A Night in the East End National Historical District

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Last Friday in Galveston my sweet sister-in-law  Shannon  (you remember her from HERE) was invited for hor d'oeuvres in the East End by her friends and neighbors Shirley and Kirby.  They live up the road from Shannon in Chappell Hill, Texas in a to-die-for log cabin.  Now, make no mistake - this isn't  the kind of log cabin that once dotted the fruited plains of America - no, this log cabin is quite special, situated on several acres of rolling land overlooking a small lake.  Wanting a second home, several years ago Shirley and Kirby bought a run down, derelict, turn of the century, historic house in Galveston's East End.   After totally refurbishing it, taking it down to the studs and putting it back together as it once was, they now spend about a third of their time at the beach and the rest of their time in Chappell Hill.   If this all sounds vaguely familiar to you, you probably are a follower of Mary Emmerling's or an avid reader of Country Home magazine.    Some years ago, Mary, a friend of Shirley's,  sent  the Country Home crew to Chappell Hill and published a story on the beautiful log cabin.  After the beach house was completed, the magazine went to Galveston and wrote a story about that too.  And when Mary's latest book, Beach Cottages, came out, Shirley's East End house was included in it.

So, although I am quite  familiar with  the  Chappell Hill log house, and have been a visitor there, I have never been inside the Galveston home.  Of course,  knowing Shannon was going there for  drinks and a light dinner, I was determined to finagle a way to get invited too.    Shirley and Kirby graciously did extend the invitation to me, although they did so without realizing they were inviting a fervent member of the press corp!!!    Shirley has a wonderful sense of style - casual and comfortable, all slipcovers and linen, seagrass and antiques, and peeling, painted surfaces -- everything that I absolutely LOVE!     Knowing I was invited,  all I could think of was YOU, the reader, and how I could take pictures of the house without being a compete boor!    Thankfully, Shannon pre-warned Shirley that I would be snapping away for my blog and so on Friday - off we all went, me with my freshly blown-out frizzy beach hair wearing, what else, but white linen and dragging along my fully charged Canon camera. 

When we arrived at the East End home, all the window's outdoor shutters were closed tight to keep out the blazing summer sun, and the house was bathed in a low, dim, candle-lit light.  Perfect for the cocktail hour, but not exactly the kind of light I needed for good pictures!   It's hard to act nonchalant and snap away while you are   switching on ceiling lights and lamps.   But as embarrassing as it sounds, that's exactly what I did.  As the evening worn on and the sun was on the verge of setting, I grew more desperate for light and gave up any pretense or sense of decency as I turned up dimmers right in front of poor Shirley.   Shirley is a typical Southern Belle, born and raised in the deep south, her drawl and softly spoken words give her heritage away.   She's too much of a lady to let on her true thoughts, but  I'm sure she regretted ever inviting me and I'm surprised I didn't get kicked out on my ample fat behind, clinging to my  camera! 

All in all it was a wonderful evening with great wine and delicious food (not that I can actually remember any of it as I was far too preoccupied worrying about my next shot).    Shirley and Kirby are gracious hosts and enjoy giving tours of their house  and I eagerly ate it all up.    After all the anticipation, the house did not disappoint, in fact, it was more wonderful in person than I had presumed.  Shirley updated the house and designed its interiors totally on her own, and it's hard to imagine that any professional would have done a better  job.  For more (and far superior!!!!) professional photographs and great descriptions of the rooms, be sure to pick up Mary Emmerling's Beach Cottage.   For now, enjoy my ill-gotten pictures, slightly out of focus and with all the poor lighting:

 

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The East End National Historical District home, two stories, raised above ground level.  The double porches wrap around one side of the home.

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To the right of the front door, you can plainly see the bottom level.  As Shirley and Kirby are both tall, the ground floor is used only for storage - there isn't enough clearance inside for their height. 

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The front porch with it's old peeling wicker, is a perfect place for morning coffee and the newspaper.  This corner of the street was once a social gathering spot, according to the book, Galveston Architecture Guidebook.   Here, you can get a good view of the working shutters which in the summer, most homes keep tightly shut  against the oppressive heat.  All the original shutters were missing when the house was purchased, so Shirley and Kirby have spent considerable time and effort replacing them pair by pair with antiques.  Only a few windows are still missing their replacements.

