Storied Residents of 1317 24th Street

By Kathleen Maca
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The two-story home at 1317 24th Street has been home to a colorful tapestry of businessmen, educators, a person in the medical field, and a man of faith. Each of their families made an impact on the community uniquely. Harry Smith Spangler (1864-1902) came to Texas from Maryland in 1882 at 18 after his mother passed away. His father had died before he was born, so the young man followed the promise of opportunity in the Lone Star State.

 He earned a living with various railway jobs, until obtaining a position with the newly incorporated Gulf and Inter-State Railway of Texas in 1894. Spangler held various positions with the company over the following years including traveling auditor, secretary, and eventually general manager of the railway. 

 In 1899 at the age of 35, he married Paris, Texas native Sallie O. Fowler (1863-1949) and hired well-known architect Charles W. Bulger (1851-1922) to design a home for them at 1317 24th Street in the fashionable Silk Stocking District. 

 The two-story Queen Anne residence had six rooms off two hallways, one bathroom, five closets, two fireplaces, and gas pipes for lighting. The façade of the home presented off-set breaks creating a depth to the design which was adorned with the eye-catching wooden ornamentation that was Bulger’s trademark. 

 Behind the main structure, the property had a chicken house, a one-story carriage shed, and a two-story building that housed a stable on the ground floor with servants’ quarters above.

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 Spangler, an entrepreneur at heart, soon became president of the Spangler Oil Company of Beaumont in addition to his duties with the railway. 

 The home sustained minimal damage during the 1900 Storm but was repaired within 10 days, including the replacement of the original slate roof. 

 The hurricane did inflict major damage on the railway Spangler worked for, destroying the tracks between Port Bolivar and High Island and trapping the passenger train near Port Bolivar. 

 As the railway’s general manager, Spangler made a tour of the damage by horseback, covering about 40 miles over several days. By the time he returned home, he was suffering from a severe cold and malaria. 

 Upon a doctor’s advice, he went to Maryland for several months to recover. When he returned to Texas, he and Sallie moved to the drier climate of San Antonio to live with family.

 Three years after the storm, in September 1903, the G&I Railway completed repairs to its track and a passenger train was able to leave Beaumont and arrive at Port Bolivar. Unfortunately, Spangler would not live to see the accomplishment, as he passed away in March 1902 from the effects of his dedicated journey to survey the original damage. He was 38 years old, and the couple had no children. 

 His widow Sallie decided to auction off the contents of her Galveston home, including a safe, refrigerator, wooden and enameled brass beds, a hot water boiler, and more. She sold their home in October 1902. 

 Major Edward Hall Bowie (1874-1943), section director for the United States Weather Bureau, purchased the home and lived there with his wife Florence Clara Hatch (1874-1949), and their two daughters. They rented the rear quarters to William Henderson, a bar porter at the Tremont Hotel. 

 The meteorologist would only remain for a year, before moving on to other opportunities with the bureau. He went on to gain national recognition for his observations of the nature of hurricanes, and his books, papers, and presentations on the topic. Bowie was the president of the American Meteorological Society from 1942 to 1943. 

 Dentist Russell W. Markwell (1872-1931) and his wife Bertie M. Livingston (1883-1949) became the third owners of the house in 1905 and lived there with their young daughter and son, and Bertie’s mother Mary Livingston. At that time, they rented the accommodations at the rear of the property to Markwell’s office employee Charles Jackson.

 Placeholder imageMarkwell, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, was a mason, president of the local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and held several offices in the Texas Dental Society.

 Bertie took an interest in horticulture and in 1910 sold orange trees from the backyard of the home, including Satsuma, Washington, naval, and other varieties. 

 After eight years in the home, the Markwells sold it to Galveston native Solomon “Sol” Gustave Levy (1885-1922) and his wife Ella Welsch (1884-1944), who lived in the house with their two daughters.

 The former servants’ quarters provided a home for a series of renters over the next few years, providing an additional income for the family. 

 A traveling salesman for the Galveston Hardware Company, Levy soon opened his own establishment, Levy Hardware Company, at 2212 Mechanic Street. 

 By 1919, however, Levy left the hardware business and went to work for Gustave Feist’s Magnolia Paper Company right across the street. The company sold wrapping paper, paper bags, and toilet paper, and manufactured paper boxes. Within two years, Levy was vice president of the company. 

