Page 28 - Aug2017

Basic HTML Version

28 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
AUGUST 2017
expansive esplanade down the center (more than twice the width it is today)
while still providing ample room for carriages to travel on either side.
All east-west streets were lettered alphabetically from north to south, and in
this regard the street was first given the name of Avenue J. But unlike Avenue
B, which was named after the then-famous Strand Street in London, and other
lettered streets that eventually adopted the names of prominent citizens, the
moniker chosen for Broadway simply followed a European custom of street
naming that had been used for nearly a thousand years to identify wide
thoroughfares, or “broad ways.”
The strip of Broadway east of 27
th
Street, due south of downtown and
the east end, began to take form as a residential area when James Moreau
Brown built Ashton Villa in 1858. It was the first brick house in Texas and
subsequently started a mansion building contest among the city’s elite that
resulted in the Gresham house (now Bishop’s Palace), the Sealy family’s Open
Gates, and the residence known today as Moody Mansion.
Smaller yet equally elegant homes quickly began to fill in between them—the
next best thing to living in a mansion was living next to one. It was referred
to as the “Fifth Avenue” of Galveston, as it housed the most fashionable and
beautiful residences in the city.
With such a wide expanse of space
available along Broadway Avenue long
before the advent and widespread use of
the automobile, the idea of a luxurious
promenade down the grassy esplanade
began to take shape in the late 19
th
century. In 1874, a small portion of the
esplanade between 23
rd
and 25
th
Streets
was planted with trees and shrubs and
a short walkway was paved, but it was
not until an editorial on the subject was
printed in the
Galveston Daily News
in 1888 that the potential was finally
realized.
A local news reporter, “well known
for his progressive ideas,” regaled the
scenic street as ideally suited for a public
walk and suggested to the newspaper
specific ideas for the transformation of
Broadway’s esplanade, including the
addition of benches, water fountains, and
shade trees for a much more enjoyable
walking experience than was allowed by
the beach during warmer months.
Within a year of the article’s publication,
the city began converting portions of
the esplanade into a park and paving a
walkway through them. According to the
News,
Broadway was poised to become
“the great promenading resort of the
city.”
Meanwhile, a man named Braxton
Bragg, the first chief engineer of the
Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad
Company, was working to find the
most efficient way to link the island
and the mainland via rail bridge. After
months of surveying Galveston’s bay-
side shoreline and that of the mainland
Esplanade in front of the Leon Blum residence 17th Street and Broadway, c. 1880
Trees and sidewalk along Broadway c. 1890
Esplanade near the Texas Heroes Monument at 25th Street, c. 1903
Images courtesy of the Rosenberg Library