The Spanish knew the bay and the island early; it was probably there that Cabeza de Vaca was shipwrecked in 1528. Settlement began in the 1830s. The natural port came gradually into its own despite scourges of yellow fever, hurricanes, and the occupation for a few months in 1862 by a small Union force. A 1900 hurricane resulted in thousands of deaths and left the city in ruins. Against future storms an enormous 10-mi (16-km)-long protective seawall was built; however, occasional hurricanes still can cause significant damage, especially on the portions of the island not protected by the seawall. Hurricane Ike (2008) was especially destructive.
Of interest are the Texas Heroes monument, the Rosenberg Library, several old homes, and a 142-acre nature and entertainment complex that includes a 10-story glass pyramid with rain forests and a bamboo forest. A Coast Guard base is in Galveston, as is the Univ. of Texas Medical Branch (including the Galveston National Laboratory) and a campus of Texas A&M Univ (including the Texas Maritime Academy).
See E. Larson, Isaac's Storm (1999).
Galveston is a city in and seat of Galveston County located on Galveston Island on the Gulf Coast in the U.S. state of Texas within the metropolitan area. As of the 2005 U.S. Census estimate, the city had a total population of 57,466. Galveston is accessible by the Galveston Causeway linking Galveston 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.
After Hurricane Ike extensively damaged the courthouse and jail in September 2008, the decision was made to temporarily relocate the county seat and offices to League City and Texas City. Once repairs are complete, the county headquarters will return to Galveston.
Galveston is known for its historic neighborhoods and a 10-mile (16-km) long, 17-foot (5.18 m) high seawall designed to protect the city from floods and hurricane storm surge.
The city houses many tourist attractions, including the Galveston Schlitterbahn waterpark, Moody Gardens botanical park, the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, the Lone Star Flight Museum, a downtown neighborhood of historic buildings known as The Strand, many historical museums and mansions, and miles of beach front. The Strand plays host to a yearly Mardi Gras festival, Galveston Island Jazz & Blues Festival, Texas Beach Fest, 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 was also home to the Balinese Room, an historic nightclub, formerly a notorious illegal gambling hall, which was located on a pier extending into the Gulf of Mexico.
Galveston is the second-largest city in Galveston County in population after League City; League City surpassed Galveston between 2000 and 2005.
Hurricane Ike made landfall at Galveston, Texas, on September 13, 2008.
During his charting of the Gulf Coast in 1785, the Spanish explorer José de Evia named the island Gálvez-towm or Gálveztown in honor of Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, Count of Gálvez. The first permanent European 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"), anointing 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. There are still rumors that Lafitte's treasure is buried somewhere between Galveston Island, Bolivar Peninsula and High Island.
Following its successful revolution from Spain, the Congress of Mexico issued a proclamation on October 17, 1825, establishing the Port of Galveston, and in 1830 erected a customs house. During the Texas Revolution, Galveston served as the main port for the Texas navy. Galveston also served as the capital of the Republic of Texas when in 1836 interim president David G. Burnet relocated his government there.
In 1836, Michel B. Menard, a native of Canada, along with several associates purchased 4,605 acres (18.64 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.
The :Battle of Galveston was fought in :Galveston Bay and on the island on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War when Confederate forces under Major General John B. Magruder attacked and expelled occupying Union troops from the city, which remained in Confederate hands for the duration of the war. In May 1865, the Lark successfully evaded the Union blockade off of Galveston Harbor and headed for Havana, becoming the final Confederate ship to slip through the blockade from any Southern port.
Juneteenth, which is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, owes its origins to the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation upon the return of Union forces to Galveston in 1865.
In the late 1890s, the Fort Crockett defenses and coastal artillery batteries were constructed in Galveston and along the Bolivar Roads.
At the end of the 19th century, the city of Galveston was a booming metropolis with a population of 37,000. Its position on the natural harbor of Galveston Bay along the Gulf of Mexico made it the center of trade in Texas, and one of the largest cotton ports in the nation, in competition with New Orleans. Between 1838 and 1842, 18 newspapers were started to serve the island's rapidly growing population (The Galveston County Daily 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), first Roman Catholic Cathedral (St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica) (1847), the first parochial school (Ursuline Academy) (1847), the first insurance company (1854), the first gas lights (1856), first Jewish Reform Congregation (Congregation B'nai Israel) (1868), 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 devastating hurricane. Even post-Hurricane Katrina, this event holds the record as the United States' deadliest natural disaster. In the early morning of September 8, high surf despite prevailing winds out of the north heralded the oncoming storm. By noon low-lying areas near the Gulf and the Bay side of the city were taking on water and the winds increased. Near 4 p.m. a storm surge approximately high slammed into the coast. According to many personal accounts, the storm subsided before midnight. Wind speeds reached up to 125 mph (an estimate, since the anemometer was blown off the U.S. Weather Bureau building). Isaac Cline was the bureau's chief meteorologist. An account of the events surrounding the hurricane based on his personal records is given in Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. The city was devastated, and an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people on the island were killed.
