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History blended with a candlelight tour--that's what our tickets provided on a Saturday evening of the Dickens on the Strand weekend.
The 1838 Michael B Menard house is a Greek Revival style Southern town home and is the oldest building in Galveston. It faces east on 33rd street. The double veranda and stately columns are the first thing you notice about the house as it peeks from behind tall trees.
As we parked and approached the house, the wreaths and garlands stretched along the veranda made a nice impression as we trod to the front door. Two wings were added in 1845 and a Grecian style pavilion replaced a former privey. This home received the prestigious Great American Homes award in 1996 sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
FYI: Michael Menard hailing from Quebec, established the Galveston City Company, which was instrumental in laying out the town itself. This home is located where other important investors in this company lived.
**For more information see: Galveston Architecture Handbook by Ellen Beasley and Stephen Fox published by Rice University Press and Galveston Historical Foundation.
Updated Dec 27, 2006
Address: 1605 33rd St., Galveston, Tx
As we selected one of the very elaborately set tables and settled into our seats, the 'Royals' were announced. As we craned our necks, the music began and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived amidst all the pomp due them!
The character of Queen Victoria has been portrayed by Anne Boyd for thirteen years. In past years she was dressed in mourning clothes, to signify her widowhood. This year, since the theme was The Great Exhibition of 1851, created by her husband, she appeared elegantly attired and arm in arm with the Prince, who was portayed by Ken Lane, of British Columbia.
Once they were seated, the feast began! Please see both photos.
Updated Dec 19, 2006
Address: 2704 Avenue O, Galveston,Tx
A couple seated at our table for the Dickens Feast mentioned that the Samuel Mays Williams house was giving a candlelight tour that Saturday evening. We had already purchased tickets to tour the Menard house that night, so didn't know whether we could fit two tours into our schedule, but surprisingly we did!
The Mays-Williams house is considered a raised planters style design and is the second oldest home in Galveston, built in 1839. It faces east on its lot like most of the other homes in that area. A low-hipped roof sits atop a long gallery running along the east and south sides. The front door is framed by a Grecian architrave and the floor to ceiling windows are a double leaf casement type, unusual for Galveston. There are some out buildings in the rear and a brick kitchen house and small shed.
FYI: Mr. Williams was prominent in the Mexican and Republic periods of Texas history and an associate of Stephen Austin. After the War of Independence he became one of the most important commission merchants in Galveston and was involved in banking.
**For more information see: Galveston Architecture Handbook by Ellen Beasley and Stephen Fox published by Rice University Press and Galveston Historical Foundation
Updated Dec 27, 2006
Address: 3601 Avenue P, Galveston, Tx
Our last event at Dickens on the Strand was a bountiful breakfast at Ashton Villa on Sunday morning. The line outside this striking mansion began forming early--I think those of us waiting at the gate had worked up our appetites sightseeing the day before! Not only was the meal wonderful, but the period music wove a thread of realism to our Victorian event.
The detailed cast iron fence with cornstalk gateposts met us at the entrance. Note the two story cast iron porch! These cast iron pieces were created by Wood & Perot of Philadelphia, but the architect of the home is not known.
Ashton Villa is considered the first of the "Broadway Palaces" and was built in 1859 by J.M.Brown. Interestingly, Mr. Brown was a plasterer and brick mason when he arrived in Galveston; later a wholesale hardware merchant, railroad corporation president and banker. Paintings by eldest daughter, Rebecca Ashton Brown, remain at the house. (Please take time to see the additional photos).
The Villa is open daily from 10 am-5pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day with the last tour at 4pm. Winter hours are similar, but tours start at noon during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. This building also contains the Visitors Center.
For more information see: Galveston Architecture Guidebook by Ellen Beasley and Stephen Fox, Rice University Press and Galveston Historical Foundation
Updated Dec 27, 2006
Address: 2328 Broadway St., Galveston, Tx
There was an open house at the Bishop's Palace on Sunday, so we entered this three-story palace admission-free.
It is constructed "of Texas limestone in ashlar patterns and decorated with bands of gray and pink granite and red sandstone."
Walter Gresham, lawyer, lobbyist, railroader and politician constructed the home in 1892. At the time, there was a flurry of competitive building along Broadway. Mr. Gresham's home was "over the top" even for this time and age, costing $125,000 to erect. It was already being referred to as a "birdcage palace" in 1895 by a Harper's Weekly journalist.
