2010-04-30 / Community News

“Raise The Roof” Fundraiser for Island Icon Bishop’s Palace Galveston’s Top Historic Attraction Needs Major Renovation

Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas will host a May 15 gala reception to raise matching funds for a new roof on the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, Galveston’s top historic attraction and one of the nation’s best known Victorian mansions.

Bishop’s Palace is managed by Galveston Historical Foundation, which has procured a $371,600 matching grant for work on the famed stone mansion at Broadway and 14th Street.

Reservations for the fundraiser are available from GHF at 409- 765-7834. Sponsor levels are named after the structure’s roof features, such as tiles, gables, dormers, cornices and spires. Sponsorships range from an individual “Tile” level at $125 to a “Turret” $10,000 level, which includes 16 reservations. The reception is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, May 15, at Bishop’s Palace, 1402 Broadway. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Musical entertainment will be provided. Dress is cocktail attire.

“The Bishop’s Palace is one of the most important Victorian buildings in the country and Galveston is fortunate to have it,” said Thomas, who worked on arrangements that resulted in GHF taking over management of the palace from the Galveston- Houston Catholic Archdiocese in 2007. “Every ticket we sell for this event will be matched 100 percent by grant money. I urge all Texans to support this fundraising effort to preserve one of the state’s greatest cultural icons.”

GHF Executive Director Dwayne Jones said Thomas’s help in the management change was invaluable.

“Mayor Thomas recognized the importance of this site to the economy and architecture of Galveston,” Jones said. “That vision led us through our early discussions with the leadership of the Archdiocese and brought us to a suitable working partnership.”

The Palace is the island’s number one historic attraction and deserves the finest care and historic interpretation, Jones said. Keeping it open for everyone to enjoy it is one of GHF’s major goals, he said.

“The mayor is the leading proponent for the restoration of the Bishop’s Palace,” Jones said. “Without her determined vision and commitment, the foundation would not be managing the site and working to raise the funds for a restoration.”

The 1892 Bishop’s Palace roof has never been replaced. It includes nine different styles of 1880s tiles made in Baltimore and shipped to Galveston in schooners. Once the funds are raised, the tiles will be replaced, along with some decorative ornamentation that has been removed from the roof for safekeeping over the years.

The Bishop’s Palace, also known as the Gresham House, was built from 1887 to 1892 for Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife, Josephine. The couple had nine children. The house was designed by Nicholas Clayton, considered the premiere architect in Galveston’s history. The house is a National Historic Landmark and is considered by architectural historians to be one of the most important examples of Victorian architecture in the nation.

Gresham was an attorney and entrepreneur who came to Galveston from Virginia following his service in the Civil War. He was a founder of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad, eventually working to bring about the merger of the Santa Fe with the Atchison and Topeka Railroad.

Under an agreement reached in 2007, the Catholic archdiocese retained ownership of the Bishop’s Palace, which has operated as a museum since 1963. In 2004, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released a study that identified more than $5 million in repairs needed. The roof was listed as one of the most immediate needs.

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