Monday, March 31, 2014

Galveston's Silk Stocking District - 2

As we continued our walking tour of The Silk Stocking District in Galveston with the Self-Guided Walking Tour brochure in hand, I thought about the year 1900.

"On September 8, 1900, a hurricane struck Galveston. Winds estimated at 140 mph swept over the island, leaving devastation in their wake. After the storm surge of 15.7 feet subsided, Galvestonians left their shelters to find 6,000 of the city's 37,000 residents dead and more than 3,600 buildings totally destroyed.

"The 1900 Storm is still considered to be the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history" (

What I recalled from references to the Great Storm was that the city was almost totally destroyed. Given the number of buildings that had been destroyed, I was surprised to note how many of the homes in one of the city's historic districts--the Silk Stocking District--were built before 1900, thus surviving the hurricane.

"The Silk Stocking District was formed in April, 1975, and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in May, 1996. The neighborhood includes some of Galveston’s best examples of the Queen Anne style. Several homes within the district, because of their architectural and historical significance, have National Register status.

"Although no record confirms the historic name of the Silk Stocking District, tradition ascribes this name to the neighborhood’s reputation as the home of Galveston’s prosperous families.

"The District boasts a varied collection of historic homes that reflect development from the Civil War through World War II. Roughly composed of fourteen blocks, the District presents some of the best and affordable historic living Galveston has to offer with palm- and oak-lined streets, a trolley line, and a varied collection of stately manors, Victorian homesteads, and charming cottages. The District reflects a diverse, welcoming community dedicated to preserving, revitalizing and protecting the District’s historic and community character" (
Queen Anne, c. 1899

Sidewalk bricks

E.R. Cheesborough Home, Queen Anne, c. 1899

Colonial Revival style, c. 1906

Queen Anne, 1899

George Ball Home, c. 1857/1901

The homes were originally one two-story dwelling consisting of a side hall form and rear ell graced by Greek Revival style ornamentation. The home was moved from its original site. The primary portion of the home is on the left, and the rear ell of the former home is on the right.

Raised cottage, c. 1903

Queen Anne, 1899

Two views (above and below)

Colonial Revival, c. 1908

Decorative fence finial

Vernacular gable fronts, c. 1900 (home on the left) and c. 1908 (home on the right)

Prairie School, c. 1927

Bungalow, c. 1915

Cottage, c. 1892

Bungalow, c. 1921

Queen Anne, c. 1905

The three homes shown above and in the two photos below were built in 1905 by Gustav Kahn and are known as the Kahn Speculative Homes. Built in the Queen Anne style, the three homes have varied ornamental details.

Queen Anne, c. 1905

Queen Anne, c. 1905

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dawn on Galveston Island

We had been in our Galveston campsite for about four days before we were able to see the sun rise. On a couple of mornings, the morning fog lasted well into mid-morning; on the other days, the clouds lasted all day. So, on the next two days, we could take advantage of our RV's location--about twenty yards from the shore of the Gulf of Mexico--to record the activity at dawn.

While watching the sky begin to brighten, over my shoulder I could see the lingering full moon over a sand dune.
The crew of this shrimp boat was already hard at work.
Pre-dawn joggers and
dog walkers were also enjoying the fog-free morning.
The only sounds this early were the surf and the gulls. I cannot imagine ever growing tired of this morning duet.

Add to the "music" of this duet, the rapid movement of these shorebirds as they searched for food as each wave stretched onto the shore and I feel blessed to be in the audience of this early morning performance.
A group of task-oriented walkers joined the morning activity. Maybe some prefer the sounds produced by metals being detected to those of Mother Nature.
Then the sun appeared and the morning show began.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Follow Your Nose

We were in Galveston at just about this time last year, and for some reason, our travels frequently took us though the intersection of Market and 14th. “What am I smelling!” Chuck exclaimed on one of these trips. “Boy, that smells good!”