As we moved through the mansion, we noted the carved mahogany columns and marble and brass fireplaces. A grand staircase swept to the upper stories with beautiful stained glass accents and rich paneling. There were pastoral and cherubic paintings on ceilings and walls. Crystal chandeliers and parquet floors graced many of the rooms. Everything seemed to be the best and most expensive materials! (Please take time to see the additional photos)
In 1923 the Catholic Diocese of Galveston purchased this property, which became the official residence of the Bishop. A beautiful chapel is on the second floor, complete with altar and vestments. Canopied beds and lavish window treatments all paint a picture of genteel luxury. If you can only see one house--see this one!
*For more information see Galveston Architecture Guidebook by Ellen Beasley and Stephen Fox by Rice University Press and Galveston Historical Foundation.
Updated Dec 27, 2006
Address: 1402 Broadway St., Galveston, Tx
During our weekend at Galveston, we were able to tour several historic homes. Since we enjoy anything Victorian, this was the perfect place for us!
This rambling mansion was built in 1892 by Narcissa Worsham Willis after the death of her husband. Mrs. Willis had always wanted to live in this prestigious area, so determined to do so with the help of architect, William H. Tyndall, creating a mansion with 31 rooms.
After Mrs. Willis' death in 1899, the house was sold to W.L.Moody, Jr. and his wife, Libby Shearn after the Galveston Storm of 1900 for $20,000. He was the only bidder! Mr. Moody had joined his father in business at the age of 21 and showing a gift for finance exceeded his father's income.
W.L. Moody lived in this house until his death in 1954, at which time his daughter Mary Northen Moody moved back into her former home for the next 40 years. Mary is known for her philanthropy in the Galveston area, sitting on the board of some 50 corporations.
Hurricane Alicia began a restoration that lasted five years after Mary's death. Noted preservationists and consultants were involved in the refurbishing.
*For more information see Galveston Architecture Guidebook by Ellen Beasley and Stephen Fox, Rice University Press and Galveston Historical Foundation
Updated Dec 27, 2006
Address: 2618 Broadway St.,Galveston, Tx.
The Dickens Feast was delicious; the surroundings were beautifully ornate, but the main reason we purchased tickets for this evening of entertainment and dining, was to peer at the great,great grandson of Charles Dickens and have him autograph a copy of The Christmas Carol I brought for the occasion.
The presence of Mark Charles Dickens at the Strand festival has become a tradition. This year he was accompanied by his son, Geoff. As the presentation began, a reading from The Christmas Carol was alternated with each dinner course. I could easily imagine familiar scenes from the book as he wove the tale dramatically with a great deal of animation!
Updated Dec 16, 2006
Address: 2704 Avenue O, Galveston, Tx
Bagpipers, carollers, musicians, acrobats, magicians and animal acts provided the entertainment at street corners and on stages throughout the Strand. We purchased several CD's by musicians we fancied, discovering several we'd love to hear in person again!
Area school children decked out in velvet and lace sang lively Christmas carols. Characters from The Christmas Carol walked the streets, as well as Beefeaters and strapping military men from the 19th century. Please enjoy all four pictures!
Updated Dec 15, 2006
Address: Strand Street, Galveston, Tx
Ashton Villa (1859) & Heritage Visitors Center
Lovely antiques, family heirlooms and original art fill the stately mansion built before the Civil War by James Moreau Brown, one of Texasý wealthiest businessmen, and presided over by his colorful daughter, Miss Bettie Brown. From the Gilded Age splendor of the Golf Room to the elegant family quarters upstairs, Ashton Villa provides an intimate glimpse into the life of a prominent Victorian family. Also home to the Heritage Visitors Center. The center offers complete visitor services, including brochures, maps, and information about local restaurants and hotels.
Adults & Seniors: $6; Students $5; Kids 6 & Under: Free; Family (2 parents & up to 3 kids under 18): $18
Written Jan 18, 2004
Address: 2328 Broadway
1838 Michel B. Menard Home
Experience the charm of the Old South during guided tours of the home once owned by the founders of both Galveston and Houston. Restored to its former beauty and furnished with an outstanding collection of Federal and American Empire antiques, this Greek Revival landmark again reflects the glory of its storied past.
Adults: $6; Kids Under 11: $3
Written Jan 18, 2004
Address: 1605 33rd St.
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