Galveston Historic Overnights: Grand Galvez Hotel
Built in 1911.
Few cities can boast both a "Belle of the South" and a "Queen of the Gulf," but Galveston Island is one of them. Built just a decade after the devastating 1900 hurricane, the Grand Galvez Hotel quickly became a symbol of Galveston's resilience.
It helped revitalize the city's reputation as a glamorous beach destination and went on to host presidents, beauty queens, military heroes, gamblers, movie stars, entertainers, and more than its share of ghost sightings.
Building a Pink Lady
Looking to reestablish Galveston's reputation as a glamorous beach destination, a reputation that had been difficult to earn back after the island and many of its finest homes were devastated in the 1900 storm, local leaders decided that a grand beachfront hotel would help lure back the wealthy and elite. They ultimately spent $1 million dollars to build the hotel, which was designed by St. Louis architects Mauran and Russell in the Spanish Mission style, and named for the island's namesake, Bernardo de Gálvez, a former governor of Spanish Louisiana and viceroy of New Spain who never actually visited the island.
Adding to the hotel's allure, the eight-story building sported one particularly unique and eye-catching characteristic—it was entirely pink! With a vision of a building that would glow in the early morning light, the builders mixed pink granite into the stucco finish, resulting in its signature hue. For many decades during the 20th century, the hotel was painted white until recently, when new owners, Mark and Lorenda Wyant, restored the hotel to its original color.
The War and the White House
Don't let the glitz and glamour fool you. A few odd chapters in Galvez's story figure into national history, when the 'Queen of the Gulf' was called upon to fulfill her patriotic duty.
In May 1937, the hotel served as the temporary White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt while he embarked on a 10-day offshore fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico. Roosevelt's White House staff converted the hotel's fifth floor into their headquarters, and during that time, all official communications to and from the president were conducted through the hotel.
Once more, during World War II, the hotel was closed to the public, commandeered by the U.S. Coast Guard, and converted into its wartime headquarters. Not even the hotel's finest suites were spared from being turned into barracks and situation rooms. Military drills were staged on the hotel's front lawn, and a boxing ring was erected for sparring practice.
The Pageant of Pulchritude
The Queen's Makeover
With their 2021 acquisition of the hotel, the Wyant family quickly commenced a multi-million dollar restoration, combining original and fabricated architectural elements to return the Galvez to its glamorous 1920s style.
One of the most notable restorations is of the famous Peacock Alley, a marbled walkway extending from the lobby that was once a catwalk for the elite to showcase their evening wear on their way to the ballroom at the other end. Now, for the first time in 70 years, visitors can again partake in the people-watching that this elegant promenade once afforded.
In addition, the following elements have been restored or recreated to match the hotel's original appearance:
- Original moldings and ceilings were found within the hotel walls and have been restored for the first time since 1962.
- Twelve four-foot-tall decorative white plaster urns have been placed on the exterior corners of the four towers at the top of the hotel. These urns are exact recreations of those originally installed on the hotel's towers for the grand opening in 1911. The originals were last seen in 1932 and are thought to have been destroyed by the hurricane that year.
- After a section of original brass stair railing was discovered behind a larger brass railing, the owner had a mold cast of this original fragment, which was used to build the hotel's new railings.
- Glass display cases in the west loggia feature numerous historic Hotel Galvez items, including flatware, dishes, invitations, letterhead, images, and more. In the east loggia, visitors will find a 1915 Ford Model T Speedster, considered one of the country’s first sport cars, and which was featured in one of the hotel's original flyers.