We determined that these smells were coming from a café on the corner—The Original Mexican Café—but time didn’t permit a visit at that time.
But we have never forgotten and made sure that this would be our first Galveston food stop.
“The Original Mexican Café…is as much a testament to the tenacity of Galveston as it is a legend in its own right. Holding the prestige as the oldest Mexican restaurant in Texas, the Original has been in continuous operation since 1916 and has survived and thrived despite numerous ownership changes and a few significant run-ins with Mother Nature. Quality, consistency, and loyal employees have been the keystones for the perpetual success of this unique and truly original café....

“Much of the credit for the staying power of this bold and bright establishment is given to John Bannon, who was the owner and operator from 1987 until 2007. He infused the atmosphere with what can only be described as love and passion, as he was a computer technician and had never before run a Mexican restaurant. But his employees generously offered to him their expertise and experience with the cuisine, and the creation of the menu, much of which still remains, was a collaboration of all of their input. Equal recognition must also be given to the current owner, Nicholas Servos, who has steadily maintained the legacy of consistency and quality for which the Original is so widely known” ( from an article in The Island Guide Magazine).
“The Original has had only three proprietors since Señor Guzman departed. The café's premises, once old and run-down, have been renovated and provide a great deal of Tex-Mex charm and ambiance for the first-time visitor. The predominant colors are a sort of burnt maroon and forest green throughout; small wooden tables and chairs speckle the floor and a few booths line the walls…. As the place sits in a residential area, most patrons come from the surrounding neighborhood. Their presence is marked during peak hours with temporary influxes from the nearby University of Texas Medical Branch and the adjunct hospitals, just a few blocks away—the place is full of scrubs then, wolfing down fajitas, mainly, while the more traditional dishes go untouched” (
“The Original is critically and publicly acclaimed, and it has been featured in Texas Monthly as one of the top 75 Mexican restaurants in the state. It is also a regular recipient of’s Best of Galveston award, chosen by popular vote, and it has been repeatedly recognized by OutSmart magazine. It has also received a Reader’s Choice award from The Daily News” ( from an article in The Island Guide Magazine).
We had only a short wait for a table, and as soon as we were seated received a basket of warm and ultra-thin tortilla chips accompanied by two dishes of red salsa (no need to worry about double dipping) and a dish of warm black bean dip.
Of the two, I vastly preferred the more traditional salsa that was medium in heat (I mean spice) and was made with plenty of both garlic and cilantro. As we were munching, we agreed that we are thin tortilla chip lovers—which is contradicted by our preferring the thicker kettle chips when it comes to potato chips. (Hey, who says that consistency is a virtue?)

It took some time for both of us to make a decision about our food choices. “Their menu is expansive and varied; it includes all of the traditional Mexican favorites like mole and fajitas, along with many delicate spins on the traditional fare, such as the Camarones de Cabo, an explosive take on grilled shrimp, and the Pollo Ranchero, a grilled chicken breast smothered with onions, mushrooms, and Monterrey Jack cheese. They even offer a full vegetarian menu, a unique addition and a favorite among many local patrons. Every item is made fresh, from scratch, and the flavors that emit from their wide assortment of appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees will far exceed the expectations of even the most seasoned aficionado of Latin cuisine…” ( from an article in The Island Guide Magazine).

The day’s special—an enchiladas verde plate—looked interesting.
The menu contained one of my favorite Mexican restaurant dishes—the Cocktail Camarones—in both small and large sizes. But, as I said to Chuck, it wasn’t the smell of the Mexican shrimp cocktail that I found so enticing as we passed in the truck. I knew that I would go away unsatisfied if I didn’t order a more traditional Mexican dish, so ultimately selected the Chicken Mole Enchiladas.
My two enchiladas were filled with moist shredded dark and light meat chicken and generously sauced with a dark mole that hinted of chocolate and chile. The flavors were not as intense as some moles I have eaten, but the balance of sweet to spice was just about perfect. The beans were good—a mix of puree and whole beans—but I have about reached my limit on refried beans. On the other hand, the rice was very very good. Each grain was separate and it packed a degree of mild spice. I couldn’t determine whether the small green bits were bell pepper or jalapeno but the heat came from somewhere.

