The Strand (Avenue B): Galveston, Texas
Called the "The Wall Street of the Southwest," The Strand was a highly popular location for major businesses throughout the 19th century, attracting banks, wholesalers, commercial merchants, cotton brokers, newspapers, and attorneys. The buildings, designed by Galveston's leading architects, are exquisite examples of Victorian architecture and represent one of the country's largest collections of cast iron historic commercial buildings.
Five blocks between 20th Street and 25th Street (also called Rosenberg Street), including Shearn Moody Plaza (west side of 25th Street).
Despite yellow fever, civil war, economic decline, and disastrous hurricanes, Galveston, Texas, residents and leaders have persevered and used misfortune as an opportunity for historic preservation, rebuilding, and new development along The Strand.
The Strand's booming economy — generating some $38 million (today's dollars) in merchandise and services in 1881 — came to an abrupt and tragic end with the Great Hurricane of 1900 that killed 6,000 on Galveston Island. The buildings were heavily damaged, but intact and were used immediately after the storm for meeting places and morgues. After a brief period of mourning, residents demonstrated their resolve and began to rebuild.
"The Galveston Central Business District: A Comprehensive Plan Report," completed in July 1964, provided a blueprint for The Strand's next period of growth and development. Followed by an action plan in 1975, the result was a decades-long period of public- and privately funded revitalization and reinvestment along the street. Leading that effort were the Galveston Historical Foundation and philanthropists George and Cynthia Mitchell.
The Strand's return from its most recent devastating loss, caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008, involved community leaders, residents, and planners mapping out strategies and a rehabilitation plan using some $500 million in state and federal recovery funds. During the past five years, The Strand has once more shown its resilience with the iconic facades of the avenue's historic buildings repaired and the street's restaurants, museums, specialty stores, and other businesses on the rebound.
Defining Characteristics, Features
- Hendley Buildings, 2002-2016 Strand, (1859), are oldest brick commercial buildings along The Strand; were used as a lookout during the Battle of Galveston
- Rosenberg Building, 2001-2011 Strand, (1876), interior uses cast iron supports; built by philanthropist Henry Rosenberg as investment property
- W.L. Moody Building, 2202-2206 Strand, (1883); multicolored brick tile and cast-iron facade; design by N.J. Clayton who also did Ball, Hutchings & Company at 2301-2311 Strand (1882)
- T.J. League Building, 2301-2307 Strand, (1872); sidewalk-level storefronts; cast iron and glass fabricated by Southern Ornamental Works of New Orleans
- Greenleve, Block & Company, 2301-2311 Strand, (1882); designed by N.J. Clayton with cast iron facade featuring oval and quatrefoil cutouts
- Freestanding First National Bank Building (now Galveston Arts Center), 2127 Strand, (1878) with cast iron Corinthian columns; was Texas's oldest chartered bank
- First plan specifically addressing The Strand is "Galveston Central Business District: A Comprehensive Plan Report" (July 1964)
- Ford, Powell & Carson produced two plans during the 1970s: "The Strand: Restoration and Revitalization" and "The Galveston Connection"
- These plans provide basis for "Galveston Downtown Streetscape"plan (1988), which focuses on platting, pavement, lighting
- Venturi and Raunch architects and planners develop "Action Plan for the Strand" (1975); identifies goals used to guide the avenue's revitalization during next several decades
- The Strand was designated as a Local Historic District (1989)
- Streetscape improvements made during 2000s including new brick sidewalks, benches, bicycle racks, waste receptacles, light standards
- The Historic Downtown Strand/Seaport Partnership sponsor a master planning process focusing on physical improvements and economic development (2010)
- City Landmark Commission reviews, updates "Design Standards for Historic Properties"(2012)
Community Participation, Amenities, Events
- Galveston Historical Foundation incorporated 1954; focuses efforts on redevelopment of The Strand through use of revolving fund to purchase, rehab, resell historic buildings
- Historic Downtown Strand/Seaport Partnership established 1984 to promote, enhance, sustain economic vitality, physical attractiveness, quality of life throughout historic district
- Since 1972, Mitchell Historic Properties purchased and rehabilitated more than 30 properties in downtown Galveston, many on The Strand
- About 5 million tourists visit Galveston annually
- "Dickens on The Strand" festival supports city's premier National Historic Landmark District; Mardi Gras! Galveston celebration along the avenue dates back to 1867
- Lone Star Rally (October/November); one of largest motorcycle rallies in country (began 2002)
- Saengerfest Park (corner of 23rd and The Strand) known for its large, playable chess set
- Horse and carriage rides offered along The Strand
- George Mitchell died July 26, 2013; revered for his invaluable role throughout Galveston's revitalization and restoration processes