Fort Crockett military housing complex

Galveston Historical Foundation crews are salvaging material from nine privately owned buildings at the Fort Crockett military housing complex, Seawall Boulevard and 45th Street, in Galveston, before they’re demolished.

The Daily News file photo

Salvage operation: Notice all the activity at the Fort Crockett military housing complex, Seawall Boulevard and 45th Street on the island?

Galveston Historical Foundation crews are salvaging material from nine privately owned buildings before they’re demolished.

Preservationists lost a fight to save the old buildings, but the property owners invited them to take some vintage material before demolition happens.

The housing was built in 1939 and is the remnant of a massive military installation dating back to when coastal gun emplacements were important to national security.

The foundation earlier this month removed doors and door trim, cabinetry and some oak flooring found under carpet in four buildings on the easternmost part of the property, Matthew Pelz, director of Preservation and Conservation Services for the foundation, said.

It planned this week to begin removing mantels, stair railing and balusters, bead board, wooden wall coverings and other materials from five older and more historically significant buildings, he said.

“It’s such an important site; the priority is to save as much as we can,” Pelz said.

Time is of the essence.

The owners, who have the property on the market for $10 million, could soon begin demolishing some of the buildings.

City officials have for weeks been unwilling or unable to say whether the owners have secured demolition permits, but word has it that some of the buildings could come down in a matter of days.

The installation at one time encompassed 125 acres between 45th and 49th streets that the federal government bought in 1897.

The U.S. Coast Guard most recently used the housing. In the 1990s, the federal government declared the property surplus.

In 2000, the U.S. General Services Administration, on behalf of the Coast Guard, transferred the deed to buyer Max Bowen Enterprises with covenants calling for preservation and maintenance of the structures.

But the property deteriorated and neighbors grew frustrated about the condition of the buildings.

In 2011, the Texas Attorney General’s Office claimed the owners had violated the deed covenants, which were held by Texas Historical Commission, by failing to maintain and preserve the buildings, indicating an intent to demolish them without state permission.

In January, to the chagrin of preservationists, the commission said it wouldn’t appeal a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to force preservation, clearing the way for demolition.

The salvaged materials would be sold through the foundation’s Architectural Salvage Warehouse, Pelz said.

The reclamation was an environmental project, as well as a preservation effort, he said.

“A lot of material won’t be going into the landfill,” Pelz said.

Deep dish: Those in the know are reporting the family behind Galveston’s oldest Italian restaurant is planning a West End eatery.

The Smecca family, which owns Mario’s Ristorante, 2202 61st St. — not to be confused with Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant — is reported to be opening a second concept in Pirates Beach, where work already is underway.

Mario’s Ristorante, known for Northern Italian cuisine, New York style-pizza and its lunchtime buffet, can trace its roots back to 1967 when Sicilian-born Giovanni Smecca and Mario Bonaccorso launched Mario’s Flying Pizza, bringing the “pizza pie” to the island.

The Smecca family was not immediately available for comment. Stay tuned.

Buon appetito: In other Italian cuisine news, Riondo’s Ristorante, 2328 Strand, opened last week.

Riondo’s specializes in Tuscan style Northern Italian cuisine, and is in the building formerly occupied by Luigi’s Ristorante Italiano, which closed in December after 17 years.

Don McClaugherty and Edgardo “Rico” Caminos spent months transforming the space. Riondo’s name came from blending the nicknames of the owners — Rico and Dondo.

James Cole, who was executive chef for more than 11 years at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in River Oaks, also has joined the team.

Raise your glass: Island beer steins continue to runneth over. Business partners Danny Nelson, John Mortensen, Eric Jones and Derek Groenewold have generated much buzz with the newly opened Stuttgarden Tavern, 2110 Strand in the island’s downtown.

Stuttgarden opened earlier this month in the space last occupied by D’Vine Wine but was best known as the home to Fullen’s Waterwall, which closed after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

The beer garden offers a variety of brews, a full-service bar and a European/American menu. Burgers there already are popular.

Keg party: In other beer buzz, Galveston Island Brewing, which in early June opened at 8423 Stewart Road, on Friday will deliver a keg of its Tiki Wheat flagship brew to Beerfoot Beach Bar, 2816 R 1/2.

The delivery will mark the first time that a locally made beer has been distributed to a bar or restaurant on the island since Falstaff Brewery closed in the early 1980s.

Galveston Island Brewing, which features a tap room for patrons to drink on premises, produces about a dozen classic styles of beer from around the world — Irish stout, Belgian ale and American pale ale, among others.

Friday’s delivery will be the first of many more to local establishments, owner Mark Dell’Osso said.

Coming Tuesday: La Marque has a new retail shop, the island has a new printing firm and a big restaurant rumor has resurfaced. Read these and more in Tuesday’s Biz Buzz.

Laura Elder is a reporter for The Daily News. Biz Buzz appears Tuesdays and Thursdays. Email your tips and suggestions to

(1) comment

Steve Fouga

Great news about Fort Crockett, both the salvage and the imminent demolition. Would have been great for the buildings to be preserved as they were years ago, but, since they're decrepit, the sooner they're gone the better.

Keep us posted on what's going in there!

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