Echoes of Time: The Foster House Chronicles

Exploring the lives of those who have called the 1896 Foster House at 3523 Avenue P home

By Kathleen Maca
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On the south side of Avenue P, between 35th and 37th streets, sits a small house built in July 1896 that looks unlike any other on the island. 

 The home was built for James Wilson Foster (1854-1919) from Nashville, Tennessee and his wife Pauline S. Adoue (1861-1908).

 Pauline came to Galveston from New Orleans in 1881 with her mother Marie Riondel Adoue, an immigrant from France, and brother Robert Paul Marius Adoue. 

 Marie found work at the millinery of Cecile Gautier whose shop was located at 170 East Market Street. Her brother Robert was a clerk at Levy & Weiss Clothing located at 119 Market Street. By early 1882, Pauline found employment as a stenographer for the Bradstreet Commercial Agency on The Strand. 

 James arrived on the island in 1884 and began a career as the chief claims clerk for Bradstreet, where he met Pauline. 

 In early 1888, James received an offer to work for the Bradstreet office in Dallas. He and Pauline married on April 1 of that year. Their wedding consisted of a small ceremony performed by the Reverend Father Antoine Truchard of St. Mary’s Cathedral, at the home of a friend, after which they left on the evening train for Dallas. 

 They returned to Galveston three years later in 1891, at which time James began to work at the GH & H Freight Depot where his brother-in-law was employed. The depot building at 325 33rd Street, which still exists, recently received landmark status. 

 Pauline’s brother Robert lived with their mother Marie until he married and moved into his own house. Upon the Fosters' return to the island, Marie moved in with them at their home at 2709 Broadway. 

 Five years after they returned, the couple purchased land on an outlot of Samuel May Williams’s original homestead. They commissioned architect Charles W. Bulger (1851-1922) to design their two-story home on Avenue P. 

Jean Lafitte 


Foster’s decision to build the home may have been influenced by the untimely death of Pauline’s 31-year-old brother (as well as his four-month-old son) three months before, which meant that her mother Marie would reside with them for the rest of her life. 

 That same year Bulger designed the William and Adele Skinner House at 1318 Sealy, and the E. S. Levy Building (now known as the National Artist Lofts) on Market Street. He continued to design both residences and public buildings in Galveston until he relocated to Dallas in 1904. 

 A Silent Witness to Countless Lives According to research by Galveston Historical Foundation’s Jamie Durham, to earn the home’s city landmark status, materials and labor to build the home cost an estimated $2,000. 

 The insurance record of the home reveals that it had a slate roof, two halls, two fireplaces, six papered rooms, two bathrooms, one closet, and one pantry. 

 The Fosters lived at the house along with Pauline’s mother and did not have any children. 

 The Avenue P home escaped major damage during the 1900 Storm, though debris near the home needed to be removed and the slate roof repaired with shingles. A brick chimney also broke off above the roof.

 Pauline passed away in February 1908 at the age of 47, and James and his mother-in-law remained together in the home. 

 Originally lit by oil and then updated to gas, the house had electric power installed a few years afterward. James was a 32nd-degree mason who was well acquainted with prominent citizens in the community. He died of a stroke after leaving his office at the Galveston Terminal Company one evening in 1919, just days after what would have been the couple’s 31st wedding anniversary. They are both buried at Lakeview Cemetery. 

 Marie resided in the home until 1926 when she was declared mentally incompetent by the county court. At that time her estate’s guardian, T. J. Holbrook, sold the home to A. W. Stump for $3,000 cash.

 The property changed hands two more times before being purchased by Alice E. Rutledge Munro (1877-1967) in September 1932. She became the longest resident of the home to date. 

 Alice lived there with her husband, John C. Munro (1864-1938), a retired construction contractor and former industrial agent for the American Refrigeration Company in New Jersey, along with their daughter Della (1901-1985). 

 In July 1938, John passed away at home, and when Alice died almost 30 years later, Della became the sole owner. 

Placeholder image Della, a social studies teacher, worked at schools in Dickenson and Galveston including the Goliad School and Lovenberg Junior High School. She remained at the Avenue P address until she died in 1985. 

 After several changes of ownership, the house now belongs to Will Wright of the Galveston Historical Foundation and his wife, Dr. Shannon Guillot-Wright, who works at UT Health. They live there with their son Dean. 

 Much of the original design of the residence remains intact, including the unusual and intricate woodwork on the exterior.

 “I feel like the look on the outside bridges time periods a bit,” muses Will. “A friend once called it a Victorian Craftsman. You can kind of see one time period of architecture going into another.” 

 “We inherited the paint color palette when we bought it and kept it when we repainted it last year. They aren’t colors that I would normally gravitate to, but the palette feels familiar to me, and I think it works with the house. The intricacies on the exterior help to make it a unique and special house.” 

 When asked about the storage space referred to in the home’s documentation, he confirms that it’s still true. “We have a tiny attic with a window and one closet, but like [it is] with many old homes, storage space is extremely limited.” 

 “Inside is pretty much all there,” Will said. “We didn’t change anything when we purchased it. The chimney of the fireplace that got knocked off in the early 1900s was never replaced, but we still have the fireplace downstairs. Records say that there were originally two fireplaces in the house, but there’s no sign of the one that would have been upstairs.” 

 Shannon made some cosmetic and functional updates to the kitchen six years ago, but it still retains much of its original character. “When we bought the house, it had a Chambers oven in the kitchen,” Will said, “and I love it and use it every day.” 

 Though Victorian-era homes often incorporate asymmetrical features, the Foster Home has an especially distinctive floor plan that seems to be original.

 “Downstairs the rooms all have strange angles. They are off an angled hallway, so the room shapes are based on that,” Will said. 

“Upstairs is a little bit of the same way. You go down a hallway and there’s an angle that goes into the bathroom that throws an angle into the other rooms. There are two bedrooms upstairs and a bathroom with a landing that is kind of a lounge area and the roofline in that area invades the space in a funky and fun way.” 

 “It’s very interesting. There’s nothing that feels uniform about it but it doesn’t feel off-kilter, either. Dwayne [Jones, Executive Director of GHF] noticed it the first time he came over, and commented on the fact that none of the rooms were square. I hadn’t even noticed before that.” 

 Will says his favorite thing about living in the historic home is “the quality of it. Everything is purposeful. I like the oddness, the way the house feels and sounds. We feel [as though] it isn’t really our house. It has belonged to a lot of people, and we’re stewards of it for now. We’ve always liked being in old houses, but this one is special to me.” 

 The home also has an as-yet-undiscovered secret.

 “The lovely woman we bought the house from told us she left something in the house for us but would never tell us what it was. I keep waiting to see if we find something hidden somewhere. She lived there for ages. She was back in Galveston a month or so ago. It was the first time she’d been back since she sold it and moved and came to take a look at the house. It was emotional for her to see it, because she loved the house, too.”

 The Wright family is making their own memories in the home, embracing its character and history.

 “It’s fun to hear the sounds in that house. When [Shannon] found out she was pregnant, I woke up in the middle of the night because I heard her running down the stairs. Years later, I hear footsteps running down the stairs and it’s my son. I like memories of how the house sounds. It’s special.”

 “We love the house and want to stay there forever. I’m glad it’s ours.”