Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Historic homes on Galveston Island 
by Martha Rogers

Galveston is a diverse city with its modern hotels and beach front properties as well as the historic homes that survived the 1900 hurricane which destroyed almost everything in its path and killed thousands of people. The homes featured today are those surviving the winds and water.

In 1847, John Seabrook Sydnor built what is known as Powhatan House. He was a pioneer merchant as well as mayor. His home is one of Texas’ most beautiful Greek revival homes. It was the central section of an early hotel before it was moved to its present location. It is no longer a home for a family but home to the Galveston Garden Club.

The limestone and brick Moody Mansion was built between 1893 and 1895 and designed by William H. Tyndall. The interior is beautiful with rare hand-carved wood, stained glass, and coffered ceilings. Serving as a museum today, it contains many Moody family heirlooms. The present day ballroom is decorated exactly as it was for Mary Moody’s social debut on December 12, 1911.
Moody Mansions exist in other areas, but the one in Galveston is the most fascinating to me. 

The day I was in Galveston with my sister and aunt, we didn’t have time to tour the building, but we took pictures of the outside.

The historical society was gracious enough to allow me to use interior  photos from their website. As you can see, it is quite elegant. Because of its construction, it survived the hurricane.

It now serves as a museum.

Interior Views: Master Bedroom, Interior Staircase and the Sitting Room

Photos courtesy of http://www.moodymansion.org/photos/  

Ashton Villa is one of the most well-known and oft visited sites in Galveston. James M. Brown built the home in 1859 and it’s a true interpretation of southern hospitality. On a tour of the home, you will see antiques, family heirlooms, and
original art. Miss Bettie Brown, James’ daughter, hosted any number of social gatherings for the wealthy socialites of Galveston.

Mr. Brown lived in the house until his death on Christmas Day, 1895. His wife died in 1907 and the house went to Bettie who lived there until her death in 1920. The house was sold to the Shriners who used it as offices until 1970 when the Galveston Historical Foundation took it over. It was opened to the public in 1974. 

One home is being restored after being abandoned for a number of years. It was built by Henry Biessner, a prominent business man in 1890-1891.

The Biessner home became known as “Noah’s Ark” following the hurricane because of the number of people who sought sanctuary there and were saved because of its sturdy construction. It was built on ten food brick piers and from there rises two stories with a multi-gabled roof and a prominent front gable. The height off the ground allowed the high waters to flow beneath the house. The bottom floor you see open was that way in 1900. 

Another brick and terra cotta house, known as the Landes-McDonough House was built by Henry Landes, a Confederate veteran and capitalist. George A.
Dickey and D.A. Helmich were the architects behind the structure in 1887. Beautiful, elaborate ironwork on the verandas, parapets along the edges of the roof, a large tower, arched windows with fancy tile and molded trim as well as elaborate shutters make this home an outstanding example of the historic homes in Galveston.

Trube Castle is a home designed to replicate castles Trube remembered from his childhood in Kiel, Denmark. The original cost of this mansion was $9,700. This three story home is built of bricks covered by stucco mixed with Belgian cement to recreate a stone effect.
The house features a mansard slate roof, seven gables, and a battlement tower to give it a castle distinction. it is an eclectic example of a Victorian home. The home is a Texas Landmark. It has twenty-one rooms and covers 7,000 square feet.
The home, owned by the Trube family until 1985, was given to charity when
Mary Trube died. Still privately owned, it is available for parties, wedding celebrations and receptions as well as corporate events. It is also open for tours with reservations.

The last house on my list is the Sonnentheil House, an architectural mystery because no one claimed it as his design. It is exceptional in design because of the curved and angled advances that are projected through framed panes of openwork arches with diagonal lattices linked by perforated frieze bands. The home was built in 1886 by German native Jacob Sonnentheil who served with the Confederacy during the Civil War. It became a recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1962.

All of these homes survived the hurricane and many became refuges for those fleeing the storms. They stand today as an example of the wealth and life-style of Galveston socialites in the 19th Century. 

Do you have historic homes in your area? What style of architecture is most represented?

My latest release is now available on Amazon. 

Cassie Miller is awarded a fellowship to study at a prestigious music school, but mistakes by Marc Rossi, the man in charge, threaten to ruin her success at the school and lead to her dismissal. As they work together to find the truth, they discover love, but will it win out over the mishaps and miscues that lead to a showdown of talent?

Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and multi-published author from Realms Fiction of Charisma Media and Winged Publications. She was named Writer of
the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009. She is a member of ACFW and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. ACFW awarded her the Volunteer of the Year in 2014. Her first electronic series from Winged Publications, Love in the Bayou City of Texas, debuted in the spring of 2015.  Martha is a frequent speaker for writing workshops and the Texas Christian Writers Conference. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex. Their favorite pastime is spending time with their eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 


  1. Impressive historical homes on Galveston Island. These homes would be wonderful to tour with the various architecture, furnishings and styles. Our town has a section known as historical homes with a variety of styles. Touring historical landmarks brings to life the history our country was founded upon for homes, social gatherings with some of the owners making major contributions to American history.

    Always on My Mind sounds like an enjoying read, Martha. Thank you for sharing. Easter Blessings.

    1. Yes, these homes are impressive. So glad to know your town is preserving historical homes as well. They make a wonderful place to do research for 19th century stories. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Very interesting. Love the photos. Thank you for sharing about Galveston Island.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Melissa. These homes are just as impressive in person. I can't wait to see what they do with the one under restoration. I may do a follow-up on it when it's finished.

  3. I lived in an historic house in South Elgin Illinois from the time I was 10 til I married at 20 in 1969. It was built in 1863. It is now a museum and my brother who was born two months after we moved there is on the board! It is on the National Register. It is cobblestone and my parents remodeled the old(80 yr ) part the year we got married. I love old Victorian houses. My widowed aunt took care of a rich spinster and I got to stay in her old Victorian during the summers.

  4. I've really been missing out. I've been to Galveston twice, but I didn't know about these amazing homes. If I get the chance to return there, I'm going to search them out.

    1. The ones open for tours are so amazing. They give such a wonderful picture of how people lived then. If you're ever down this way, give me a call.

  5. That Moody Mansion stained glass window! WOW!