Every now and then the Mister and I figure that our aging minds need some educating. While our younger son played in a disc golf tournament last Saturday in Hitchcock, we decided to drive the 15 miles or so to Galveston.
Our destination (after lunch at Gaido’s)? The Bishop’s Palace. Which I had never heard of (could be because I bat for a different religious team) but had intrigued the Mister when he drove past it.
We got there just in time for the second of only two guided tours each day (there are self-guided audio tours). Definitely a sign to fork over $20 and learn all about the well-perserved house.
History buffs that we are, the Mister and I savored every word and description from our excellent tour guide. The house originally was built by Colonel Walter Gresham and designed by Nicholas Clayton from 1886 to 1892. Gresham and his wife, Josephine (a talented, self-taught artist), raised six of their seven surviving children in the 21,000-square-foot estate.
I imagined how much fun those kids—especially the four boys—had running all over the ornate, handmade staircases. Five stories (there’s a rare basement that housed a kitchen; we didn’t see the top two floors) made for a lot of hiding places!
The house cost a princely sum of $250,000 to build. To raise those funds, Gresham, a lawyer, invested in the railroad . . . successfully, fortunately for his large family. Almost the entire place is original, including some furniture and knick-knacks that the Gresham family donated back. The wood floors are in amazing condition! Hurricane damage has been limited to water in the basement and glass breakage.
The most-stunning part of the house were the stained glass windows. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside . . . very frustrating for yours truly.
Gresham died in 1920, and his widow went to live with a daughter’s family in Washington, D.C. The house languished on the market for three years until the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston bought it for about $40,000. Being across from Sacred Heart Church, it was a logical residence for Bishop Christopher E. Byrne, who added a gorgeous stained glass window and a private chapel.
Byrne was the last person to live in the stately manor. He died in 1950. In 1963, the diocese turned the building into a museum with tours.
One of which the Mister and I were fortunate enough to go on! If you like history and/or architecture, you won’t be disappointed in the Bishop’s Palace.