When it comes to home tours for history buffs, no Gulf Coast city this side of New Orleans (and few below the Mason-Dixon line) can compete with Galveston. Despite Mother Nature's best efforts to wipe the place from the map every few decades, the proud town is still positively littered with grand Italianate mansions and stately downtown iron-front Victorians. Little surprise then that this, the 40th year for the Galveston Historical Foundation's home tour, might be the best yet. Small wonder it will take this weekend and the next to fit everything in.
If you have been before, take heart that six of the nine historic homes on this year's itinerary are first-time additions. Each weekend visitors can also visit two new homes, first in the neo-urbanist Beachtown development near East Beach, and second in the Evia development on the back side of the island just west of Scholes Field.
Dwayne Jones, Galveston Historical Foundation’s Executive Director, says this year's line-up is one of the strongest in years. “The range of dates and architectural styles provide an excellent overview of Galveston’s architectural history. It’s a 'not to be missed' architectural tour.”
(Tickets to the home tour [$20] and related events can be purchased here prior to the event.)
Both of the weekends sport ancillary events. The shindig kicks off Friday evening with a Grand Preview in the 1940 Sears Building at 2202 Broadway. Bring your own treasures: experts from Simpson Antiques will be on hand to appraise your items and apprise you of their history, and even if you don't bring something, you will be able to view the items others have brought. Purchasers of the $55 tickets to this event will also get to sneak-preview of two of the homes on the tour, which officially gets underway Saturday.
On Saturday, you can enjoy a private audience with Rice University architectural historian Stephen Fox as he leads a tour of John Staub's William and Marie Helmbrecht House. Following the tour, Fox will lecture at Menard Hall about Staub's life and work. (Tickets are $65.) At 10 a.m. in the Sears Building, a panel of experts will respond to the question: "I bought a historic house; now what?" (Tickets: $12)
For those who really want to hearken back to Galveston's heyday as the Wall Street of the Southwest, each weekend offers the opportunity to dine alongside your fellow history buffs in the formal dining room of a spotlighted home. On May 4, the "History on Tap Dinner" is in a neo-traditional Beachtown home and will be prepared by Chef Steve Griffith of Beachtown's lauded Porch Cafe. Chef Mary Bass of the Haak Winery caters the following week's dinner in the 1875 Julius and Elizabeth Ruhl House. (Tickets to each dinner are $150 and advance reservations are highly recommended.)
As the event winds down on May 11, we're betting the mom or moms in your life would be delighted by the gift of jazz brunch in the 1880 Garten Verein dance pavilion. (Tickets are $50.)