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Galveston and the 1900 Storm

Galveston and the 1900 Storm by Elizabeth Hayes Turner and Patricia Bellis Bixel

The Galveston storm of 1900 reduced a cosmopolitan and economically vibrant city to a wreckage-strewn wasteland where survivors struggled without shelter, power, potable water, or even the means to summon help. At least 6,000 of the city's 38,000 residents died in the hurricane. Many observers predicted that Galveston would never recover and urged that the island be abandoned. Instead, the citizens of Galveston seized the opportunity, not just to rebuild, but to reinvent the city in a thoughtful, intentional way that reformed its government, gave women a larger role in its public life, and made it less vulnerable to future storms and flooding. This extensively illustrated history tells the full story of the 1900 Storm and its long-term effects. The authors draw on survivors' accounts to vividly recreate the storm and its aftermath. They describe the work of local relief agencies, aided by Clara Barton and the American Red Cross, and show how their short-term efforts grew into lasting reforms. At the same time, the authors reveal that not all Galvestonians benefited from the city's rebirth, as African Americans found themselves increasingly shut out from civic participation by Jim Crow segregation laws. As the centennial of the 1900 Storm prompts remembrance and reassessment, this complete account will be essential and fascinating reading for all who seek to understand Galveston's destruction and rebirth.

Galveston: A City On Stilts by Jodi Wright-Gidley & Jennifer Marines

On September 8, 1900, a devastating hurricane destroyed most of the island city of Galveston, along with the lives of more than 6,000 men, women, and children. Today that hurricane remains the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Despite this tragedy, many Galvestonians were determined to rebuild their city. An ambitious plan was developed to construct a wall against the sea, link the island to the mainland with a reliable concrete bridge, and raise the level of the city. While the grade was raised beneath them, houses were perched on stilts and residents made their way through town on elevated boardwalks. Galveston became a city on stilts. While Galvestonians worked to rebuild the infrastructure of their city, they also continued conducting business and participating in recreational activities. Zeva B. Edworthy's photographs document the rebuilding of the port city and life around Galveston in the early 1900s. The faces and images cast an eerie message of hope, traveling forward in time, from 1900 to 2008. “I hope that readers, especially now after Ike, take away inspiration to rebuild,” said Jodi Wright-Gidley, director of the Galveston County Historical Museum. Wright-Gidley co-authored the book, “Galveston: A City on Stilts,” with Jennifer Marines, assistant director and curator. “They can say, ‘Wow, if those people in 1900 could come through that devastation, we can too,’” Wright-Gidley added. “It’s amazing what they accomplished with their technology in 1900.” “I just hope people learn about a period in Galveston history we often forget about,” she said. “People remember the storm, but they don’t realize how much work it was to put the island back together.” Many of the photographs reveal rare scenes of the reconstruction of Galveston. They were taken by Zeva B. Edworthy, a commercial photographer who worked in Galveston from 1904-1910. Edworthy wanted to document the rebuilding of Galveston, the construction of its gigantic seawall, and the process of raising the level of 500 city blocks, when houses were perched on stilts. He took hundreds of pictures, carefully placing them in an album. Then Edworthy moved on to other work, eventually settling in West Virginia as a director of religious education. The photographs from Galveston were locked away in a closet for years, and then passed along to Edworthy’s daughter, Judith, who set them aside. “Then, in 2005, I opened the album again, and my husband and I spent hours studying the fascinating pictures,” Judith Edworthy Wray wrote in the book’s preface. The family realized the value of such a collection, and donated the 340 pictures to the Galveston County Historical Museum.

