Police were searching Friday for two people accused of stealing part of the Korean War Memorial in downtown Galveston.
Witnesses said they saw a man and woman stealing a decorative medallion from the Korean War Memorial, in the 300 block of 20th Street, next to the American National Insurance Co. tower.
The memorial was unveiled May 27 and was designed with the help of Marine Corps veteran Doug McLeod. The reflective memorial wall is made of polished black granite, and bears the names of 51 men from Galveston County who served and died during the Korean War. Some of them were county natives, others were people who lived here about the time of the war.
A large panel is dedicated to Pfc. Jack Hanson, a Mississippi native who joined the Army while living in Galveston.
Hanson was 20 years old when he was killed near Pachi-dong, Korea, on June 7, 1951. A machine gunner, Hanson voluntarily stayed behind after his company was ambushed in a saddle between two hills.
Hanson covered a lower position on the hill while his comrades organized a counter position. When his body was found, it was next to an empty machine gun, an empty pistol and a bloody machete.
According to a posthumous Medal of Honor awarded to Hanson, 22 enemy soldiers lay dead around him when his company returned.
Another monument features a lone soldier carrying an M1 Garand rifle. That statue is dedicated to soldiers in the wars during which the weapon was used — World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The Korean War was fought from 1950 to 1953, as the United States and South Korea fought North Korea and China in a conflict framed as a battle between capitalism and communism.
More than 33,000 Americans died in the Korean War. The total death toll, including civilians, was more than 5 million.
News coverage of the Korean War was censored in the United States and it has often been overshadowed by the more well-known conflicts that happened before and after — World War II and the Vietnam War.
Detectives are asking for the public’s help in identifying the people seen in security video.
The man photographed was wearing sunglasses, a black button-up shirt and blue jeans. The woman was wearing a black hoodie over a t-shirt and jean shorts.
Anybody with information on the case is asked to call Galveston Police Department Criminal Investigation Division at (409) 765-3762.
This article reflects a correction to paragraph seven.
A 1940s-built second iteration of Galveston’s Cotton Exchange Building, 2102 Mechanic St., is undergoing another renovation, turning an art deco landmark of the island’s historic influence into apartments to be opened in the fall.
Builders are working to maintain the original room where cotton was traded for nearly a century from 1878 to about 1965, when the most-recent chalk marks are dated, Robert Reeves, owner of Werner Construction, said.
“We’re just a bunch of island guys trying to take some pride in our hometown,” Reeves said of his company’s island endeavors, which include such downtown renovation projects as a rooftop bar upgrade at The Tremont House, 2300 Mechanic St., and the Scottish Rite Cathedral, 2128 Church St. construction.
Israel-based developer Hadar Goldman acquired the property in 2021, with initial plans to build 19 apartments. He hired Werner Construction to work on the $6 million project, which now includes plans for 20 apartments.
The project began in January 2022, and its managers expect to be completed by October. Pre-lease walks could be conducted as early as June, Richard Reeves, project manager and Robert’s brother, said.
The building will have six apartments on the first floor, seven on the second, six on the third and a penthouse on the under-construction fourth floor, Richard Reeves said. That floor will also include a communal gym, cooking area and conference space.
Prices still are being determined for the apartments, but they could start at about $1,600, Robert Reeves said.
The Galveston Cotton Exchange was the first textile-trading building established in the state, according to Rosenberg Library archives. The original structure, which was completed in 1878, was touted as “one of the most magnificent buildings in Texas” when it was constructed, according to the archives.
Before the Civil War, there was no real need for an organized association of cotton buyers and sellers. Merchants bought cotton directly from growers at a mutually-agreeable price and then sold it for a profit.
After the war, the production of cotton greatly increased; at the same time, the railroad industry was expanding. The interests of cotton buyers and sellers were no longer in line with one another, resulting in numerous court battles. As a result, Galveston cotton merchants formed their own association, as did cotton growers.
In an effort led by Col. W. L. Moody to give cohesion to the separate entities, a special committee was named to draft by-laws for this new association. The primary goals of the group were three-fold: to address pricing disputes between buyers and sellers; to establish fair trade principles; and to collect and disseminate information concerning the crop and market conditions. On May 6, 1873, the Galveston Cotton Exchange was born.
Completed in December 1878, the building’s opening was marked by a grand ball in the exchange hall, a vast space measuring 83 feet by 63 feet. The floor was inlaid walnut and oak, as was the interior woodwork.
