I have begun writing a new book, a western historical time travel romance. Untitled as of yet, the story takes place in the 1890s on Galveston Island, mainly in the fabulous Tremont House Hotel.
The Tremont House has been called the Crown Jewel of Texas. Currently in its third incarnation, the original hotel opened its doors on San Jacinto Day in 1839. Although only a two-story building, it was the largest hotel in Texas. The Tremont attracted guests from around the country and the world. (Keep in mind that Galveston the premier entry point into Texas and much of the South at the time.)
Wealthy Victorians attended grand balls at the Tremont, Sam Houston gave his last public speech there, and cotton merchants discussed deals. Sioux chiefs sampled southern cooking, six American presidents and foreign ministers from France and England visited. During the Civil War, soldiers from the North and South stayed there at different periods.
Tragedy struck in June 1865 when fire raged through the Strand District for days, destroying several city blocks, including the Tremont. The renown landmark lay in ruins for over five years. At that point some of the island's business leaders combined to build a new hotel in the same location. They hired local architect Fred S. Steward to design the building, but only two floors of the planned four stories were completed before the investors backed out. The structure stood uncompleted until four years later when a new group of owners engaged well known architect Nicholas Clayton to finish the job. It was said that over 2 million bricks were required for the massive, upscale hotel.
|color postcard of 2nd Tremont House; courtesy Rosenberg Library Museum
The second Tremont House opened in 1877. Advertised as the city's only first-class hotel, it featured ornate architecture, lavish furnishings and even a steam-powered elevator. Political dignitaries, celebrities, military leaders and business kingpins were among its patrons.
|Tremont House main lobby; courtesy Rosenberg Library Museum
The terrible 1900 hurricane that killed over 6,000 souls sent desperate people running for their lives to the top floor of the majestic hotel. Sadly, the second Tremont began to decline by the 1920s. It was outdated; guests desired more modern amenities offered by newer hotels such as the nearby Jean Lafitte. On November 1, 1928, the Tremont closed its doors, and the building was torn down.
Just before it's demolition, the Houston Chronicle wrote: "What was formerly the pride of the South has been content to drowse in the shade, dreaming after the manner of old things." The property sat vacant for many years.
|Third Tremont House, a Wyndham Grand Hotel
However, the legendary hotel would be reborn in 1985 in a different location, when visionaries George and Cynthia Mitchell acquired the lavish Leon & H. Blum Building and turned it into the third Tremont House. Once the South's leading wholesale dry goods concern, the 1879 building embodies the spirit and elegance of the hotel's earlier incarnations. It stands in the revitalized Strand National Historic Landmark District, surrounded by shops, galleries, restaurants, lofts, offices and museums illustrating the island's vibrant, tumultuous history.
The next time hubby and I visit Galveston, you can bet we will be staying at the Tremont House! For now, I'm having fun plotting my characters' exploits at the second Tremont.