Galveston by Gary Cartwright

"Coming down the coastal prairie from Houston on Interstate 45, you can smell the ghosts before you can see or hear them. They smell sweet and moldy, like the unfocused memory of some lost sensation jarred unexpectedly to mind". -- from chapter one Galveston -- a small, flat island off the Texas Gulf coast -- has seen some of the state's most amazing history and fascinating people. First settled by the Karankawa Indians, long suspected of cannibalism, it was where the stranded Cabeza de Vaca came ashore in the 16th century. Pirate Jean Lafitte used it as a hideout in the early 1800s and both General Sam Houston and General James Long (with his wife, Jane, the "Mother of Texas") stayed on its shores. More modern notable names on the island include Robert Kleberg and the Moody, Sealy and Kempner families who dominated commerce and society well into the twentieth century. Captured by both sides during the Civil War and the scene of a devastating sea battle, the city flourished during Reconstruction and became a leading port, an exporter of grain and cotton, a terminal for two major railroads, and site of fabulous Victorian buildings -- homes, hotels, the Grand Opera House, the Galveston Pavilion (first building in Texas to have electric lights). It was, writes Cartwright, "the largest, bawdiest, and most important city between New Orleans and San Francisco". This country's worst natural disaster -- the Galveston hurricane of 1900 -- left the city in shambles, with one sixth of its population dead. But Galveston recovered. During Prohibition rum-running and bootlegging flourished; after the repeal, a variety of shady activities earned the city the nickname "The Free State ofGalveston". In recent years Galveston has focused on civic reform and restoration of its valuable architectural and cultural heritage. Over 500 buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and an annual "Dickens on the Strand" festival brings thousands of tourists to the island city each December. Yet Galveston still witnesses colorful incidents and tells stories of descendants of the ruling families as Cartwright demonstrates with wry humor in a new epilogue written specially for this edition of Galveston. First published in 1991 by Athereum.

Clayton's Galveston by Barrie Scardino and Drexel Turner

A chronicle of Galveston's architectural transformation in the late-19th century. It explores the work of Nicholas J. Clayton, Alfred Muller, Edward J. Duhamel and others. The authors compare Clayton's work with that of his rivals and examine the theories, styles and influences of the period. The authors compare Clayton's work with that of his rivals and examine the theories, styles and influences of the period. The booming island city of Galveston owed much of its glory, majesty and splendor to architect Nicholas J. Clayton.

Through a Night of Horrors by Greene & Kelly

It had no name and gave no warning, but crept stealthily into the Gulf and then roared ashore, killing six thousand people. Nearly one hundred years after its landfall, the hurricane that struck Galveston Island on September 8, 1900, remains the worst natural disaster the nation has seen. In Through A Night of Horrors, witnesses describe, in many never-before-published accounts, their encounters with this deadly storm. Casey Edward Greene and Shelly Henley Kelly spent several years culling the Rosenberg Library's unparalleled collection on the storm for this work. Some of the survivor accounts included were recorded in the days immediately following the disaster; others were put down after many years had passed. The letters and memoirs included in this volume not only provided catharsis to their writers but also left important documentation about the events for future generations.

Sailing Ship Elissa by Patricia Bellis Bixel

For more than a hundred years the four-hundred-ton barque Elissa worked the world's waters, first as a sailing ship and then as a motor vessel. Built in 1877 when steam vessels were beginning to overtake large sailing ships as prime cargo careers, Elissa survived for more than a century on the strength of her hull and on the economic niche that ships of her size could fill. Stripped of her three masts and her sails, heavily modified, and in line for the salvage yard, Elissa was discovered in the 1960s in Piraeus, Greece. Coincidentally, the Galveston Historical Foundation began looking for a ship to restore as a working example of the heyday of sail along the Texas coast. In Sailing Ship Elissa, Patricia Bellis Bixel provides a complete history of the ship: her building and launching in Aberdeen, Scotland; her prime years of sailing under British, Norwegian, and Swedish flags; her decline as a Greek smuggler; and her eventual restoration as a tall ship for Texas. Included also is a view of the life of staff and crew on board the ship during a sailing season today. Photographs by Jim Cruz and others wonderfully illustrate Elissa's history and bring to life the difficulties of restoration, the labors of her crew, and the grace and beauty of a sailing ship whether docked or underway. Today, Elissa is an ambassador for Galveston and Texas whether moored at her home berth at the Texas Seaport Museum, making short training sails into the Gulf of Mexico, participating in parades of tall ships, or calling in Charleston, Annapolis, or New Orleans. With professional officers and a mostly volunteer crew, Elissa provides a means of understanding the life of a nineteenth-century sailor, arigorous world in which conditions could be miserable but the discipline, routine, and community of sea life had their own rewards.

Galveston Architecture Guidebook by Ellen Beasley and Stephen Fox

Galveston contains the largest and most historically significant collection of nineteenth-centurey buildings of any Texas city. This is a comprehensive guide to the architecture of this unusual Gulf Coast city.