Decorative brackets featuring designs of the cotton plant in its various stages of growth adorned the perimeter of the room. The opening of Galveston’s Cotton Exchange even made the national news, with an illustration of the elite preview party appearing in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. The final cost for the building and site was $102,000, millions in today’s dollars.
In the late 1930s, it was decided that a more modern, air-conditioned structure was needed to house the 60-year old organization. The original building was razed and was replaced with the art deco structure on the same site. Architect Ben Milam designed the second Cotton Exchange, which was completed in 1941.
After many prosperous decades, Galveston’s cotton industry began to decline in the mid-20th century. Railroad transportation continued to challenge shipping as freight rates became more competitive.
The Galveston Cotton Exchange finally closed in 1967.
Workers are preserving as much of the building’s history as they can, while they modernize the 82-year-old iteration of the structure.
The corner apartment adjacent to 21st Street and the building’s back alley may be the most historically significant of the 20 planned rental spaces, Robert Reeves said. The studio apartment features a green chalkboard with 60-year-old cotton-trading data still written on it.
Upon completion, the one-bedroom apartment will display two walls covered with the original trading chalkboards, covered by plexiglass, Robert Reeves said.
“This thing is really neat,” Robert Reeves said, uncovering a glass map of the United States from the 1950s with significant cotton market cities marked.
“It was a weather map,” he said. “It would show the weather at that time, and they would be able to forecast how that would affect trading of different stocks and cottons and textiles.”
An 80-something-year-old, tufted bench sits in the main corridor of the Cotton Exchange Building’s first floor, where construction workers plan to keep it. The original, wooden crown and floor molding will be cleaned up, and much of the interior glass was saved.
The building was most recently used as office space until the 80s, and many of the business names will be retained on the entry to what will soon be homes. Lawyers, accountants and even a private investigator’s names will be preserved on the offices they once occupied, Robert Reeves said.
One such name that will be preserved is Charles L. Zwiener, an architect who helped preserve a number of downtown Galveston buildings including the 1880 Garten Verein building, 2704 Ave. O; the Trueheart-Adriance Building, 210 22nd St.; Trinity Episcopal Church and school, 2216 Avenue H; and the United States National Bank building, 2201 Market St.
Historic renovation projects can be fun, but gutting a building from the ’40s is expensive, complex work, Robert Reeves said. The construction company is approaching $100,000 worth of burned-out drills and saws from breaking through decades-old concrete, he said.
Since concrete gets harder over time, the older it is the more difficult it is to cut and drill through, he said. Workers had to outfit the dated building with plumbing and new electrical wiring. The plumbing was restricted to the first floor and only a portion of the second, where the bathrooms were, Robert Reeves said.
Gutting the historic building took about three months, Richard Reeves said. And during that phase, workers found cremated remains in an urn. They called police to take them, Robert Reeves said.
It’s just another fascinating facet of renovating historic buildings, Robert Reeves said.
A Galveston school board trustee is calling for the board’s executive sessions to be recorded as a better record-keeping alternative to its current process of writing down discussions.
The board, like most in Galveston County, relies on certified agendas to document discussions from its closed meetings. But Trustee Elizabeth Beeton said the certified agendas aren’t detailed enough to meet legal requirements or to provide a useful record of board deliberations held out of public view.
“I noticed in the Attorney General’s written handbook that they expect a certain amount of detail in the certified agenda,” Beeton said.
The ones the school district keeps are no different than the public agenda, which says the school board can discuss matters of real property, consultations with attorneys and personnel, she said.
The Texas Open Meetings Act requires elected bodies to keep a certified agenda, which is written by a secretary or clerk, or that they record by audio or video the proceedings of each executive session.
The public agendas are lists of topics a governmental body, such as a school board or city council, expects to discuss or vote on during a meeting. They are meant to inform the public when and where meetings will happen and about what might happen at a meeting, as well as provide some indication about why a deliberation is planned for closed sessions, which the public cannot observe.
Such agendas are not intended to record what was discussed or the votes that were taken. Many government entities create those records with video and audio recordings and by keeping written minutes.
Beeton argued that recording the board’s executive sessions and archiving them in accordance with state law will preserve a record for trustees and administration of what was discussed or disclosed in executive session, and incentivizes the board to confine discussion to items that are properly the subject of executive sessions, she said.
The Texas Association of School Boards does not track how many districts use certified agendas, rather than recordings, Sylvia Wood, spokeswoman, said.
