History in jeopardy

Two houses that are part of the Thomas J. Britton family estate, in the 200 block of Bell Drive in Texas City, have been included on the Galveston Historical Foundation’s annual Heritage at Risk list. 


For the first time, Galveston Historical Foundation has included mainland properties on its annual Heritage at Risk list.

The inclusions put the organization’s efforts more in line with its original mission, Matthew Pelz, director of Preservation Services at the foundation, said. 

“We were chartered to do preservation work throughout the county,” Pelz said. “In the past, we have really focused on Galveston but the original purpose envisioned a more regional role.”  

The 2014 list includes the Thomas J. Britton family estate, 1867 settlement at 214 and 218 Bell Drive in Texas City and the 1857 Nicholstone House at 5000 Park Ave. in Dickinson.

The foundation sought nominations to the list from local people and groups, Pelz said. 

“We put out a call for nominations, and these two were nominated very quickly,” he said.

Houses and other sites on the list are locally, regionally or nationally significant and are at risk of being lost because of damage, neglect or proposed development, while preservation of the sites would contribute to the promotion of Galveston County’s heritage, according to the foundation. 

While the foundation can’t force owners to preserve or restore historic structures, there are benefits to having them included on the list, Pelz said. 

“We use the list in various ways,” he said. “We contact the owners and send letters to them offering to help facilitate improvement of the properties.”

Sometimes that amounts to helping pay for a new coat of paint, he said. Other times the foundation can help connect the owners of historic properties with buyers more willing or able to invest in restoration, he said. 

“At very minimum we can recognize and publicize that these are pieces of the culture and heritage that may not otherwise be recognized,” he said.

“It allows local people to say ‘This is something that I value and think should be fixed up.’”

The Nicholstone House is an interesting example of both a historical house and the at-risk process at work, Pelz said. 

Ebenezer Nichols moved to Galveston in 1850, about the same time a settlement called Dickinson was established on Dickinson’s Bayou, according to the foundation. Nichols, a director of the GH&H Railroad, built a summer estate with a one-story frame house on Dickinson Bayou in 1857. 

In 1895, one of his sons had the house remodeled to include a second story with a balcony adorned with Victorian design elements including fretwork and a cupola. 

The house is owned and occupied by Nichols’ great-great granddaughter, who has maintained and used the house doing the years, according to the foundation.  

“It is the oldest existing residence in the community of Dickinson and is in danger of being lost to the elements of the Gulf Coast climate,” according to the foundation.

Pelz said he found the house to be especially interesting both as an example of antebellum construction and because he had no idea it existed until Dickinson residents nominated it to the at-risk list.  



The 2014 list


• 1898 James Fadden Building — 2410-2412 Strand Street, Galvestons

• 1872 William and Annie Outterside House — 2805 Ave. L, Galveston

• 1899 James Mcdonald House — 2622 Ursuline (Ave. N), Galveston

• 1886 Peter Gengler Tenant Cottage — 2024 Ave. K, Galveston

• 1887 Gustave Mayhoff Cottage — 2110 Ave. O, Galveston

• 1874 Herbert William Lorenz Cottages — 1710 & 1716 22nd St., Galveston

• 1870 Robert Paliser Tenant Cottage — 2125 Ave. O, Galveston

• 1907 Beissner Building, Mccrory’s Five & Dime — 2123 Postoffice St. (Ave. E), Galveston

• 1892 Charles L. Flake House — 3601 Ave. M, Galveston

• 1859 John H. Westerlage House — 1524 Mechanic (Ave. C), Galveston

• Bell Tower, 1894 Grace Episcopal Church — 1115 36th St., Galveston 

The foundation wants to hear from residents and visitors in Galveston County. The public is encouraged to take a photograph and share it via Instagram or twitter with the tag #ghfheritageatrisk to notify the foundation what is seen in the community that warrants a preservationist’s eye.





(1) comment

Walter Manuel

"preservation of the sites would contribute to the promotion of Galveston County’s heritage".

That's an understatement for sure. These properties are well worth saving if at all possible in order to keep the history of it's original founders alive for years to come in Galveston county! [thumbup]

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