After the storm cleared, the city decided to shore up its defenses against future storms: a permanent concrete seawall was built along a large portion of the beach front (1902–1904) and the entire grade of the city was raised some behind the wall to a few feet near the Bay (1904–1910). 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 previous levels of national 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. To further her recovery, and rebuild her population, Galveston actively solicited immigration. Through the efforts of Rabbi Henry Cohen and Congregation B'nai Israel, Galveston 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.
Though the storm stalled economic development and the city of Houston grew into the region's principal metropolis, Galveston has regained some of its former glory. Today it is considered a major tourist destination, and remains a port of entry and a destination for cruise ships, and a port of call and repairs for cargo ships. Galveston is currently ranked the number 1 cruise port on the Gulf Coast and number 4 in North America (2007). The city features an array of lodging options, including fine hotels, vintage bed & breakfast inns, beachfront condominiums, and resort rentals.
Galveston's historic downtown and abundant beaches are major tourist destinations. 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 Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museum, the Galveston Railroad Museum, Schlitterbahn, the Strand and the Lone Star Flight Museum. Galveston is also home to several historic ships: the tall ship Elissa (the official Tall Ship of Texas) at the Texas Seaport Museum and USS Cavalla and USS Stewart, both berthed at Seawolf Park on nearby Pelican Island. Galveston is also home to a symphony orchestra and a small ballet company.
The Galveston County Daily News, the city's main newspaper, is the oldest continuously printed newspaper in Texas since 1842. Galveston.com, the city's official tourism website, launched in the fall of 1994.
Galveston has been the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) since 1891. UTMB is a major teaching and indigent-care hospital which now encompasses 84 acres (340,000 m²)., UTMB is the largest employer in Galveston County, creating over 15,000 jobs and bringing about $300 million into the local economy. The Shriners Hospital 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 largest life insurance companies in the United States, and Moody National Bank are headquartered in Galveston.
Galveston's beaches are much cleaner than in the past. With the island's population showing greater concern for their environment, washed-up seaweed is now only moved back from the water's edge to allow the natural buildup and preservation of the beaches. The beaches are now cleaned daily by the Galveston Park Board.
In the 2000s, property values rose after expensive projects were completed and demand for second homes increased. This led some middle class families to move from Galveston to other areas such as League City, Texas City, and La Marque. The city population remained relatively the same from 2000 to 2005 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The tax base of the Galveston ISD grew by 13% in 2005 while Galveston ISD lost many district-zoned non-Hurricane Katrina evacuee students.
In 2007 The Associated Press compiled a list of the most vulnerable places to hurricanes in the U.S. and Galveston was one of five areas named. Among the reasons cited were low elevation and the single evacuation route off the island which is blocked by the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston.
The storm left Galveston without electricity, gas, water pressure and basic communications.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which, of it is land and of it (77.85%) is water.
Record high temperature: 104 °F set on September 5, 2000.
Record low temperature: 8 °F set on February 12, 1899.
Greatest one day rainfall: 13.93 inches set on October 8, 1901.
There were 23,842 households out of which 26.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.6% were married couples living together, 16.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.4% were non-families. 35.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the city the population was 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 were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 93.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,895, and the median income for a family was $35,049. Males had a median income of $30,150 versus $26,030 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,275. About 17.8% of families and 22.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 32.1% of those under age 18 and 14.2% of those age 65 or over.
Scholes International Airport at Galveston is a two-runway airport in Galveston; the airport is primarily used for general aviation, offshore energy transportation, and some limited military operations.
Heliports in Galveston include:
Rapper DMX shot the music video for "Party Up (In Here)" at the Frost Bank in Galveston.
The city of Galveston is served by Galveston Independent School District.
GISD Elementary Schools
GISD Middle SchoolsComprehensive
GISD High School
K through 12th
The city is served by the Rosenberg Library.
The Galveston County YMCA is located in Galveston.