From pure silver fireplaces to hand carved woodwork, this survivor of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is a landmark to the past. You can visit the once most lavish home in Texas in Galveston’s Historic District at Bishop’s Palace. This mansion will leave visitors feeling as though they just took a trip back to 1892 to experience one of the most prominent families in the Lone Star State. From an astonishing wooden staircase to irreplaceable architectural features, Bishop’s Palace is a remarkable attraction and a must see on your next trip to Galveston.
In a time when Galveston was flourishing on the Gulf Coast of Texas, a magnificent palace was being erected on the island. Built by the Gresham family, Bishop’s Palace took over half a decade to complete. When it was finished in 1892, Mr. Walter Gresham and his wife and children moved into the immaculate palace.
The architect was Nicolas Clayton who was once the most prominent in his industry in the late 1800s. The home is often coined with being a Victorian Castle. One of the fireplaces within the home is even completely lined with pure silver.
At the time of its completion, Bishop’s Palace quickly gained reputation for being the most lavish home in all of the state of Texas. Many even considered one it of the most significant homes in the country. Mr. Gresham was a prominent lawyer and a political representative for the state. His wife Josephine raised and cared for their nine children in this 19,082 square foot mansion.
When the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 struck the island, the Gresham’s opened their doors to people who needed a place to ride out the devastating storm. Similar to what happened at the nearby Point Bolivar Lighthouse across the bay. Hundreds of people from all different backgrounds were able to seek refuge in the corridors of this palace. The Gresham’s were thanked repeatedly by these survivors after the disaster struck. In total 6-12,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives in the event of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900.
Very few structures remained after this event, yet Bishop’s Palace stood strong with a few broken windows and minimal damage. One of the Gresham children had been attending school at Columbia University in New York when he heard of the hurricane. He rushed to Galveston to ensure his family was safe and their neighbors cared for.
By 1923, the home changed hands to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston. Since a catholic church was right across the street, Bishop Christopher Byrne took residence in the palace. During his time in the home he remodeled some features including a religious sanctuary and a biblical version for the stained glass windows.
The Diocese preserved much of the home and cared for it. Several decades later, the Diocese moved their office into Houston so it was closer to the city. This left the home vacant and therefore it needed a new purpose.
In 1963, Bishop’s Palace was officially opened for tours. The tour profits were generously donated to a branch of the University of Texas medical program ministry which was located in the basement of the mansion.
Estimates have assessed the home at being worth over $5.5 million dollars in its current state and location. Proceeds fund the care of the home which is now owned by the Galveston Historical Foundation.
How to Visit
Parking for the museum is limited and spaces can fill up quickly. Most people tend to parallel park on the street in front of the home. To purchase tickets, visitors enter the basement under the main steps. There will be signs pointing to the entrance. Also in the basement is a huge gift shop complete with souvenirs, books, candles and so much more.
After purchasing tickets, visitors can embark on a self guided tour of the home. You may be given a small portable audio guide system that will read aloud the history behind each room and the significant people who once lived there.
Bishop’s Palace is located at 1402 Broadway Avenue J in historic Galveston.
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