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This plaque is from the Galveston Historical Foundation marking the house's stint on the annual Galveston Historic Homes Tour.  Because this house was built shortly after the Great Storm, it does not have the "Survivor" plaque that so many other homes in the neighborhood do.

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Upon entering the front door,  you are greeted by a large, wide center hall that runs the length of the house.   A seagrass runner covers the hall's floor.  You can just barely see the stairwell to the right in the middle of the hall.  On the left, is the small reception area, while the front parlor is on the immediate right.  Transoms are over each doorway.

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When you enter the front door, immediately to your left is the open area reception room.  A small love seat is upholstered in linen, as is most of the furniture in the house.  A large wicker trunk doubles as a coffee table.  The light is low and diffused caused by the closed shutters.

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To the right of the love seat, is a painted, peeling, antique cabinet with an antique mirror above it.  Seagrass covers the floor.

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The Front Parlor, directly on the right when entering the front door.  A small loveseat is slipcovered in linen, as is a larger tuxedo styled sofa.  Skirted tables in linen  flank each side of the sofa.  The only pattern in the room comes from the pillows and the throws.  The walls are painted a rich color (Flax by Sherwin Williams) which adds to the small room's cozy feeling.  The lamps here and throughout most of the home have bases made of mercury glass.   The small, charming, beachy coffee table is a tray filled with sand and shells, topped with a piece of glass.   Fresh peach colored roses  and prints of shells complete the vignette around the skirted table.

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Next to the slipcovered sofa, a slipper chair, slipcovered in linen,  with a small footstool tufted with rosettes.  Houstonian Hien Lam did all the upholstering in the house and Washington County's Michelle Fritts made all the wonderful slipcovers.   A paisley shawl rests on the back of the slipper chair.

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Behind the slipper chair, there is a large print of a dog and a bamboo shelf which holds antique books and knick knacks.

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Across from the sofa, a large, painted bookshelf holds transferware, coral, and books.  Originally a bright yellow, Shirley painted the piece to fit in with the house's decor.  Two diminutive slipper chairs, slipcovered in linen, flank the bookshelf.

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The small slipper chair and a painted demilune table behind it finish the room's decor.  The wheat colored shades here and throughout the house were purchased at Pier One.

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A close up of the slipcovered love seat shows off Shirley's sense of style.  Rather than toss the shawl across the back, she chose to place it under the cushion - a look I plan to emulate (a fancy word for copy, an even fancier word for steal!)

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Further down the center hall, across from the stair hall, is the large dining room.  A round wood table easily seats six chairs, each wearing linen slips.  The chandelier, just out of view, is still festively decorated with Mardi Gras beads and Christmas balls. With its many windows, you can see how the closed  shutters cast a romantic, Southern atmosphere over the dining room.  The shutters let in just enough light so that the room is not gloomy in the least bit.   The walls are painted a soft gray-blue-green, Silver Sage, from  Restoration Hardware.

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The buffet table is skirted in linen, with an antique mirror above.  The lamps have  mercury glass bases.

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In one corner of the room is an original storage closet.  All the doors are original to the home, stripped of their stain to match the mood of the decor. 

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A pine armoire holds an assortment of decorative dishes, some of which were called into duty for dinner.

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At the end of the hall on the right, is the totally new kitchen.  All the appliances are stainless, and the walls are bead board up to the ceiling.

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Functional antiques are everywhere in the kitchen - here a store's scale hangs in the corner.

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The breakfast table is two small demilunes pushed together.  The wicker chairs are upholstered in linen and tufted with rosettes.  Behind the chair is the walk-in pantry with a linen curtain for its door.  The back door leads downstairs to the outside courtyard.

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At the end of the hall is the powder room, its floors were painted by Shirley in a diamond pattern.  The walls are original bead board. 

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At the stair hall, a bamboo shelf holds books and accessories.

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Upstairs, the entire floor is wall to wall seagrass!  My favorite!  The master bedroom continues the same color scheme as downstairs with lots of pine furniture and linen fabrics.    Curtains made of burlap cover the windows.

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The upholstered headboard in burlap.  Notice the trim on the lampshade matches the trim on the shams.