“Boy, is this spicy!” was Chuck’s first reaction to his first bite of Shrimp Diablo. “This is really good!” was his second.
This was a heaping bowl of the same rice that came with my enchiladas topped with about ten shrimp that were so perfectly seasoned and grilled that you would suspect that the cook was a Cajun. And combined with the shrimp were grilled tomato wedges, green bell peppers, and onions.

We finished with an order of sopapillas, which were good, but no competition for those served in some of our favorite restaurants in New Mexico.
Had the sopapillas been just a bit better this would have been a 5.0 Addie lunch but still was delicious enough to earn 4.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Galveston's Silk Stocking District

Since we certainly fit the role of visitors to Galveston Island, the words of Sara G. Stephens served as a special message:

"It’s a personal pet peeve of mine when people announce they’re going to Galveston, when all they really mean is they’re going to the beach. As a devout Galveston Island visitor, this common verbal gaffe grates my editorially sensitive skin, because the tapestry of Galveston is woven with so many colorful experiences beyond the beach—offering sights, sounds, sensations, education, and culture that dip deep inland and extend far outland. Houstonians who trek an hour to the beach can enjoy exponentially higher returns on their efforts by tapping into some of the lesser-known destinations that await them--somewhere off the well-beaten path between seawall and sand.

"Silk Stocking District: Strolling the streets of the Silk Stocking District carries you into the movie set of an epic period piece. An irresistible collection of historic homes built from the Civil War through World War II, this pocket of Galveston rests between 25th Street (west), 23rd Street (east), Avenue P (south), and Avenue K (north). Each home has a story as provocative as the house is breathtaking.

"Among the residences are several former brothels and a former retirement home for women.
Renaissance Revival, c. 1895
Letitia Rosenberg Home for Aged Women

This home was built as a place to care for aged women who could not properly care for themselves. It operated in this structure until 1970.
"One home became the Rosenberg library. If nothing inspires you more than a beautiful manifestation of Queen Anne-style architecture, the Silk Stocking District will make your day, your week, your year. You might even be inspired to buy one of the many similar, unrestored houses that tempt the imaginative eye only a few blocks away" (

In the course of our walk around the 416-home neighborhood, we saw many homes that inspired us--but the inspiration was directed to taking photographs, not talking to realtors.

The Self-Guided Walking Tour of The Silk Stocking National Historic District provided us with some limited information about the architectural style of the homes on the tour.
Colonial Revival, c. 1925

Home with vernacular gable front, c. 1908

Mediterranean, c. 1924

Classical Revival, c. 1910

Queen Anne, c. 1889

Queen Anne, c. 1892

Prairie School, c. 1914

Mission Revival, c. 1925

Queen Anne, c. 1899

Queen Anne, c. 1899

Queen Anne, c. 1899

Queen Anne, c. 1899

Queen Anne, c. 1903

Queen Anne, c. 1899

Classic Revival, c. 1914

Greek Revival, c. 1850

Vernacular gable front, c. 1908

Before we began our walking tour, we talked to the folks in the Visitor Center about taking photos of the homes on the tour. They assured us that the residents were pleased to have people interested in photographing their historic homes.

At this home on 24th Street, we met the owner who also was a previous President of the neighborhood homeowners association (maybe The Silk Stocking National Historic District Neighborhood Association). He was working on his bed of rose bushes.
Vernacular gable front, c. 1908

He was quite knowledgeable about growing roses. I learned that garlic planted in the rose bed exudes a biochemical that is a repellent to aphids, a common rose problem.

A pretty interesting start to our tour of the District.