Galveston Island was inhabited by Native Americans since pre-history. The first European settlements on the island started around 1816 and the Port of Galveston was established in 1825 by Mexico when it won independence from Spain. Galveston was the capital of the Republic of Texas and in the mid-1800s became a major international port for immigration and trade. The city was one of the busiest ports in the US and the leading port for cotton exports. Galveston became Texas’ largest city and, during that era, was its prime commercial center. (Around this time, Houston was a small settlement with problems of drunkenness, brawling, prostitution fighting and profanity.) In 1900, Galveston was struck by a devastating hurricane and the recovery efforts changed the city’s geography by adding the sea-wall.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the city re-emerged as a major tourist destination centered on casinos and other ‘vice’ businesses. Featuring venues, such as a dance hall and casino known as the the Balinese Room , the city was known as the sin city of the Gulf. The illegal businesses were closed in the 1950s, leading to a long, stagnant economic period with the Balinese Room finally being washed away by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Hurricane Ike hit the city hard, but since 2008 businesses have recovered and Galveston has re-emerged as a tourist destination centered on its history and its historical buildings. New tourist attractions have been established and revitalized the economy – at least until the current COVID-19 crisis. The photos in the gallery are Galveston since 2008.
What the future holds for Galveston with COVID is uncertain. As a playground for Houston its future should be assured. But, the city is more than a tourist trap and hopefully will retain its independence and vitality.