Hotel Galvez
1911, Mauran & Russell
Rehabilitation and additions, 1993, Ford, Powell & Carson
Source: Galveston Architecture Guidebook by Ellen Beasley and Stephen Fox
Copyright 1996 Galveston Historical Foundation


The grand dame of the Seawall is the six-story, 250-room Hotel Galvez (Note: Hotel Galvez currently has 224 rooms including six suites). It was designed in the Spanish Mission style (which was especially associated with resort hotel and railroad station architecture in the southwestern United States in the 1900s and 1910s) to romantically evoke Galvestonians’ nonexistent Spanish past. The Galvez was built by a syndicate of Galveston businessmen, headed by the Kempner brothers, to promote Galveston as a beach resort. It was designed by the St. Louis architects Mauran & Russell (who also designed the Rice Hotel in Houston and the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio and were consulting architects for the Hotel Paseo del Norte in El Paso) as a civic showplace.
The hotel was built at the corner of 21st and Avenue P well back from Seawall Boulevard, so that a forecourt, originally planted with palm trees and oleanders, spreads out before it. This tapis vert (literally, green carpet) compensates for the lack of vegetation on the Seawall and spatially frames the massive, pyramidally composed hotel in an oasis-like setting. An arcade of oversized windows along the ground floor of the hotel, and the overhangs of the red tile roofs, spatially project an image of cool shade. As originally planned, guest rooms faced the water, while many of the north-facing rooms were reserved for hotel employees and services. The penthouse apartment, in the central tower, was where Sam Maceo lived in the 1930s and 1940s. Backing up to Avenue P is a monumentally scaled porte-cochre.
The Galvez was acquired by National Hotels in 1940, which added a motel wing to the east side of the building (1954, Andrew Fraser). During the 1970s the Galvez went into a decline before closing in 1978. In 1980 it was reopened and partially rehabilitated by John Kirksey Architects for a group of Houston investors.
The Galvez was bought by Mr. and Mrs. George Mitchell in 1993. For them, Ford, Powel & Carson have carried out a much-needed comprehensive rehabilitation, removing the most egregious additions of the 1950s-1980s, restoring the main entrance to Seawall Boulevard, and recovering the cool simplicity of the hotel’s spacious, ground-floor promenade. Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell even had Ford, Powell & Carson relocate a misplaced swimming pool, which is ingeniously tucked in beneath the original restaurant terrace, where it plays hide-and-seek with Seawall Boulevard.
Note: Hotel Galvez currently offers 224 rooms including six suites and reflects Spanish Revival architecture.