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Day 148 - Galveston Mansion & Oil Rig (Photo's Added)

We visited Galveston and toured a haunted mansion, an old drilling platform which is now a museum, and the seawall

overcast 42 °F

We are still staying at my cousin, Robert's house in Lake Jackson, Texas. Today he and his wife Kathy drove us out to Galveston. We were interested in learning more about the terrible hurricane from Sept. 8, 1900 - which is still regarded as the worst natural disaster to strike the US in terms of lives lost. Mom's uncle's family (Rawlings Weinmann) was living in Galveston at the time - they evacuated and never went back.

We did learn a little more about the storm, but also a lot of other interesting things.

Robert remembered an old house that used to have a lot of pictures from the storm in the basement hall. He was able to find it and it was still open for tours. It no longer had a display of the hurricane damage, but we decided to take the tour anyway. No photography is allowed inside, so I was just able to take a few shots outside. This is the Ashton Villa (Note: the web link has a photo of one of the interior rooms):


It was built in 1859 by James Brown, who made a fortune opening hardware stores in the south. It was the first brick house on Broadway St. in Galveston, which later became known as "Castle Row". Our tour guide was Steve, who welcomed us at the main entrance on "At Home" day (when the family stays home to receive visitors - but you must drop off a calling card the day before to let them know when you'll be visiting - all very formalized process for an upper class Victorian family in Glaveston in the late 1800's).

Steve is quite interesting in his own right. He really made the tour come alive by introducing us to the family as well as the house. Mr. Brown had two daughters and three sons. One of the daughters, Miss Betty, was quite a character and is said to still haunt the house. Steve talks to her on occasion while running his tour, he wouldn't want to drop in on a lady unannounced.


We really enjoyed the tour, as much for Steve as for the house. In fact, I decided to buy the book about Miss Betty's life just because it sounded so interesting. However, without any more pictures - I'll move on to the next stop.

We went to Galveston County Historical Museum because the Ashton Villa folks told Robert that the pictures from the 1900 hurricane could be seen there. The museum did not allow any photography - but they had a totally new slant - to prevent plagerism! They were afraid someone might photograph their signs and copy the text, especially school student's doing reports. Seems like an odd sort of position for a non-profit, but it's their museum - so I can only show you what the outside looks like.


They did have a display on the hurricane, but not a large one. On September 8, 1900 a category 4 hurricane hit Galveston dead on. The storm surge and winds destroyed most of the homes and many businesses. What had been an up and coming, elegant and successful city was almost totally wiped out and in many ways, never fully recovered. It is still the largest natural disaster in US history in terms of lives lost. This occured before they started naming storms, so is often referred to as The Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

Another display in the museum covered the Texas City Disaster. I had never heard of this, but it was quite interesting. This was in 1947 and was the worst industrial accident in American history. A fire on board a cargo ship, the Grandchamp, ignited a cargo of ammonium nitrate, which caused a terrible explosion that destroyed the seaport, many businesses and over 500 homes. Windows were broken as far as 40 miles away in Houston. If you want to know more however, you'll have to follow the link above since I couldn't take pictures in the museum (is my attitude showing?).

By the time we finished this, it was about 12 minutes (or less) before 4. Robert had called an oil platform museum since I had expressed an interest in visiting it, and found out they didn't let anyone in after 4 PM. We sped across town and made it just before 4! Mom and Kathy decided to wait in the car, but Robert and I decided to check it out. I figure if nothing else, I could at least say I'd been on an oil platform.

This is called the "Ocean Star". It is a retired offshore oil drilling platform that has been turned into a museum.


Robert & I decided to tour the exterior exhibits first. They have a lot of exhibits, all of which have signs explaining what the equipment was.


Inside, there were a few exhibits about how the crew live on an offshore oil platform.


The museum has an obvious pro oil slant, but that's understandable given where it comes from. I'm not sure it was as interesting as touring an old battleship or aircraft carrier, but I did learn a few things about the oil industry, especially offshore platforms. I was rather amazed at how many different ways they can go after oil - it almost looks like there's no place on earth that can avoid their reach. Robert commented at how it shows the lengths we go to in order to feed our oil habit - so true, especially as I cruise around the country in a motorhome (albiet a small, relatively high mileage one as RV's go).

There was a very large exhibit with models of different types of platforms, showing both the above water and seabottom portions. This photo only shows about half of the exhibit, it went on both sides of the round tube in the center.


Here are more details of a couple of the platform models. A bit of blue plastic sometimes represents the sea surface.


There were also other types of exhibits. Here is one link from a chain anchoring down a platform, it was so big I asked my cousin to stand by it as a point of reference. Also, here is a diving suit that could be used as deep as 2,300 feet. And of course they had a display of several different types of drill bits.