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A linen slipcovered vanity table with a wicker chair.  The lamp has a mercury glass base. 

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A close up of the master bedroom's pine armoire with its French laundry basket on top.

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The red painted guest room with twin iron beds, dressed in linen.   The nightstand is an antique chest.

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The second guest room has a pair of newly installed closets, lined in linen. 

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A close up of the vanity table with its linen slip and antique mirror, along with its modern day mirror!

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The bathroom upstairs has an antique tub with a wrap around shower curtain.  The walls are beadboard that is original to the house.

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An upstairs TV room with its painted hardwood floor. 

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I've only read about these, never actually seen one, but the TV room boasts a window that doubles as a door to the front porch!   The window is original to the house and Shirley and Kirby lower their heads each time to pass through the window to the outside.

 

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Looking down on the front yard with its blooming hot pink crepe myrtles and birds of paradise plants.  My handsome nephew, Wills Webb, waves to us.  He is wearing his camouflage outfit, newly bought at Galveston's famous Col. Bubbie's    While Wills thought he looked ready for war in his new outfit, we actually thought he looked ready do some maintenance work.    Ssshhh - don't tell him!

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My so, so, sweet, adorable mother in law on the left and Shirley, the pretty and talented homeowner on the right - hanging out on the second floor porch.

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The terrier Lilly, knows how to maneuver through the window/door quite easily. 

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This house is right across the street and is visible from the upstairs porch.  It's a Texas Historical Landmark, as seen by it's plaque outside the house and next to the front door.  It's also a survivor of the Great Storm, built in 1887.   The shape of the house plays up the corner lot, with the large, third story angled window.  The original house on this lot burned down in the fire of 1885.

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The back courtyard is made of bricks taken from the house's charcoal fireplace chimneys which were dismantled.  Gravel paths outline the brick patio.   The house to the right was built by the owner of Shirley and Kirby's house in 1906, according to the Galveston Architecture Guidebook.   Interestingly, the owners of this house are the children of Shirley's life long friend, something they didn't realize when they bought the house.  Since they are now all good friends, Shirley and Kirby have elected not to build a fence between the properties.

I hope you've enjoyed a tour inside a Victorian house in the  East End!!!  Be sure to read more about it in Mary Emmerling's new book Beach Cottages here.

Galveston Oh Galveston......

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galveston2 002 Hurricanes have wiped out two major United States cities, the first, of course was New Orleans, the second?  Galveston, Texas.  Galveston, a major United States city?  At the time The Great Storm of 1900 leveled Galveston taking 6,000 to 8,000 souls in its wake, Galveston was  a major city with a large population and a booming port.  Houston, its sister city 50 miles west was, by comparison, a small town.  The Great Storm was so catastrophic to the Island City that it remains to this day the largest single natural disaster the United States has ever endured.  Many books have been written about that fateful night and the Herculean effort it took just to dispose of the victims and bring  Galveston back to life.    A large seawall was erected to guard against future storm surges and the city, originally at sea level, was raised.  Any homes that survived the storm were jacked up and any subsequently built houses were elevated above the ground.   (Read an excellent article about the storm and efforts to raise the city here.)

 

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This picture taken the day after the storm shows the massive destruction of Galveston, mostly on its west side.

Galveston never truly recovered from the Great Storm.  It's status as a booming city and major port ended with the Great Storm and when Houston built their own Ship Channel in 1914.   Galveston, essentially, a large sandbar, has experienced a slow, steady decline the past hundred years, but lately, things are turning around for the island city.  It's close proximity to Houston makes it a haven for those seeking second homes on the Gulf of Mexico and tourism increases each year in response to the major attractions being built on the island.   Scores of new condominiums, hotels, and beach homes are being built to meet the demand.  Things are definitely "hopping"  on the island today, but there's another, quieter side to Galveston that is less well known to the beach loving tourists.  The older, Southern, genteel way of life in Galveston's historical neighborhoods is a magnet for those who love architecture and the arts .

