Galveston, Texas

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Galveston redirects here. For the Galveston in Indiana, see Galveston, Indiana.
Downtown Galveston
Downtown Galveston

Galveston is an island city located in Galveston County, Texas, USA within the Greater Houston region of Southeast Texas. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the city had a total population of 57,247. The city is the county seat of Galveston County and is situated on the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Galveston is accessible by a causeway linking the island to the mainland on the north end of the city, a toll bridge on the western end of the island, and by ferry boat service on the east end of the city.

Galveston is known for its historic neighborhoods and a seven-mile seawall designed to protect the city from floods. It is also home to the legendary Balinese Room, a historic nightclub and former illegal gambling hall located on a 600-foot pier extending into the Gulf of Mexico.

The city houses many tourist attractions, including, Schlitterbahn waterpark, Moody Gardens, the Lone Star Flight Museum, a downtown neighborhood of historic buildings known as "The Strand", many historical museums and mansions and miles of beachfront. The Strand plays host to a yearly Mardi Gras festival, Galveston Island Jazz & Blues Festival, Lone Star Bike Rally, and a Victorian-themed Christmas festival called "Dickens on the Strand" (honoring the works of novelist Charles Dickens, especially A Christmas Carol) in early December.



Galveston island was originally inhabited by members of the Karankawa and Akokisa tribes. The Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca was shipwrecked on the island in 1528 and there began his famous trek to Mexico.

Street scene, The Strand.
Street scene, The Strand.

The island was named in honor of Bernardo de Gálvez in 1785 by Spanish explorer Jose de Evia, who charted the Gulf Coast. The first permanent settlements on the island were constructed around 1816 by the pirate Louis-Michel Aury as a base of operations to support Mexico's rebellion against Spain. In 1817 Aury returned from an unsuccessful raid against Spain to find Galveston occupied by the pirate Jean Lafitte, who took up residence there after having been driven from his stronghold in Barataria Bay off the coast of New Orleans, Louisiana. Lafitte organized Galveston into a pirate "kingdom" he called "Campeachy" (or "Campeche"), annointing himself the island's "head of government." Lafitte remained in Galveston until 1821 when he and his raiders were given an ultimatum by the United States Navy: leave or be destroyed. Lafitte burned his settlement to the ground and sailed under cover of night for parts unknown.

Following its successful revolution from Spain, Mexico designated Galveston a port of entry in 1825, erecting a customs house in 1830. During the Texas Revolution, Galveston served as the main port for the Texas navy.

In 1836, Michel B. Menard, a native of Canada, along with several associates purchased 4,605 acres (19 km²) of land for $50,000 from the Austin Colony to found the town that would become the modern city of Galveston. Menard and his associates began selling plots on April 20, 1838. In 1839, the City of Galveston adopted a charter and was incorporated by the Congress of the Republic of Texas.

Juneteenth, which is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, owes its origins to the island city.

Galveston's rise and the Hurricane of 1900

Main article: Galveston Hurricane of 1900
A marker along The Strand indicating a building that survived the 1900 hurricane. Many of the most impressive mansions and buildings in Galveston's downtown area survived.
A marker along The Strand indicating a building that survived the 1900 hurricane. Many of the most impressive mansions and buildings in Galveston's downtown area survived.

At the end of the 19th century, the city of Galveston was a booming metropolis with a population of 38,000 (more than Houston, Texas in 1900). Its position on the natural harbor of Galveston Bay along the Gulf of Mexico made it the center of trade in Texas, and the largest cotton port in the nation. At that time, the Strand area of Galveston was known as "the Wall Street of the South." Between 1838 and 1842, 18 newspapers were started to serve the island's rapidly growing population (the Galveston News is the sole survivor). A causeway linking the island with the mainland was finished in 1860, which paved the way for railroad expansion.

During this era, Galveston was also home to a number of state firsts, including: the first post office (1836), the first naval base (1836), the first Texas chapter of a Masonic order (1840); the first cotton compress (1842), the first insurance company (1854), the first gas lights (1856), the first opera house (1870), the first orphanage (1876), the first telephone (1878), the first electric lights (1883), the first medical college (now the University of Texas Medical Branch) (1891), and the first school for nurses (1890).

