Galveston's New Manor House

By Kathleen Maca
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Visitors to Galveston can soon claim to be escaping to their favorite “manor” on Galveston Island. Since retiring several years ago, British expat Graham George—a photographer and co-owner of The Studio Experience Gallery—has been busier than when he worked in environmental solutions and control. That’s partly because of his love of history and enthusiasm to tackle large projects, like the restoration of

The inn’s floorplan has been restored to incorporate the original section of the structure a

the historic Edward T. Austin Home, now known as The George Manor, a charming boutique inn at 1502 Market Street, Galveston. nd the “newer” 1867 addition into one home. The new arrangement offers eight suites: four in the main house and four in outbuildings.

The Edward T. Austin Suite, which includes two bedrooms and a sitting room, is situated in the original living quarters of the home’s most famous former owner. Seven other suites include the spacious White Suite (or Honeymoon Suite) with both a claw foot tub and shower; the lovely corner Gray Suite; and the Kaiserhof Suite named for one of Germany’s grand hotels.

George maintains one of the upstairs suites in the original portion of the home, which he likes to refer to as the “West Wing,” for his personal use. It is decorated with artwork by his late wife. The artwork of his daughter, Stephanie George, is displayed in many of the other guest rooms.

The main house is the star attraction of the property, with its columned porticoes and scrolled detail work. The interior is just as intriguing.

Upon entering the front hall and dining room, visitors will see original frescoes that date back to the mid-1800s. Saved from destruction by a previous owner, George has gone to lengths to ensure their inclusion in the current design. “I had one of my artists come in from our gallery to restore them,” he explains.

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“Above the ceiling there are other paintings in the dining room and entranceway that somewhere down the road will be renovated. I had a suspended ceiling installed to protect them until that time.”

Unique back-to-back fireplaces ornament the dining room and front parlor where, in generations past, the Austins—cousin of Stephen F. Austin, known as the “Father of Texas”—would have entertained family and friends. The marble mantle is adorned with painstakingly carved cherubs and scrollwork.

The front parlor has been reimagined as a bar area for guests and their friends, and over-sized leather chairs flank a chess set staged with playing pieces modeled after Union and Confederate soldiers. “It’s a big part of Galveston history,” says George.

An original light fixture hangs over the staircase with cherubs, echoing the design of the fireplace surround.

“We have some artifacts that we’ve discovered during the renovations, including the hitching post that dates back to the mid-1800s,” he says. He plans on framing documents, photos and other items from the manor’s past along the main stairwell of the home for guests to enjoy.

The pandemic slowed progress of the home’s restoration, and George admits he had hoped it would be finished sooner. “Last year, with Covid and everything, we had about a $300,000 loss.” He is anxious to share this special property with visitors and the community.

When he purchased the property three years ago, the main home was occupied by a doctor and the outbuildings were used as rental apartments, but they were in poor condition.

“They were slum apartments,” George shares, as he shakes his head. “They were renting these out for $650 a month.”

No one visiting these rooms alongside the main house today would guess that part of their past. The four suites, one each upstairs and down in the two structures, have been meticulously renovated to offer large bedrooms, baths, full kitchens and living areas.

These rooms will be operated as Airbnb’s, although, George adds, “We do extend some (main house) amenities to the people staying in those quarters.”

“The Simpson family owned the property for 60 years, and can be credited with saving it from being demolished,” explains George.

Guests will be able to enjoy a full-service restaurant and bar, with European cuisine created by Chef Michael de Beyer. In addition to permanent menu options, the chef will offer new culinary themes each month.

ManorThe owner elaborates, “He is from Germany and has been a chef for 39 years. We used to own a restaurant on Lake Conroe called Kaiserhof.”

“The restaurant is purely for our guests and their friends,” clarifies George. “Eventually, we’ll open that to the public.” He also envisions special events that will delights locals, such as afternoon teas.

Regardless of which area they book, overnight visitors at The George Manor receive a commemorative George Manor T-shirt, and chocolates by the bed.

The unusually large front lawn of the plantation style home also offers a space for outdoor events, and the owner has installed bathrooms with outside access for these occasions. “I’ve bought two large tents, and we can seat about 150 people on the lawn at tables. I also want to do a couple of art fairs each year, with a dozen booths on the lawn.”

George hired artist James Phillips to create one of his popular tree sculptures on the grounds. “He’s so talented,” enthuses George. The innkeeper chose the subject of Abraham Lincoln to tie into Galveston’s association with the history of Juneteenth.

ManorPlans are being made to add a water feature and furniture on the grounds. “We’re going to make sitting groups,” he says as he gestures to different areas of the large property’s garden.

Annual celebrations for the concrete ship SS Selma celebrations will continue to be held on site, as they have in the past.

George is also the owner of the 1915 Model Dairy building at 2327 Winnie, and he has plans turn it into a multi-use property that includes a 6,000-square-foot art gallery where up to 40 artists will be able to show their work. Plans include gated parking on site for the convenience of his manor guests who desire extended parking for cruises.

“I bought a 1928 Model A suburban that is currently being restored,” he adds, “and it will run guests around from here. They’ve rebuilt the engine—we just need to do some interior work on it. I figure, realistically, by Christmas it will be on the road.”

Although visitors may not suspect it when they hear his charming British accent, George has family ties to Texas dating back to the Alamo. A distant relative, James George, owned a set of oxen that were pressed into service to haul the famous Gonzales “Come and Take It” cannon. He then rode to the Alamo with the relief force from Gonzales, arriving five days prior to his demise in the Battle of the Alamo.

The present-day George, who has lived on Tiki Island for just over four years and in Texas for more than three decades, actively volunteers in the community. He donates his time as an emergency manager coordinator for the island. “I like to give back,” he shares with a smile.

Certainly, one of the greatest gifts he is currently providing to the island is bringing back life and people to this grand home.

To find out more details about The George Manor email info@thegeorgemanor.comor visit www.thegeorgemanor.com.

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