lofts, as do some of the original brick walls. The building was first built as a four-story office, but a fifth floor was quickly added.
7: Still the largest natural disaster in American history, the Great Storm of 1900 killed between 6,000 and 12,000 residents of Galveston. To the right is a photo of bodies being carried on Tremont Street. The Levy Building is the taller building on the right. | To the left is a wagon traveling East on Market Street, in front of the Levy Building in September 1900. | Perhaps Galveston would have been more aptly named as "Phoenix" because of it's ability to rise from disaster time after time. In 1904, few indications remained of the Great Storm of 1900. In this 1904 photo the Levy Building would be just out of sight, right. | The Great Storm of 1900
8: 1907 - 1923
9: This 1912 post card photo was taken of a parade on Tremont Street, looking North towards the harbor. The Levy Building is the taller building in the center. | Excellent view of the Levy Building from Market Street, looking East. In 1908, the building was sold to City National Bank, and in 1912 Levy Clothing moved to Post Office Street at 23rd (1 block South).
10: City National Bank Building | 1917 | 1920 | In 1920, City National Bank opened this new building adjacent to the Levy Building (which remained on the tax rolls as the City National Bank Building, and bank employees were still officed here). The new building - and the bank - later became Moody National Bank.
11: Galveston during World War I 3,000 troops were estimated to have been at Fort Crockett at one time. All available space was covered with cantonments, kitchens and warehouses and two regiments in tents occupied the parade ground. Trench mortar units, railroad artillery and Howitzer organizations were sent across to France, and steady stream of replacement batteries left the fort. It was estimated that Fort Crockett sent 100 to 200 replacements per month. The Coast Defenses of Galveston, Texas during WWI The Headquarters of the Coast Defenses of Galveston, Texas were based at Fort Crockett and consisted of three separate forts in the Galveston area. They were Fort Crockett, Fort San Jacinto and Fort Travis. Fort Crockett, Coast Defenses of Galveston is a permanent post, located in Galveston, Galveston County Texas. Named in honor of David Crockett, famous hunter and legislator, who was killed at the Alamo in 1836. The original reservation was acquired by purchase in 1897. The buildings in course of construction were destroyed in the flood of 1900. Fort Crockett is the Headquarters and a station of the Coast Defenses of Galveston, South Atlantic Coast Artillery District. Fort property is about 92 acres in size. Fort San Jacinto, Coast Defenses of Galveston is a permanent post, located on the North-East end of Galveston Island, Galveston County Texas. Named in commemoration of the battle of San Jacinto, which resulted in Texan independence. The original military reservation was established by the Republic of Texas in 1836 and claimed by the United States in 1887. Fort San Jacinto is a station of the Coast Defenses of Galveston, South Atlantic Coast Artillery District. The area of the fort is about 1,540 acres. Fort Travis, Coast Defenses of Galveston is a permanent post, located at Bolivar Point, Galveston, Galveston County Texas. Named in honor of Lt. Col. William B. Travis, Republic of Texas, who commanded the Texan forces in the Alamo and was killed in its defense in 1836. The original reservation was acquired by purchase in 1898. Ft. Travis is a station of the Coast Defenses of Galveston, South Atlantic Coast Artillery District. The area of the fort is about 96 Acres.