As we left the Ocean Star, we walked by some shrimp boats. This time, we saw quite a few pelicans, both brown and white, waiting for scrap fish. On the other side were two very large cruise ships. Galveston has become a cruise terminal for the Carribean it would seem.


There are a few mansions in Galveston and also some neighborhoods with lovely Victorian homes. However, there are also a lot of run down buildings and homes. I guess the city really is still trying to recover it's place in the world. One area that has largely recovered is the main historic business district is called "The Strand". When we visited, teh streets were completely blocked off for Mardi Gras, but I was able to take a couple of pictures from around the edges. The US Customs House wasn't really in "The Strand", but was close enough to it that I thought I'd include it in this batch.


Robert then took us to dinner at a restaurant he remembered as being really good. However it had been some time since he'd been to Galveston and maybe it had changed hands a few times? Now, it was either really good, or not good at all - depending on what you ordered. Also, our waiter was just too busy (or ?), but another waiter generously agreed to take our picture for us and even allowed me to take his picture (Mom liked his Mardi Gras beads). Of course, I asked him his name - but I didn't write it down, so of course I forgot it! (Fire the Scribe!) I did give him a card, so can only hope he'll log in and drop us a comment so we know who to give credit to for the saucy beads (and taking our pic).


The restaurant was right across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. These beaches in Galveston are rather interesting. After the terrible devistation from the 1900 hurricane, the city erected a seawall along the key sections of downtown. I had heard of the seawall, but expected it to be just a "Wall". It is a wall, but is also filled in behind it and a four lane highway plus businesses run along it for several miles. In addition to building the wall, the city raised the elevation of much of the city. Along the wall, it is elevated to the top of the wall, then to lesser degress farther inland.


Mom collected some sand of course, then we started heading home. Along the way I was able to capture one sunset picture (Robert is probably glad to get rid of us - at least he can drive along now without stopping every five minutes to take a picture!)


Once we got back to their house, I made everybody play another game of Rummy Cubes (the pictures I took last night didn't come out very good). Actually I don't think I had to work very hard to convince them, but when Mom isn't winning, her face really shows it... That's OK, I didn't win this game either.


We were a little sad to go to bed tonight, knowing we'd be leaving these nice people tomorrow. But we all had things to do and places to go, so we called it a night.


Miles Driven - none (Robert drove again)
Camped at - Robert & Kathy's house in Lake Jackson

We did see both domestic and wild animals (birds especially), but I was too lazy to write them down. I've been trying to capture this sort of information in the spirit of the Corps of Discovery - a scientific expedition should record it's sightings. Of course, ours is not a scientific expedition, but since we're using theirs as an inspirition I should do a better job of this... I've certainly developed a much deeper respect for those who keep more accurate journals!

Posted by jl98584 21:10 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Nice to know you're enjoying being with our kids. I'm sure they're enjoying having you. I'm glad to see they found you some spoonbills. I hope that your interest in Galveston also included the knowledge that your Granddad was a lifeguard there at the time of the big storm. We've seen pictures he had of that time. In fact, I think we may have them. Do you have some too?

by msj

Madeline, I didn't know Grandad was a lifeguard in Galvaston either. Interesting. It sounds like you two are having way too much fun! I have always wanted to visit Galvaston, it sounds like a very different kind of place, but maybe I've been reading too many books.

by drque

Que, just come on down!

by TexasRTJ

Sure was great having ya'll here! BTW, we are on the Gulf of Mexico, which is not generally counted as the Atlantic Ocean as far as I know.

by TexasRTJ

Robert, maybe we will someday. Not on tour of the US, lovely as that sounds. Maybe next time we come to Texas. Ok, the last (only) time I was in Texas was 10 years ago... I would like to come down for a Thanksgiving in San Antonio with Becky sometime, she says the RiverWalk is lighted up then. We may as well come down and visit you as well.

by drque

My name is Steve Broadstone and I was the tour guide mentioned above who took these charming ladies on a tour of Ashton Villa in Galveston. I couldn't have had a better audience than these two delightful ladies who loved the house and the stories about Miss Bettie's ghost, which are all true I might add. None of us knew, however, that months later after the ladies visit in 2008 that Galveston would again be hit by the worst hurricane to hit Galveston since the 1900 Storm, Hurricane Ike. The entire island of Galveston was submerged under deep water which came right over the 17 ft. high Seawall. Ashton Villa, which was built in 1859, sustained terrible damage and destroyed the entire first floor. Now, two years later, the first floor is still under restoration and is not open for regular tours. However, this Holloween weekend Ashton Villa is open for special "Are We Haunted?" tours in which we are hoping Miss Bettie's ghost will make an appearence.

by Steve B.

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