Page 31 - Aug2017

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AUGUST 2017 |
T h e B l o c k o f A l l A g e S
This is the final installment of a three-part Galveston
Lost summer reading series about the block of downtown
where the former Bank of America building resides, with
a current address of 2200 Market Street. It is located
between 22
and 23
Streets, bordered to the north by
Mechanic Street and to the south by Market.
hrough both of Galveston’s most definitive eras of
prosperity, the Victorian period of importing and
exporting through the harbor and the Open Era of
unlawful enterprises, the 2200 block of Market Street
was seamlessly integrated into the city’s thriving downtown. It
was an amalgamation of all of the most desirable elements of
an urban cityscape—picturesque architecture, an array of retail
goods, hotels, restaurants, and even a nightclub with a horse
betting parlor in the back. And beginning in 1902, it was all
anchored by a bank on the northwest corner of Market and 22
Street that would eventually grow to consume the whole block.
Through the weavings of a quite intricate entrepreneurial story
line, First Hutchings-Sealy National Bank inherited the right to
claim itself as both the oldest bank in Texas and the state’s very
first national bank.
In 1835, less than a year before Texas would fight to
become its own country, Mexico granted a banking charter
to two merchants named Thomas F. McKinney and Samuel
May Williams, the latter of whom was also working with a
Mexican ally, Juan Seguin, to secure land rights to an island
off the Texas coast called Galveston. Ironically, the firm of
McKinney, Williams, & Co. possessed holdings vast enough
that they almost singlehandedly financed the Texas War for
Shortly after Texas’ victory, the pair moved to Galveston, and
in 1841 they were authorized to put bank notes into circulation
by the Texas Republic. Texas was annexed into the United States
in 1845, and in 1847 McKinney and Williams restructured to
become the Commercial & Agricultural Bank, the first chartered
bank in the state.
Meanwhile, two young men in Sabine Pass were busy building
an empire of their own. John Henry Hutchings and John Sealy
had been in the mercantile business since 1837 and moved to
Galveston in 1954 where they set up in a wooden building on
the northeast corner of 24
Street and Strand. Shortly after
their arrival, they partnered with George Ball to form Ball,
Hutchings, Sealy, & Co. and operated from a modest, stucco-
By Kimber Fountain
Inside of First Hutchings-Sealy National Bank
decorated for a special occasion
Image courtesy of The Sealy & Smith Foundation