Bernardo de Galvez rode into Kemah on horseback.
His horse rode on a tractor trailer.
His head rode in the cab.
Late last week, a statue of de Galvez, for whom Galveston Island is named, was transported from New Orleans to Kemah.
R. Alden Marshall & Associates, an art preservation company with a studio in Kemah, is restoring the bronze statue.
Over the next two years, a small group of employees will work to carefully clean and restore the statue, said Robert Marshall, the company’s director and senior conservator.
It took four days for his crews to move the statue from New Orleans to Kemah. The conservators had to remove the statue’s head to make transportation possible, they said.
“His head brought him over height,” Marshall said. “He wouldn’t be allowed to go on Highway 10 without special riggings.”
On Monday, they began dismantling other parts of the statue for cleaning and restoration.
When the work is complete, the conservators will return the statue to New Orleans in front of a hotel underway on Canal Street, Marshall said.
Because the hotel construction is just beginning, the company has more time than usual to repair the statue, Marshall said.
Until it’s time for him to be returned, however, Galveston County will have its first, and only, statue of de Galvez.
But that isn’t for lack of trying. Since 2014, the local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution has been raising money to erect a statue in Galveston’s Menard Park. That effort is still active, said Bill Adriance, an island resident who has spearheaded that effort.
Bernardo de Galvez, the one made of flesh and bone, was the viceroy of New Spain and the colonial governor of Spanish Louisiana from 1777 to 1786. He’s considered a hero of the American Revolution, in part because his Spanish forces drove the British out of parts of the South between 1779 and 1780.
De Gálvez, because of his actions during the war, is one of only eight people to be awarded an honorary United States citizenship.
It’s not clear whether Galvez ever visited the part of the Texas coast that now bears his name. Spanish mapmaker Jose Antonio de Evia in 1785 first bestowed the name Galveztown on the Galveston Bay area to honor the de Galvez family. The name was first given to the area just a year before de Galvez died.
Bernardo de Galvez, the one made of metal, was installed in New Orleans in 1977. It was given to the city by the Spanish government for the celebration of the U.S. bicentennial anniversary.
The statue stood near the Port of New Orleans, and because of its proximity to the water, is badly corroded, Marshall said.
“He had a lot of saltwater in his belly, so all the iron that was inside him was all gone,” he said.
Marshall’s company has been restoring monuments around the United States for 33 years, he said. In 2015, the company cleaned the Texas Heroes Monument that stands at the intersection of 25th Street and Broadway in Galveston.
It’s possible the Bernardo de Galvez statue will briefly go on display before heading back to The Big Easy, Marshall said. Because the statue is so tall, he can’t reconstruct it inside his studio, so he’s hoping to find a space where it can be rebuilt and be seen, he said.