Thanks to the vibrant and well organized Galveston Historical Foundation, the old neighborhoods of Galveston are being revitalized at a quick pace.  Houses that survived the Great Storm and those built soon afterwards, make up two main beautiful  areas of town:  the East End National Historical Landmark District and the Silk Stocking District (along with the Lost Bayou District).  For decades, these Victorian houses languished uninhabited and neglected, decaying and deteriorating.   During the past twenty years, that has all changed.   The current revitalization push started with the neighboring Strand (another National Historical District.)   The Strand is a Victorian business district adjacent to the old port which after being rehabbed is now a vital shopping and eating destination in Galveston, even hosting it's own Mardi Gras each year.  After the success of the Strand, Galvestonians and Houstonians with an appreciation for architecture set their sights on the old Victorian painted ladies that fill the two historical districts.  Today, though many unrestored houses remain, the refurbished homes  are finally starting to outnumber those that are not.   Thanks to the dedication and strength of the Galveston Historical Foundation and the East End Historical District Association these wonderful neighborhoods have finally been preserved.   Along with the houses, a way of life has been brought back:  the corner restaurants and bakeries are thriving again, and life goes on as it did before the Great Storm.

 

The East End of Galveston is now a National Historic Landmark.

 

The  architecture of Galveston has been written about by many, including esteemed architects themselves.  The Historical Districts are held up as models to cities such as Houston whose old neighborhoods have disappeared in the name of progress.   The long avenues of the districts with their deep, narrow lots cause a housing density, which along with its front porches encourages a neighborliness that is missing from  the suburbs of today.  Walking up and down the historical streets, a decidedly Southern, old world atmosphere prevails.  With its lush landscaping  and 100 + year old live oaks and palm trees, the Victorian painted ladies can barely been seen through the greenery.  Mostly two storied, the houses have working shutters that in the summer are mostly kept closed to guard against the sun and it's oppressive heat.  For anyone who loves architecture, there can be no greater thrill than gazing at all the varied styles of houses, expertly rehabilitated, primed and painted, ready to face the next 100 years on the island.  Today, take a look at  a few houses I passed along the way during my stay here on Galveston:

 

 

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This Romanesque styled house majestically sits on a corner of the East End National Historical District.  A listed "survivor," meaning this house was built before the Great Storm, it is protected by the Galveston Historical Foundation. 

 

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This Queen Anne has been beautifully rebuilt.  Out front are two large flowering oleanders.   Galveston is famous for its oleanders which line it's major boulevard, Broadway. Each year, the city celebrates this plant with its Oleander  Festival.

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This stucco home has a truly magnificent front gate, complete with lanterns that greet callers at curbside.

 

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The Rosenberg House is an Italianate home, a style that was popular on the Island in the late 1880's.  Again, a beautiful  front gate and iron fence surround this perfectly manicured home.  

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This is the Lovenberg Home, built in 1877 in the Gothic Revival style.  Notice how this home and most of the others are raised above street level.  Since this house is a survivor of the Great Storm, it was raised after the hurricane, as all surviving houses were.  Those built after the hurricane were designed to be raised.  The bottom floor of these raised homes is usually too short to be inhabitable.   Notice too, how the shutters are closed - something that many in the historical districts  do during the summer's unbearable heat.

The iron plaques that houses surviving the Great Storm proudly wear.  It's interesting to think how many will be standing for the 200 year celebration.

 

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A Queen Anne styled Victorian home.   Notice the large State of Texas historical marker outside this home.  It also bears the "Survivor of the 1900 Great Storm" plaque, visible to the left of the front door, along with two Galveston Historical Foundation plaques visible to the right of the front door.  And just to be safe, a flag of the United States flies!  Hey, why no Lone Star State of Texas flag?????

 

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This wonderful home from the Victorian age is also a storm survivor.  It has been painted to highlight its impressive trim.

 

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This large home is wider than most in the Historical Districts.  The lacy "gingerbread" trim above the columns gives this house a feminine quality to it.

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While the Historical Districts have many homes that have been revitalized, some still remain left to do.  Here is an example of what these homes look like before their makeover.   The Galveston Historical Foundation maintains a warehouse full of authentic building supplies, available for use only by owners in the districts.

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This yellow painted Greek Revival home, with its charming picket fence, has a lush yard full of palm trees and birds of paradise plants. 

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This Greek Revival home is a survivor of the storm, it's plaque is plainly visible to the left of the front door.  Notice how the porch ceilings are painted blue - a southern tradition said to discourage wasp nests. 

