Page 47 - May2017

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E
nd-of-the-century Strand
was a vibrant place, teeming
with art and activity, bustling
with boisterous shoppers and
seekers of Island treasures, an experience
sweetened by nostalgia and saltwater
taffy. Surely George Mitchell stopped,
every once in a while, to admire what
he had created, but more often than not
he was looking for ways to make it even
grander.
In 1990 he commissioned a new Mardi
Gras arch to be built on The Strand to join
the two that still remained from the mid-
80s. The project was originally inspired
by a photograph from 1881 that captured
large archways that were erected over
downtown intersections for the Carnival
season. Mitchell sought to re-create
this tableau with modern designs for his
revival of the Galveston festival in 1986
and invited architects from all over the
nation to participate.
The next year, Old Galveston Square was added to Mitchell’s
historic real estate collection that to date represented an
$80 million investment in the city. His previous projects on
The Strand, which included the restoration of the Thomas
Jefferson League Building, the Hutchings & Sealy Building,
and the Rosenberg Building, had filled in their retail spaces
somewhat organically, but for Old Galveston Square, Mitchell
had a distinct and direct vision for its rehabilitation—an
outlet mall.
He had acquired the property from a tangled web of an
estate left behind by a man named J.R. McConnell when he
killed himself in jail in 1986 after being arrested on several
charges of fraudulent activity. For years McConnell had
entrenched himself in a seemingly endless paper trail of
forged documents, at one point even deliberately setting
ablaze several of his properties for insurance purposes, and it
took several years for a disillusioned network of lenders and
investors to sort through the mess after his death.
Located on the south side of the block of Strand between 22
nd
and 23
rd
Streets, Old Galveston Square was comprised of three
separate 19
th
century buildings that had been fused together.
The 65,000 square-foot building was completely restored and
opened in March of 1991.
The Strand Chronicles
By Kimber Fountain
The Street that Mitchell Built
The 1990s
Old Galveston Square
Thomas Jefferson League Building , home of
Mitchell’s Wentletrap Restaurant until 1999
MAY 2017 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
47