GALVESTON — Galveston Historical Foundation closed Friday on the purchase of the 1892 Bishop’s Palace from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, an official said Monday.
The foundation was still a little short of the $3 million needed to buy the mansion at 1402 Broadway, but could come with what it needed though normal fundraising and had suspended a campaign aimed at gathering contributions for the purchase, Dwayne Jones, foundation executive director, said.
“The leadership from the Galveston community, our local Moody Foundation and Kempner Fund and hundreds of supporters across Galveston-Houston and beyond made this happen” Jones said.
“We look forward to keeping this treasure as a part of our island and a site that future generations can visit to see historic Galveston at its best.”
The foundation announced June 7 that it needed to raise about $700,000 to exercise a right of first refusal on the palace ahead of the June 30 deadline.
It already had raised $2.3 million by that time. The Moody Foundation had contributed $1.5 million, the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund had given $350,000, and the foundation had raised another $450,000 from other sources, Jones said.
Former Texas City Mayor Chuck Doyle and his wife, Mary Ellen, made a $100,000 challenge gift toward the purchase, according to a foundation statement.
The foundation took over management of the mansion, which is among Galveston’s most popular and well-known tourist attractions, in 2007 in a five-year agreement that gave it the right of first refusal to buy the property.
That agreement ended Jan. 30 but was extended to the end of June. The archdiocese pledged money from the sale would be spent on church projects on the island, including the restoration of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, 2011 Church St., the foundation and Mark Moretti, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in early June.
The Bishop’s Palace, also known as the Walter and Josephine Gresham House, is recognized as one of the nation’s most important late-19th century Victorian residences, according to the foundation.
Nicholas Clayton, one of the state’s most accomplished architects, designed the house for the Gresham family. In 1921, Galvestonians raised money to buy the house for the diocese to make it the home of Bishop Byrne.
The mansion attracts 50,000 local, national and international visitors a year, making a significant economic contribution to the island’s economy, according to the foundation.
Once the purchase is complete, the foundation will begin extensive restoration of the house, including work to the roof, stained glass windows and exterior painting.