Hotel Galvez Reopens After Hurricane Ike
By Laryssa Wirstiuk | Online Only | Oct. 28, 2008
On Sept. 13, Hurricane Ike hit Galveston, Texas, with 110-mile-per-hour winds, flooding hundreds of buildings and houses. Fortunately, the Hotel Galvez, built after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 as a testament to the island's resilience, suffered minimal damage. It reopened to the public on Oct. 15.
"Despite the water, many buildings in Galveston are structurally sound," says Christine Hopkins, spokeswoman for Mitchell Historic Properties, the company that operates Hotel Galvez and other historic Galveston properties. "We definitely had flood damage, but this town is very resilient. We're making a quick recovery."
The Galveston seawall, a 10-mile-long structure built after the 1900 hurricane, protected the Hotel Galvez and many other historic properties on the island. Hopkins reports that the hotel lost clay tiles from the roof and sustained two feet of floodwater on the lower level, where the spa, fitness center, offices, and laundry facilities are located.
Hoping to reopen the hotel as quickly as possible, Mitchell Historic Properties hired a crew of 350 people to clean up and dry the buildings, housing some employees and contractors during the process. About half of the hotel's employees live on the island. "Our concern was for the employees," says Hopkins. "We were providing three meals a day for staff and also for some contractors."
With a reputation as a social hub, the National Register-listed Hotel Galvez attracts brides and society's elite. From the 1920s until the 1940s, the hotel was known as the "Playground of the Southwest," attracting celebrities like Jimmy Stewart, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra. The National Register-listed hotel even served as a temporary White House for President Teddy Roosevelt.
This month the building is a full-service hotel again, lacking only an operating spa. The popular Bernardo's Restaurant reopened Oct. 1, and the hotel's traditional Sunday brunch resumed on Oct. 5.
"The first brunch after the hurricane attracted 125 people. Even though it was close to hurricane time, they arrived anyway," Hopkins says. "The people of Galveston want to resume normal life as quickly as possible. We even have weddings and Christmas parties booked."
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