April 13, 2005
At one time, Broadway was a street of fine homes and stately mansions. Only a handful remain today, sandwiched in between more newer and more modest homes and businesses. The one that really stands out as you drive by is The Bishop Mansion. It looks more like a secure stone castle than a family home.
The home was completed in 1893 by Colonel Walter Gresham, a famous Confederate Colonel during the Civil War. After the war, he moved from Virginia to Texas, and this was the mansion where he and his wife raised their nine children.
The home is a masterpiece and an important Texas landmark. It has wood from the far corners of the world and a fireplace mantel that won first prize at the World's Fair. The stained-glass windows are breathtaking. You can only imagine what fine parties took place in these walls. My favorite stories were about the 1900 hurricane when the home stood like a fortress. The Greshams housed over 200 neighbors who were left homeless by the storm.
In the 1920s, after the Colonel's death, Mrs Gresham donated the home to the Catholic Church to house The Bishop of Galveston. (So much for that vow of poverty!) Thus the name - Bishop Mansion.
The Catholic Church kept the home to house the Bishop until 1963. During that time a chapel was added and many religious paintings and stained glass windows of saints. In 1963 the home was opened for tours and maintained by the Catholic Church. The third floor is still used by the church for offices, and the basement is The Newman Center.
I was a little sad to see how the home is in need of repair. Several rooms had paint peeling, and one of the upstairs bedrooms had a very bad leak and stain on one of the walls. However, most of the wood and glass are orginal and are in very good shape, considering the age and the number of tours that come through this now-famous sight.
Today, volunteers give daily tours of the home. The cost is $6 per adult. Each floor had a different docent. I have to admit two of the docents were very soft-spoken and very hard to hear and understand. The third docent was far more lively and interesting. The docents are volunteers, so they change frequently, and the day you tour, you may find some with better speaking ability and higher enthusiam levels.
There are several homes in Galveston that give tours. However, if you only have time for one home tour, the one NOT to miss is the landmark Bishop Mansion.
From journal Pre-Cruise Galveston