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Chapter 11
B
y 1980, Peter Brink and the Galveston
Historical Foundation’s quest to
reimagine and reinvent the Strand
as a shopping and historic district
had gathered significant momentum. Private
investments along the street and surrounding
areas had doubled in the last three years to over
$6 million, twenty buildings had been rehabbed,
and thirty residential apartments had been
established in the upper levels of the historic
buildings.
Novelty stores that were opened in the prior
decade, such as Colonel Bubbie’s Strand Surplus
Senter located in the Colonel W. L. Moody
Building on the northwest corner of 22nd Street,
gave the Strand a unique and unrivaled visitor
appeal, and they were quickly joined by a variety
of gift shops, jewelry stores, a photography studio,
restaurants, and art galleries like Bastien’s Stained
Glass Studio. Events such as the newly conceived
Dickens on the Strand, a Victorian tribute to
Galveston’s early years, continued to propel
interest in the burgeoning downtown area.
All the while, the proliferation of livable spaces above the retail spaces gave
the street a pronounced communal feel; many of the people who lived on
the Strand also worked there. “To have people who work here and live here is
absolutely vital,” Peter Brink told the
Houston Chronicle
in 1980.
“It gives a whole different atmosphere, and we realized that right from the
beginning. If you look at places like Wall Street in New York, which is office
space, at 5 o’clock the thing clears out, becomes a desert. We didn’t want that
on the Strand. We didn’t want it being solely retail where everything would be
directly manipulated toward pleasing visitors. We wanted more than that.”
Continuing the forward progress made on the Strand in the 1970s, the name
that would ultimately define Galveston in the 1980s was one that still today
conjures sincere affection and deep respect in the hearts and minds of local
residents—George P. Mitchell. While he did not discount the value of the
Seawall and its attractions, Mitchell’s faith in the city’s future was grounded in
the potential of the historic downtown. His unbridled enthusiasm for restoring
this area to prominence was prompted by a love for his hometown together
with a unique perspective on the Houston/Galveston connection.
As an oilman who had worked extensively in Houston, he understood the
inevitable effect that the city’s growth would have on the island. “I am one of
the few that bridges the gap, that understands the dynamics of Houston…and
really sees both sides of the coin.”
Having previously purchased the Blum building on Mechanic Street several
years prior, Mitchell’s first foray onto the Strand was the acquisition and
The 1980s
BY KIMBER FOUNTAIN
The Strand Chronicles
Chapter 11
Hutchings Sealy Building, c. 1983
APRIL 2017 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
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