It’s that time of year, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The weather, as many visitors and volunteers noted, was superb. The record low temperatures were a blessing. Truth be told, the temperatures last year were in the 90s, so it was ideal to be able to tour these beautiful houses in May with March weather.
The drive through the peninsula was magnificent. I can tell more and more people are building for which I applaud the residents. Even the ferry was almost on time, and even though there was a little wait, the ride could not have been any better.
My first stop on the tour was the Rosa McDonald Peete House, which was built circa 1886. I couldn’t help but notice just how similar the interior was to the Vulsteke House in Port Arthur. The current owners have done an excellent job with the décor. The pews at the dinner table were an appropriate touch, especially since the house is located on Church Street.
After a brief walk, we entered the Henry and Clara Lang House, which was also built around 1886. A very interesting place indeed. Like most houses constructed this year, it’s small but enticing. The back porch is probably the best I saw while on tour. I definitely could see myself lounging about the place. I’m justifiably envious but also happy that the owners shared their treasure.
Speaking of treasures, I was in a state of bliss as I entered the Peter and Agnes Gengler House, which was constructed at the same time as the previous two. I love this house both inside and out. The current owner is a clocksmith, and he has over 150 clocks displayed throughout the house: a selection that would make any collector drool. I was surprised to see that the house is also up for sale for a mere $641k.
The fourth house on our list was the Mathilda Wehmeyer House and German American Kindergarten School. The landscaping was exquisite, and the white roses were in full bloom. We saw a lot of the front garden because of the long wait to enter. I am used to long lines, but this was different. We eventually found out the reason we were left to admire the garden for so long: the owner required all who enter the house to wear shoe covers, and it was therefore taking more time than usual to start the tours.
Huh? You want to enter your house on a public tour, but you do not want the public to touch your floors? I can understand an owner wanting to protect their precious house, but making people put on slippery shoe covers? (It must be added that I nearly slipped on the stairs.) And did I mention that the shoe covers were recycled back to the front door when the back-door bin was full? So ladies and gents with sandals, you have been warned! Please skip this house if you don’t want to wear other peoples’ shoe covers. Truth be told skip this house. Period. It is a nice but MODERN home.
After the great bootie debacle, we were fortunate to enter the 1888 Browning and Sara Crowell House. What a treat! I was ecstatic to be able to walk through this lovely home and hear some of the unfortunate history of Hurricane Ike; unfortunate for most of the other houses near this gem, because according to the docent, this house did not receive the brunt of Ike’s fury since it is located across the street from a park, and the water damned up the rest of the neighborhood. Buying near a park is good advice when purchasing property along the Gulf coast.
After lunch at Shrimp and Stuff, I headed out alone to the Samuel and Matilda Levine House. I must say, the docents of this house, which was built in 1899, were my favorites. Actually, what am I saying? All the docents did a great job in all the houses! I enjoyed this blue house with all its original wood. It’s a must-see.
Another must-see is the Christopher and Anna Schmidt House. Originally built in 1886, it was restored from a fire in 2008, and the owners have done a superb job with the décor. Oh, and when the tour enters the kitchen, say hello to the cat that sits silently on the stool watching the 10-odd people surrounding him. I guess he’s used to tours. Another treat is the dining table, which was created from old Galveston lumber. The craftsman did an outstanding job.
By this stage, time was running out and I was determined to see the last three homes. Luckily, lines become shorter in the latter hours of the tour, so it took no time at all before I was able to see the Joseph and Philomene Magna Cottage. The tour of this 1888 house is short and sweet, but I like what the owner has done. It is a small house, but it’s decorated well. One of its unique points is that, because she was determined to have a proper bath, the owner gave up her closet space in the two bedrooms. I enjoyed this little house with the large deck in the back. I’m sure the owner will get many years of pleasure out of it.
Of course, I saved the best for last. As the tour started winding down, I went to see the George and Magnolia Sealy House, Open Gates,” which was built around 1889-1890. This was worth touring, and the stories of the 1900 hurricane were thought-provoking. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) owns this gem, so it’s private and in much demand on the tour. Be prepared to wait in line but that know it’s worth it.
A trip to Galveston wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the cemetery. As usual, the yellow wildflowers were a sight for sore eyes.
Congratulations to the Galveston Historical Foundation on yet another successful tour. I hope to return in the coming week for another round of these fine homes. To the wonderful docents who volunteer their time for this event: you are appreciated!