Still standing: Galveston's jewel, the Hotel Galvez, defies the ages
She stands like a sentinel watching over the island, daring the sea to take her on. The sea has tried before, but in each case, this sturdy lady has faced her down. Known affectionately since the day she opened in 1911 as the "Queen of the Gulf," the Hotel Galvez stands as a monument to the spirit of the town that the Great Storm just a decade before could not destroy.
One of the finest historic landmark inns on the Gulf Coast, the Galvez was built by local community benefactors and business tycoons to entice commerce back to the beach after that 1900 tragedy nearly wiped the island off the face of the earth. Since then, this grand dame of Texas hotels had survived more than eight decades of boom and bust, war and heyday, and had tolerated as many owners as eras. By the end of last century, she was in need of a well-deserved makeover. Current owners and local preservationists George and Cynthia Mitchell saw to it, and in the early 1990s began a five-year, million dollar renovation that invigorated the old girl, placing her again in the limelight of her own history.
Rows of royal palms line the circular drive, affording guests a grand first impression. Inside the lobby, the understated elegance of sturdy mahogany beams and the ceiling's meticulous blue and gold-leaf complement a stunning and intricate symmetry created by the loggia's sweeping arches, proving that comfort and opulence can happily coexist. Despite being loaded with modern amenities, all 224 guest rooms and eight suites reflect this same attention to detail and high regard for historical integrity.
Outdoors, the pool oasis, complete with swim-up bar and tropical gardens, is a study in design acuity. The gentle turns of the water's edge follow the sequence of bay windows that provide Gulf views for the guests relaxing in the sprawling, curvaceous indoor Veranda. The split-level nature of the grounds provides shelter and solace from the outside world. Enjoying the calm behind a reassuring fortress of brilliant cream stucco arches capped with the same Spanish tile and dark wood lattice as the main body of the hotel, it's easy to forget that the traffic of the seawall buzzes just on the other side. An open upper deck with rows of comfy Victorian-styled wicker porch chairs offers a gorgeous view of the Gulf, again, with all signs of the bustle outside strategically and magically obscured.
To cap it all off, the attentive and friendly staff from the firecracker concierge and front desk clerks to the charming porters and waitrons manages to exceed most standards of hospitality while making everyone feel right at home. While it's wonderful to enjoy the benefit of such top-notch service, it's even more heartening to sit back and observe how consistently and democratically it is lavished upon all guests.
To say that the Hotel Galvez recalls the gentility, the rhythm, the grace of bygone eras would miss the point. For what this majestic landmark is and what she conveys is positively timeless.
Hotel Galvez, 2024 Seawall Blvd., 409/765-7721. www.galveston.com/accom/galvez.html .