12: 1924 - Present
13: Before and during restoration | After restoration | Artists' rendition
14: The next three pages include Galveston drawings and excerpts from the book "The Great South - A Record of Journeys" by Edward King, published in 1875. In the author's words: "This book is the record of an extensive tour of observation through the States of the South and South-west during the whole of 1873, and the Spring and Summer of 1874. The journey was undertaken at the instance of the publishers of Scribner's Monthly, who desired to present to the public, through the medium of their popular periodical, an account of the material resources, and the present social and political condition, of the people in the Southern States." | "The mule-carts, unloading schooners anchored lightly in the shallow waves." | "It is only a few steps from an oleander grove to the surf." | "Watch the negro fisherman as he throws his line horizonward." | Illustrations by J. Wells Champney, 1873
15: And what is Galveston? A thriving city set down upon a brave little island which has fought its way out of the depths of the Gulf, and given to the United States her noblest beach, and to Texas an excellent harbor. Seen from the sea, when approaching under the fervid light of a Southern dawn, or when sailing away from it in the white moonlight, so intensely reflected on the sand, it is indeed a place where "Myrtle groves Shower down their fragrant wealth upon the waves Whose long, long swell mirrors the dark-green glow Of cedars and the snow of jasmine cups. It is a city in the sands; yet orange and myrtle, oleander and delicate rose, and all the rich-hued blossoms of a tropic land, shower their wealth about it. In the morning the air is heavy with the perfume of blossoms; in the evening the light, to Northern eyes, is intense and enchanting. Thirty-one miles of picturesque beach are constantly laved by the restless waters. It is only a few steps from an oleander grove to the surf, the shell-strewn strand, and the dunes. The approach from the mainland will instinctively remind the traveler of Venice. A great bridge, two miles in length, connects the islet with the continent. Dismantled fortifications near the bridge show one that the war reached even to the Gulf; and the mass of low-lying, white, balconied houses forms a pleasant group. Much of the island is unkempt and neglected-looking. Cattle wander freely about. There are a few market-gardens, and some meat-packeries in the suburbs of the city. Galveston itself, however, is as trim and elegant as any town in the South. The business quarter looks quaint and odd to strangers' eyes, because of the many long piers and jetties; the mule-carts, unloading schooners anchored lightly in the shallow waves; and the hosts of slouching darkies, shouting and dancing as they move about their tasks. The "Strand," the main business thoroughfare, has been twice ruined by fire, but has sprung up again into quite a magnificence of shop and warehouse; and Tremont, and other of the commercial avenues, boast of as substantial structures as grace the elder Northern cities. There is a network of wharves and warehouses, built boldly out into the water, in a manner which recalls Venice even more forcibly than does the approach from the mainland. The heat is never disagreeably intense in Galveston; a cool breeze blows over the island night and day; and the occasional advent of the yellow-fever,--the dread intruder who mows down hundreds of victims,--is a mystery. It comes, apparently, upon the wings of the very wind which puts health and life into every vein; and many a midsummer is rendered memorable by its ravages. Yet there could hardly be imagined a more delightful water-side resort than Galveston, during, at least, four months in the year. My first visit to the beach was in February, and the air of Northern June fanned the waves. The winter months could certainly be delightfully spent in Galveston; and the little city has built a splendid hotel as a seductive bait for travelers. | from "The Great South - A record of Journeys" by Edward King - Published 1875
16: Society in Galveston is good, cultured and refined; and the standard of education is excellent, judging from the large number of institutions of learning in the city. The Collegiate Institution, the Catholic College, the Convent for Women, the Galveston Female Seminary, the Medical College, and several German schools, all have fine reputations. The new Methodist and Episcopal churches, and the Cathedral are the finest religious edifices in the State. On Tremont street stands the beautiful Opera House, where is also located the office of The Galveston News. This paper, founded by Willard Richardson, is by far the ablest Democratic journal in Texas, and takes high rank in the South-west. Its founder has been conspicuous in aiding by word and work, the upbuilding of Texas, and through a long series of years, has published the "Texas Almanac," a voluminous and faithful record of the great common-wealth's progress. | The Catholic Cathedral--Galveston. | "Primitive enough is this Texan jail." | "Galveston has many huge cotton presses"
17: Chronology of E S Levy Building/Artist Lofts 1870-1898
18: Chronology of E S Levy Building/Artist Lofts 1899-1912
19: Chronology of E S Levy Building/Artist Lofts 1913-1964 | Sources: Michael Gartner & Assoc. - http://mgaia.com/images/ESLevy/Default.htm ArtSpace - http://www.artspace.org/properties/nationalhotel/ Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Register_of_Historic_Places_listings_in_Galveston_County,_Texas University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill - http://docsouth.unc.edu/index.html Amon Carter Museum http://www.birdseyeviews.org/zoom.php?city=Galveston&year=1871&extra_info= Mitchell Historic Properties, Galveston Historical Foundation, Rosenberg Library Museum