Page 65 - June2017

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A city united
The seawall’s story began on September 8, 1900, when the
deadliest, most destructive hurricane in United States history on
record to date, roared onto Galveston Island. The Category
4 hurricane made landfall with recorded winds of up to
156 mph and a storm surge that reached a height of 15 feet
above the island’s sandy grade. The catastrophic storm caused
anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 deaths and approximately $700
million in property damage in today’s currency.  
City leaders formed a three-member Board of Engineers—
Alfred Noble, one of the best known civil engineers in the
country; Henry Martyn Robert, a former chief engineer with
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and Henry Clay Ripley, a civil
engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers in Galveston—and
tasked the engineers to find a way to protect the city against
Mother Nature’s fury. 
The committee recommended construction of a seawall
seventeen feet above mean low tide and stretching over
three miles, from the south jetty across the eastern edge of
the city and down the beach. The project also would require
a Herculean engineering feat: More than 2,100 buildings,
By Donna Gable Hatch
New Book by K imber Founta i n
Galveston
Seawall Chronicles
R
enowned Texas historian and author Melanie Wiggins
said the
Galveston Seawall Chronicles
, a new book by
Kimber Fountain, is an important untold chapter in the
documented history of Galveston Island. 
The seawall, considered by many to be the most impressive
engineering feat in the history of the United States, has been
included in historical publications, but never has it been the focus of
an entire book until now, Wiggins says. 
Fountain’s thirteen-chapter, 144 page book chronicles the
miraculous story of the seawall from the Great Storm of 1900
through its later extensions and all the way through to modern
times. It contains 99 black and white photographs and follows the
seawall’s story decade by decade. 
“The photographic story of the grade-raising is beautifully told
in the book,
A City on Stilts
by Jodi Wright-Gidley and Jennifer
Marines, Galveston historians, but Kimber is the first historian
to piece together the entire drama of Galveston’s seawall
construction and grade-raising, filling a serious gap in the island’s
history,” says Wiggins, author of
They Made Their Own Law: Stories
of the Bolivar Peninsula
,
Torpedoes in the Gulf: Galveston and the
U-Boats, 1942-1943
, and
Fatal Ascent
Kimber on the seawall 1995
JUNE 2017 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
65
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