The Hotel Galvez arose following two of the worst tragedies in Galveston history. First, The Galveston Beach Hotel had burned to the ground in 1898. Even as plans were underway for a new hotel, the Great Galveston Storm of 1900 wiped out 6,000 people. A decade later, a new 220-room hotel opened that clamed to be fireproof. It sat upon newly raised ground along the recently-completed seawall. Talk about overcoming the odds!
The Galvez name, as well as the Galveston city name, came from Bernardo de Gálvez. He was was a Spanish military leader who served as colonial governor of Spanish Louisiana and Cuba in the late 1700s.
Since its 1911 grand opening, the Hotel Galvez (now called the Grand Galvez) has lasted through at least six major renovations and numerous changes in management. The two disasters preceding construction of the Hotel Galvez set the tone for its resilience. In the aftermath of the storm, the city decided to build a seawall to protect itself from future storms. The seawall was built 17 feet above sea level, and this new elevation became the standard for new construction in Galveston.
The Hotel Galvez was one of the first buildings in Galveston built on the new elevation. The ground level for the hotel stood at 17 feet above sea level. The hotel’s concrete foundation is 12 feet thick. Its walls are brick and concrete, with a roof made of steel and concrete. This bunker-like construction has provided justification for multiple facelifts over the next century.
Design and Ownership
The Galvez Hotel was designed by a team of architects from St. Louis, Missouri, including John Mauran, William Russell, and Henry Crowell. However, Nicholas J. Clayton also participated in the design of the hotel. He was a prominent architect in Galveston at the time, and he was responsible for the overall design of the hotel, including the Mission Revival and Spanish Revival styles. The Mauran, Russell, and Crowell team created the more detailed aspects of the design, such as the interior layout and the ornamentation.
The original owners of the Galvez Hotel included the Kempner family, along with other civic-minded citizens of Galveston. The Kempners were a wealthy family who owned a number of businesses in Galveston, including the Galveston Daily News. They promoted the Galvez Hotel as a way to attract tourists back to the island after the Beach Hotel fire. The Galvez Hotel cost $1 million in 1910 dollars.
The Kempners ran the Galvez Hotel until 1940, when they sold it to William Lewis Moody, Jr. Moody was a wealthy businessman from Houston who owned a number of other hotels in Texas. He made a number of improvements to the Galvez Hotel, including adding a swimming pool and a modern motel. Moody owned the Galvez Hotel until 1971, when he sold it to Harvey McCarty.
The Galvez Hotel has had a number of owners over the years. It has hosted presidents, celebrities, and other notable figures. The hotel is a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Celebrities and Events
Over the years, Hotel Galvez has attracted such famous people as Presidents Franklin Roosevelt (who made it his summer White House in 1937), Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson. Jimmy Stewart and Frank Sinatra stayed there and later had suites named after them.
Hotel Galvez hosted many events, including a beauty pageant starting in 1920 called The Pageant of Pulchritude. At one point, they crowned a young Loan Blondel as queen.
Hotel Galvez billeted troops during World War II. It also suffered from a drop-off in business following the crackdown on illegal gambling in the late 1940s.
In addition to the Moody improvements of 1940, The Galvez saw major renovations in 1965. More renovation came in 1978 (under famed heart surgeon Denton Cooley’s ownership), 1989 (Marriott), 1995 (Under Mitchell). In 2021, the hotel passed to Mark Wyant, owner of Seawall Hospitality LLC. He designed and oversaw all the renovations that have been ongoing from the date of purchase through 2023. Grand Galvez is part of the Autograph Collection of Marriott, but is still owned and operated by Mr. Wyant. Today, The Grand Galvez is a luxury resort with all the modern amenities plus underlying bones from a past era.
- Year Started: 1911
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Name of City Namesake
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Kempner family, along with other civic-minded citizens of Galveston
- Owner While In Use: Several
- Owner Successor: Mark Wyant, Owner, Seawall Hospitality LLC
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Grand Galvez
- Naics Code: 721110
- Location Headquarters: Galveston, Texas USA