The Sealy Mansion at 5310 Seawall

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Before the Rainforest Café - a jungle themed restaurant and tourist attraction - was built at 5310 Seawall, a Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion once stood proudly for over 70 years at the same location.

 The home belonged to George Sealy II (1880-1944), a hard-working and successful businessman. One of eight children born in Galveston to George and Magnolia Willis Sealy, he was a graduate of Ball High School and Princeton University. 

 Sealy did not marry until late in life and when he did it was to a much younger woman. On November 10, 1923, Sealy married twenty-two-year-old Eugenia Polk Taylor (1901-1980). The couple had three children born between 1925 and 1929.

 For his new home on the seawall, Sealy decided to replicate the Mediterranean charm of his previous home (known today as Stewart Mansion) but on a much grander scale. In 1931, he hired well-known architect and native Texan Cameron Fairchild for the job. His firm Cameron Fairchild & Associates worked primarily in Houston and Galveston. 

 A refreshing change from some of the more ostentatious mansions on the island at the time, the Sealy’s new home featured a crisp, white interior with red tiled floors and staircase, wrought iron railings, high ceilings, and open spaces. The design was equally appropriate for the family’s opulent parties as well as casual gatherings with friends and everyday family life with small children. 

 Surrounded by palm trees, the exterior of the mansion featured classical Mediterranean-inspired elements of arched windows and doorways, whitewashed stucco finishes, heavy stone balustrade fences, and a red-tiled roof. 

 A red-tiled front porch stretched out to steps leading to an expansive front lawn facing the seawall, and a simple brick path led to the street. 

 George Sealy II died on November 4, 1944, as a result of contracting pneumonia while attending a meeting in New York and enrolling his son George Sealy III in Princeton University. His wife Eugene soon moved to San Antonio to be closer to her parents. 

 The Sealy mansion belonged to a series of owners after leaving the family holdings. In the early 1980s it was used as the El Mina Shrine Temple, and was later subdivided in the Sweetwater Condominiums. 

 The front lawn of the seawall home sparkled with 30,000 blue lights on a 41-foot spruce Christmas tree in November 2001 to celebrate the coming holidays. Unfortunately, the home itself would not last long enough to see Christmas. 

 In 2001, the Galveston Historical Foundation asked the property’s new owner Tilman Fertitta, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Landry’s Restaurants, not to demolish the 70-year-old mansion. Unfortunately, the land held more value as commercial property at the time than the home itself. 

According to the Galveston Daily News, Fertitta described the villa as “four plaster walls and a red roof.” Moving the home was briefly discussed, but the undertaking was deemed to be too expensive. 

 On December 20, 2001, the home was demolished to make way for the Rainforest Café that opened in January 2003. The Sealy family still plays an important role on the island both in business and philanthropy.