Page 34 - March2017

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as color schemes and ideas for interior renovations.
The action plan also addressed the Strand’s most
significant disadvantage—a reputation which the 20
th
century had noticeably tarnished. In concordance with the
study, University of Houston students conducted a survey
that revealed that the Strand’s location, and even its mere
existence, were practically unknown to both visitors and
residents. And the ones who did know about it equated
the street with crime and perceived it as a dangerous place
to be. “As the Strand is no longer in the mainstream of
Galveston activity, it must reach out to attract potential
visitors and aggressively change its image,” the firm stated.
As implementation of the Venturi and Ranch plan
continued, the efforts to legitimize Galveston’s downtown
were substantially bolstered in 1976 by the purchase of
the Blum building one block away on Mechanic Street.
Island enthusiast and philanthropist George P. Mitchell
would spend $12 million dollars to transform the former
warehouse into a reincarnation of Galveston’s first hotel, the
Tremont House.
That same year, the Strand District was awarded an
upgrade from a place on the National Register of Historic
Places to that of Landmark status, and by the close of 1977,
over $3 million in private investments had been made along
Strand Street.
The happenings on the Strand in the late 1970s garnered
nationwide attention, so much so that they captured the
attention of the famed Kresge Foundation. Established in
1924, the foundation’s endowment today surpasses $3
billion, and at the time its coveted grants were exclusively
awarded to local communities for the particular purposes of
construction and renovation of historic buildings. In 1979,
they gifted $25,000 to the Strand project, which in turn
inspired grants from other well-known entities such as the
Brown Foundation, the Rockwell Funds, Atlantic Richfield,
and Houston Oil & Mineral.
By the close of the decade, the minutiae of scattered,
subtle changes along the Strand finally began to coalesce
into tangible, obvious progress. Peter Brink stated in a 1979
interview that “at some point, I’d no longer walk down the
street thinking, ‘Is it going to work?’”
The plan was indeed working, but most importantly
it had pushed past the boundaries of preservation and
transformed the Strand into living history. No longer was
it forgotten and abandoned, precariously exposed to the
sands of time and the whimsies of man, but neither was
it enshrined to be glimpsed at only from afar. Because of
the GHF and its visionary-for-hire, Galveston’s historical
relevance was now, and would forever remain, both an
integral facet of the city’s economy and a crucial part of
the island’s identity.
This is the 10th monthly segment on the history of The
Strand. Read the first nine chapters of the Strand Chronicles
online at GalvestonMonthly.com and on our Facebook page.
Corner of 24th and Strand looking east, c. 1974
Corner of 24th and Strand looking west, c. 1974
Where Strand ends at 25th, c. 1974
gm
Cynthia and George
mitchell in front of
Blum Building before
restoration
Mitchell photo courtesy of Mitchell Historic Properties
Past & PresenT |
the strand chronicles
34 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
MARCH 2017