In 1900, the island was struck by a devasting hurricane, an event that still holds the record as the United States' deadliest natural disaster. Had it not been for the Hurricane of 1900 and the dredging of the Houston Ship Channel, Galveston would arguably be a more prominent city than it is today.

On the evening of September 7, 1900, high winds arose, heralding the arrival of a hurricane that struck the island in the early morning of September 8 and lasted until the next day. Wind speeds reached up to 135 mph (an estimate, since the anemometer was blown off the U.S. Weather Bureau building). The island's infrastructure was devastated, and an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people were killed.

After the storm cleared, the city decided to shore up its defenses against future inclement weather — the entire grade of the city was raised and a permanent concrete "sea wall" built along a large portion of the beachfront. Just after the hurricane, the city originated the City Commission form of city government (which became known as the "Galveston Plan"), although the city has since adopted the Council-Manager form of government.

Despite attempts to draw new investment to the city after the hurricane, Galveston never fully returned to its former importance or prosperity. Development was also hindered by the construction of the Houston Ship Channel, which brought the Port of Houston into direct competition with the natural harbor of Galveston Bay for sea traffic. Galveston actively solicited immigration, and became the focus of a 1907 immigration plan called the Galveston Movement that in the following years diverted roughly 10,000 Eastern European Jewish immigrants from the crowded cities of the Northeastern United States.

Galveston today

Darragh Park
Darragh Park

The storm stalled economic development, and the city of Houston grew into the region's principal metropolis. Still, Galveston remains a port of entry and a destination for cruise ships and in-state tourists, and a port of call and repairs for cargo ships.

Galveston's historic downtown and abundant beaches are major tourist destinations. Wealthy Houstonians and visitors from around the world purchase beach homes and condominiums and make Galveston their second home.

Other attractions in Galveston include Moody Gardens, the Galveston Island Railroad Museum[1], the Strand and the Lone Star Flight Museum. Galveston is also home to several historic ships: the tall ship Elissa at the Texas Seaport Museum[2] and USS Cavalla and USS Stewart, both berthed at Seawolf Park on nearby Pelican Island. Galveston is also home to a symphony orchestra[3] and a small ballet company.

The Galveston County Daily News[4], the city's main newspaper, is the oldest continuously printed newspaper in Texas since 1842.

Galveston has been the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), a major teaching and indigent-care hospital which now encompasses 84 acres (340,000 m²), since 1891. UTMB is the largest employer in Galveston County6, creating over 15,000 jobs and bringing about $300 million into the local economy. The Shriners Hospital [5] adjacent to UTMB is a 30-bed pediatric burn hospital providing comprehensive acute care and reconstructive and rehabilitative care to children who have been burned. American National Insurance Company, one of the larger life insurance companies in the United States, and Moody National Bank are headquartered in Galveston.

The Jimmy Buffett song, "Who's the Blonde Stranger?" and Glen Campbell's "Galveston" are set in Galveston.


Location of Galveston, Texas

Galveston is located at 29°16'52" North, 94°49'33" West (29.281137, -94.825945)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 539.6 km² (208.4 mi²). 119.5 km² (46.2 mi²) of it is land and 420.1 km² (162.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 77.85% water.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 57,247 people, 23,842 households, and 13,732 families residing in the city. The population density is 478.9/km² (1,240.4/mi²). There are 30,017 housing units at an average density of 251.1/km² (650.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 58.66% White, 25.49% Black or African American, 0.42% Native American, 3.21% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 9.73% from other races, and 2.41% from two or more races. 25.77% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 23,842 households out of which 26.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.6% are married couples living together, 16.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 42.4% are non-families. 35.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.30 and the average family size is 3.03.

In the city the population is spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 11.3% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 93.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 90.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,895, and the median income for a family is $35,049. Males have a median income of $30,150 versus $26,030 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,275. 22.3% of the population and 17.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 32.1% of those under the age of 18 and 14.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.



The city of Galveston is served by Galveston Independent School District. There is one public high school in Galveston, Ball High School, named after George Ball. The city is also home to three post-secondary institutions: Galveston College (a junior college opened in 1967), Texas A&M University at Galveston, and University of Texas Medical Branch.

See also

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