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This blue beauty is still undergoing transformation.  Its widow's walk is being rebuilt on the roof.  Notice the delightful scalloped trim under the window tops.

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A Gothic Revival brought back to life.  The center arch is typical of Gothic Revivals.

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A rare three story Romanesque home, with its large covered front porch.

 

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These two Victorian painted ladies seem like twins! 

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Not all homes in the district are tall two stories, here a Victorian cottage Survivor hides between its towering twin crepe myrtles.

 

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A beautiful cream colored  Greek Revival - ready for the elections!  This is one of my favorites - its so simple, yet elegant!  Notice the matching lanterns on the top and bottom porches.

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A large, Queen Anne - patiently waiting it's turn.  It looks like a haunted house right now!

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The Historical District has small corner stores - some revitalized for the Yuppies, some still open for their long time clients.

 

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This corner restaurant from 1916, is a definite hot spot for district people and vacationers, alike.

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A block or two from the homes, stores and coffeehouses line the streets.

 

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Painted pink with a picket fence:  small town living at its best!

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An 1881  Queen Anne, looking for an owner.  By next summer, this house should be in its fully restored glory.

 

 

An inside look at the above house.  Stripped to the studs, work on the house has stopped until a new owner can be found.  Look at this gorgeous staircase set within an arched passageway.

 

An extra wide home in the Historical District for sale. 

The interior of the above house:  many owners of these Victorian era homes choose to decorate using Victorian furniture, my absolute least favorite style of design!!!  Here, in this beautifully scaled room, antique Victorian furniture has been used. 

The Master Bedroom:  ouch!

 

 

This Survivor, built in 1883, is called The Adolph Frenkel home and is on the market for sale.

 

 

Inside the Adolph Frenkel home, the center hall boasts the original tile floors - gorgeous!

 

 

This 1867 survivor on Postoffice Street is also for sale.

 

Again, authentic Victorian furniture fills the home.  Does anyone reading this actually like Victorian furniture?  If so, explain why in the Comments Section.   I'm open to listen and learn!

 

Another Victorian era home for sale on Galveston Island.

The large hallway with gleaming, polished hardwoods.   Notice the front door's side windows. 

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This smaller Victorian cottage is a Survivor for sale.  Long, narrow lots result in skinny homes built close together.  These homes are just a little too close for comfort!

Finally!  Someone who designed their interiors for today - not for Victorian times.   Fresh and beachy looking, perfect for a house that is only a few blocks from the Gulf of Mexico.

 

The renowned Houston architect and interior designer Ed Eubanks has a second home in the East End National Historical District.      Eubanks has an obvious love for the Island and has built and remodeled several homes in Galveston.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

No lover of Victorian furniture, Eubanks decorated his home in an eclectic style.  Look at the gorgeous and unique turtle on the wall!    It was caught in South Texas by Eubank's grandfather.

 

These photos are from Eubank's web site which were taken from a 2003 article written by Paper City's Laurann Claridge.

 

 

A view up the beautifully curving walnut staircase and into the dining room with it's bright blue curtains.

 

The living room:  Eubanks is an obvious lover of clutter!    A man after my own heart.  I love the scale of the antique mirror! 

          

The dining room with its gorgeous crystal chandelier which Eubanks de-electrified himself.  Notice the unusual marble fireplace mantel.

 

 The Eubank's kitchen with a large eat in area.  The round marble topped table was a gift and the cabinets came from a John Staub designed home that Eubanks is restoring.

The 1898 Josphine Drouet house in the process of being relocated is driven down Seawall Boulevard!  The sign say "Preservation at Work!"

 

If you plan to visit Galveston, you have a choice of hotel rooms,  high rise condominiums, beach houses, or houses in the Historical Districts to rent during your stay.  There is also a fair number of bed and breakfasts on the Island.   When visiting the island, there is plenty to do besides sitting on the beach with its cooling breezes.     Be sure to take time to visit the architectural sites such as Ashton Villa, The Bishop's Palace, and see the Strand, the revitalized  Portside shopping district.   Or, if you are like me, just take a stroll up and down the narrow streets of the Historical Districts and soak up the small town atmosphere so beautifully preserved on  Galveston Island.