Page 48 - May2017

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Its retail offerings included many popular stores and
brands of the time, including a Barefoot Iguana, Capezio
Factory Direct, Mikasa Factory Store, New York Dress
Outlet, Prestige Fragrance & Cosmetics, and Zarina’s.
It was also home to a popular confectionery named
Sa’Sparilla, and served as the temporary home for the
Strand Street Theatre for their 1991 season, while their
new location was being renovated one block away.
Meanwhile, across the street at 2222-2228 Strand in the
Dargan & Tobyn building, also known as the J.S. Brown
Hardware Co. building or the C&C Grocery, Mitchell was
continuing his vision of bringing discount shopping to
downtown and was already hard at work on yet another
million dollar restoration of the 23,000 square-foot
structure. Instead of several smaller spaces like the
Square, Mitchell outfitted the first floor with two 3,500
square-foot spaces for larger outlet stores. In September
of 1991, a Van Heusen and Bass Shoe outlet made their
premieres.
In 1993, a television film
Gambler Five, Playing for
Keeps
, starring Kenny Rogers and Dixie Carter, was
filming in Galveston, and they built one of the sets on
the 3
rd
floor of the Merchants Mutual Building at 2317
Strand. At the same time, just across the street on the
northwest corner of 23
rd
Street, George Mitchell was
at it again, this time converting the parking lot for his
Wentletrap Restaurant located in the League Building on
the opposite corner.
Saengerfest Park was named after a German music
festival, an homage to Mitchell’s heritage. The lot was
paved with gorgeous red brick, reminiscent of the
street’s early years, and a stage was built on the far
west side of the property. Encased by historic buildings
on two sides, it created a versatile gathering space. On
July 10, 1994, the park hosted its very first concert and
took a monumental step in establishing Galveston’s rich
tradition of live music that is still alive today.
Mardi Gras celebrations continued to grow throughout
the 1990s, getting bigger, brighter, and brassier with
every passing year. For each annual celebration a theme
was declared as it was in the 19
th
century, and Mitchell
saw to it that the entire Strand Historical District was
outfitted appropriately, even going so far as to decorate
the street lamps and install themed street signs. But
Mitchell knew that Mardi Gras was much more than a
festival, it was an identity, and it would take a lot more
than Paper Mache two weeks out of the year to re-brand
Galveston as an authentic Carnival city.
Thus he proceeded to immortalize the celebration and
put the green, gold, and purple on view all year round
with the installation of the Mardi Gras Museum on the
3
rd
floor of Old Galveston Square. It opened on the first
night of the 1994 Mardi Gras; the theme was Greece and
George Mitchell had been named King of the Krewe of
Momus.
He led the inaugural parade through downtown and ended at
Old Galveston Square for the museum’s grand opening. The event
included an art opening on exhibit throughout the Square and a
book signing of
The Gods of Greece
by Arianna Huffington, who
would go on to start the
Huffington Post
.
The October 1994 edition of
Texas Highways
magazine featured
a lengthy, 12-page spread on Galveston’s Strand that highlighted
many of the business owners who had watched the street’s growth
Merchants Mutual Building
Dickens on the Strand
Past & Present |
the strand Chronicles
48 |
GALVESTON MONTHLY |
MAY 2017