Galveston Island earned the whimsical nickname the “Free State of Galveston” during the early-to-mid-20th century due to its not so secretive illegal activity. Gambling, bootlegging and vice-oriented businesses were all major contributors to the success of the economy in the 1920’s.
During the Roaring 20’s, the variety of tempting entertainment offered had tourists and celebrities flocking to the island. Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Howard Hughes were just a few of many famous faces that enjoyed spending time in the “playground of the Southwest”.
The rise of the “free state of Galveston” was in part thanks to brothers Sam and Rosario Maceo who owned and developed numerous casinos, including the infamous Balinese Room. The island became a heartland of gambling and illegal liquor that were not only tolerated but supported by both citizens and local government. One of the most famous examples of the community’s lax attitudes was during a gambling investigation at the Balinese Room; a local sheriff told a state committee “he had not raided the establishment because it was a ‘private club’ and he was not a ‘member’.”
Centered on Galveston’s Post Office Street, the island’s red light district was such a thriving business that for a period of time it boasted the busiest in the world. Not only was prostitution successful, it was conducted openly and Galveston’s red light district “may have been the only one in the country that thrived with the blessings of both city hall and the Catholic Church.”
The Tremont House will celebrate this era in Galveston’s history during its 30th Annual “Pearls and Prohibition” Mardi Gras Ball and Parade Viewing Party on Saturday, March 1, 2014. The hotel is offering a weekend Mardi Gras Ball package as well as individual ball tickets which can be purchased online at www.galveston.com/mardigrasball or through the front desk.