Arts & Culture

Galveston Historical Foundation Releases List Of Endangered Buildings

The preservation group wants to find new owners who can invest in the buildings’ restoration.

The Galveston Historical Foundation has released its yearly list of significant structures that are at risk of being lost. New to this year’s list are five homes and a boarding house on Galveston Island along with the Bolivar Point Lighthouse.

Galveston Historical Foundation Executive Director Dwayne Jones said they release the annual list in hopes of finding someone who can restore the buildings.

“It’s just really making people aware that our culture and our history is much more diverse and it’s around us every day,” said Jones. “And sometimes those properties that fall into disrepair or need help get overlooked.”

Galveston has a large number of historic properties from the 19th Century and the early 20th Century. But restoring and maintaining those buildings is often costly. Jones said that while Galveston has a bustling tourism industry it doesn’t have the “depth of economy” you might see in other places.

“Part of the challenge is always just the lack of money and interest in taking care of a property or rehabilitating it,” said Jones. “And sometimes it’s really that it doesn’t have an economic use or doesn’t appear to have an economic use.”

Dwayne Jones Discusses Endangered Buildings on Houston Matters:

Galveston’s weather can also take its toll on aging buildings. While many homes are constructed of sturdy cypress, Jones said they have to endure wind, high tides and the occasional hurricane.

“All of those put a special kind of pressure on all the historic buildings on the island that you wouldn’t see more inland in Texas or in some other parts of the country,” said Jones.

He said that buildings can also fall into disrepair because of disputes over who owns it.

“Sometimes there’s not a clear transfer of the property to some other owners,” said Jones. “Like if someone passes away and doesn’t have a will.”

Jones told News 88.7 there have been cases where the Galveston Historical Foundation has purchased buildings from willing sellers. In other cases, it’s acquired historic properties through tax sales.

For groups and individuals who want to restore old structures, there are federal and state tax credits available if the building is used for commercial purposes. There are also organizations that offer grants, like the Texas Historical Commission.

As for increasing awareness of endangered historic properties, Jones said it’s all about building a culture of preservation.

“It adds diversity to the community,” said Jones. “It tells a longer history of the community and it has economic benefits for a community as well.”

The structures on this year’s list include:

• 1872 Bolivar Point Lighthouse

The 145-year-old lighthouse is currently in a severe state of deterioration and in need of considerable restoration. Extensive loss of original material necessitates complete removal and reconstruction of the upper portions including the watch and lantern rooms as well as the cupola. Work will require reconstruction of masonry walls and re-casting of iron elements. A condition assessment report completed in 2018 notes the lighthouse is in dire need of repairs, estimated at $2.5 million. Almost half of the cost is to remove the domed cupola and fabricating a replacement.

• 1870 Emilia Gengler House, 2102 Sealy

Noted in the Galveston Architecture Guidebook for exemplifying a phenomenon that was common in 19th-and early-20th century Galveston of increasing the height of a house by adding a new floor beneath the existing house. The 1871 Bird’s –Eye View map of Galveston depicts the building as a two-story house with front verandahs and a low hipped roof.

• 1913 Mrs. George Smith Boarding House, 1103 Tremont

This three-story, 25-room house was built for use as a boarding house by Mr. and Mrs. George Smith. When completed, the Galveston Daily News noted the house contained ice water faucets on each floor, electric call bells and “speaking” tubes. In 1996, a previous owner abandoned rehabilitation efforts. The current owner purchased the house in 2007.

• Joseph Franklin House, 3314 Avenue K  Built 1868 / Rebuilt 1903

The Galveston Architecture Guidebook recognized this Southern townhouse for the double-height fluted Doric columns and major openings framed with shouldered architraves. It was built by Joseph Franklin, a prominent lawyer, and land agent and originally located on the corner of the block facing 33rd Street. In 1903, it was reoriented on the block to face Avenue K and rebuilt.

• 2814 Avenue L Built 1880

This five-bay house is representative of a typical working-class cottage. The original paneled door surrounded by sidelights and transom is intact as are the building’s six-over-six windows. Missing windows and broken panes leave the house exposed to the elements. The current owner, who also owns 1103 Tremont, acquired the house in 1998. It is currently vacant.

• 2813-2815 Avenue K, Rear Built 1889 (eastern house) and c1919 (western house)

These two surviving alley houses are the only surviving buildings on the lot. The front house, described as “old” on the 1919 insurance certificate, was recently demolished. Both alley houses appear to have been unoccupied for years, and the front part of the lot is overgrown and strewn with trash. The alley houses should be preserved as a once common building type that could also increase the city’s housing stock.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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