Monday, March 19, 2012

Galveston Island, Texas

Mon, March 19th

"Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowing...." And boy were they blowing today! But there were still quite a few people playing on the beach and in the water. Galveston is a 30 mile long barrier island, one of several that edge the Texas coast and protect the mainland from the sea. 650 miles across the Gulf lies the Yucatan peninsular area of Mexico. This statue was put up in memory of the Great Storm of 1900. It was the deadliest natural disaster in our nation's history killing at least 6,000 people. With a population of 40,000, Galveston was a major center of commerce, the most important seaport in Texas at the time. The hurricane completely covered the island with water from the Gulf of Mexico on the south to the bay on the north. There is a great book, and documentary about it on the history channel, called Isaac's Storm. They have since built a 17 foot concrete seawall and hauled material in to raise the island by 13 feet. In over 111 years there has been only minimal damage and loss of life in the many subsequent storms.

This Tall Ship Museum "Elissa" is in the harbor on the north side of the island. It is in sailing condition and sails on special occasions. She sailed under the British flag in the 1880s, loading Texas cotton for the mills in England.

Also in this harbor is this Off Shore Drilling Rig Museum and Education Center.

We decided to take a walking tour of some of the historic neighborhoods. Most of the homes were destoyed in the 1900 hurricane, but surprisingly some of them have been here since before that storm. This one is now being used for the city Visitor's Center and below is the garden.

This one just down the street on the next block is the Chamber of Commerce.

I would love to live in one of these homes, but only if I could afford a maid and a maintainance man.

These are just a small sample of the pictures I took and houses we saw. Great fortunes were made on cotton plantations, ranching, banking, shipping, resort hotels, etc.

On June 19, 1865 at the close of the Civil War, an order was issued in Galveston that the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was now in effect. It became known as Juneteenth, marking the end of slavery in Texas. It has been celebrated as a day of freedom since then and grew into an international commemoration. In 1979 it became an official Texas holiday.

Many of the homes had widow walks on top, so the women could watch for their men coming home from the sea (or not), thus the name. This one had a two story widow walk.

In 2008 Hurricane Ike covered most of the island in a tidal surge. This house that was at least 6 or 7 blocks from the beach, shows how high the water was with a white mark at the top of the foundation on the right corner. We saw another house at least 10 blocks from the beach that had marked the water level at the tenth step up to their porch.

A sign in front of this home said the block had 5 feet of salt water and they had 2 and a half feet inside their home. They were out of their home a year for repairs. A lady on their block wanted to save all the big old trees that were destroyed, so she instigated a movement to get artists to make sculptures from them. These herons are carved from an 80+ year old Live Oak. It took the artist one day to complete with three different size chain saws and a chisel.

Each home owner chose the subject for their own sculpture and paid the artist. She chose this Geisha for her tree because she loved the Orient and had made many trips to Japan.

These angels represent the home owner's two granddaughters and were carved from the top of the tree that the Geisha was carved from. It is one of the only sculptures that is not still rooted in the ground.

This one is a large pelican holding a fish.

I think this one is the birds of Galveston.

This one is a pod of dolphins and a mermaid, symbolizing the mother and her children in this home.

This one just looks like a dog sitting in the yard, but it is also carved out of a tree stump.

A pelican and two alligators with leftover Mardi Gras beads hanging on it.

This is an angel cradling a bunny watching over a yard that is a bird, butterfly and bunny sanctuary. The home owner rescued abandoned rabbits after the hurricane and continues to do so.

The sculptures represent a small percentage of the trees that Hurricane Ike destroyed. After the storm the citizens worked to ensure that 100% of the "Iked" wood was kept out of landfills and used for recycling projects. Over a 100 tons of trees were selected for restoration of America's only remaining whaling ship, another 200 tons went to Malaga, Spain to be used in the completion of a full scale replica of the Brig "Galveztown", a local lumber yard took several tons of wood to mill and dry for building projects and several art galleries are featuring and selling a variety of wooden art pieces. That seems like a very organized recycling effort.

More about the Houston area tomorrow.


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