At least five of the seven school districts in Galveston County use certified agendas for discussions taken during closed meetings instead of recording, including Dickinson, Texas City, Galveston, Hitchcock and Clear Creek ISDs.
Those are signed, sealed and stored after executive sessions, officials said.
During litigation in a district court involving an alleged violation of the meetings, the court is entitled to make an inspection of the certified agenda or recording, or may admit all or part of the certified agenda or recording as evidence, on entry of a final judgment, according to the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Failing to keep a detailed record of what’s discussed in closed session presents risks for the district, Beeton said.
“There is a danger you will be involved in a lawsuit or grievance or dispute and the other party will claim you discussed their matter improperly in executive session,” Beeton said.
“If the judge decides you did in fact stray from topics that can be discussed in private, then the rest of the recording can be released,” she said.
While the certified agenda does not have to be a verbatim transcript of the closed meeting, it must at least provide a brief summary of each deliberation, according to the Office of the Attorney General.
Beeton is now looking to place an item on the school board’s next meeting in support of recording future executive sessions.
“I feel that one of the big problems we have in the school board is a reluctance to involve the public,” Beeton said. “Recording executive sessions would encourage the board to stay on topic during closed sessions, and would funnel the board into having to have more public discussions in the board meetings.”
Changing how executive sessions are recorded wasn’t a high priority, Tony Brown, president of the Galveston school board said.
“That would be something the board would have to discuss and come to an agreement about.
“It’s not a matter front and center on my radar at this time.”
Lawyers representing a Houston media consultant have filed a lawsuit asserting the city of Dickinson is improperly withholding documents about communications among four city officials relating to the Creekside Apartments, which the city declared a threat to public health and safety and ordered vacated.
Kelsey Galbraith of the Houston-based Jeff Diamant Law firm filed a lawsuit Thursday in the 212th District Court on behalf of Wayne Dolcefino of Dolcefino Consulting.
“The city is abusing the open records law and is not being transparent,” Dolcefino said.
The city would not comment on the lawsuit, but attorney Justin Pruitt of Olsen & Olsen, which represents the city, released a statement.
“The city received the request for information that is the subject of the lawsuit, and the city timely prepared a brief for the Attorney General’s review,” Pruitt said. “The Attorney General’s Office is reviewing our response. As is the case with any open records request, the city will release to the requestor whatever is determined by the Attorney General’s Office to be released.
“As of the time of this message, we have not received any determination from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the request that is the subject of the lawsuit.”
Dolcefino filed a public information request Dec. 12 for communications of Dickinson Fire Marshall Shonna Bellow, Dickinson Chief Building Official Herman Meyers, Dickinson Mayor Sean Skipworth and City Manager Theo Melancon, dating back to April 1, 2021, related to the shuttered Creekside Apartments, 406 Deats Road.
The city sought an exemption under a section of law that allows governments to withhold documents they anticipated will be part of litigation.
The city’s Building Standards Commission on Sept. 26 declared the apartments substandard and gave apartment owner Kalkan Capital 60 days to come up with a repair plan.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation also inspected a water boiler at the apartment complex on Nov. 16, 2022, and found it to be disconnected and have exposed wiring, according to the department’s report.
The department instructed apartment managers not to install a second-hand boiler purchased before the inspection until that boiler had been repaired, according to the report.
On Nov. 30, 2022, the city issued an emergency order, giving residents 30 days to vacate the property.
Dolcefino asserts the city targeted Creekside and that documents would show city leaders made the decision to get rid of the property long before action was taken and that the gas line and a bolt were tampered with.
Officials, however, said the city had conducted a series of inspections from May to September last year that found numerous code violations throughout the property and had no option but to order people to leave.
At a Building Standards Commission meeting Dec. 21, 2022, Meyers, the city’s chief building official, showed commissioners photos of the deteriorating complex, including one showing raw sewage he said had been pooled on a sidewalk for months.
The apartment complex had multiple safety problems and should be shut down, Meyers said at the time.
The commission voted unanimously to keep the order forcing more than 100 residents to vacate Creekside Apartments, but didn’t order the complex demolished, opting instead to allow the owner a chance to redevelop the property.
Contractors, property managers and a lack of communications were at fault for the deteriorating complex, Ahmet Kalkan, vice president of Kalkan Capital, which owns the property, said.
The city council approved about $185,000 to provide residents with about $1,000 each to help with moving.
Because the building standards commission allowed Kalkan to redevelop rather than demolish the property, there is no reason to believe a lawsuit by the company is forthcoming, so the communications should be released, Dolcefino asserts.