 Sol died of typhoid fever at the age of 37 in 1922. Ironically, another one-time owner of the home, Russell Markwell, would die of the same disease a few years later. Levy’s wife took him to be interred in her family plot in her hometown of New Orleans. 

 With two young children to support, Ella quickly took in boarders in the main house. Among the first were William Henderson, a clerk at the Texas Company (later known as Texaco), and Joseph W. LeBlanc, an assistant chemist at Southern Beverage Company. 

 Her next tenants were a widow named Bertha T. Miller, a clerk at the Mexican Telegraph Company, and two teachers at the Alamo school - Ellen Hughes, and Medora King and Medora’s husband, Alvin, who was a bookkeeper.

 The enterprise was profitable enough that Ella could afford to make some home repairs, paint and paper the rooms, and have hardwood floors installed in 1925, before selling the home in December of that year for $6,500. 

 It’s possible that the new owner, Elbridge Gerrie Littlejohn, Jr. (1862-1935), and his wife Mary Helen Cullens (1864-1951), found out about the house through the teacher tenants, as he was the superintendent of public schools and a former principal at the Alamo school for 34 years. 

 He also taught Sunday school, one class of which was attended by a young lady from Georgia who was visiting her sister in Galveston. That woman - Mary Helen - would become his wife. 

 The couple had four children, three daughters, and one son, all successful in their own right. Two of their daughters inherited musical talents from their mother. Elfleda was at one time the head of the music department at the University of Texas, and Sarah graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music.

 Littlejohn was a highly respected educational leader on the island. When he was principal of Alamo, he increased the holding of the school library and returned to campus one evening each week to read aloud to children during a story hour. He also organized the first Mother’s Club in the state in the years before parent-teacher associations existed. 

 In addition to his 48-year association with Galveston schools, Littlejohn was a member and secretary of the Lyceum, which revived the city library and later merged with the Rosenberg Library. He also served as director of the Galveston Red Cross, chairman of the Junior Red Cross Committee and served on the faculty of the summer sessions of the University of Texas for 17 years. 

 The educator had a special love of history and served as secretary of the Texas Historical Society for 30 years. That interest resulted in his authorship of several books, including San Jacinto Day and Other Texas Holidays, Child Life of the Southern Hero Albert Sidney Johnston, and Texas History, Stories for Children and Geography of Texas which was adopted as a state text. 

 The Littlejohns added a sleeping porch to their home in 1927 and updated the bathroom fixtures in 1928. 

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 They often entertained and welcomed an interesting variety of guests. A reporter once noted, “It is a pleasure to be invited to Mr. and Mrs. Littlejohn's well-ordered home. Open-mindedness, a charitable attitude toward those differing with them, humor and contagious laughter, a broad interest in the world's happenings, and interest in their guests, cause each guest to forget the trivialities of the world and to emerge feeling that he has met genuine people who understand and appreciate him.” 

 Mary Helen remained in the house for seven years after her husband’s passing in 1935. She sold her beloved home to Rabbi Louis Feigon (1904-1987) and his wife, New Orleans native Ethel Goldberg (1910-1997), in January 1942 for $4,750. 

 Feigon moved to Galveston in December 1930 to merge two separate congregations, comprised of Austrian, German, Russian, and Polish Jews, into one shul. Though he was only in his 20s, the young Ukrainian native rabbi negotiated the process successfully and he and his congregation raised $40,000 to build their new Beth Jacob synagogue on Avenue K despite the challenges of the Great Depression.

 Because of their involvement in the community, the Feigons and their three children continued the home’s tradition as a welcoming place, hosting open houses, celebrations, and meetings. Ethel, the daughter of a rabbi herself, was known for her dynamic personality. 

When the Texas City Disaster occurred in 1947, killing over 550 people, Feigon was called to be one of the clergy members of different faiths to deliver the eulogy at the mass burial service for 63 unidentified victims. 

 He was a popular speaker across the state and was elected president of the Kallah of Texas Rabbis in 1951. 

 After almost 28 years of service, the rabbi retired in July 1959. His family remained in the home on 24th Street until the couple sold it to the Galicia family in 1970 and moved to Houston. 

 A single home rarely incorporates the stories of such a variety of individuals and professions that had an impact on a local community and beyond. This lovely Queen Anne stands to one side of 24th Street, waiting for its next chapter.