on Tuesday, June, 22 2010 @ 04:46:00 am (540 words)
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Popularly known as the Bishop's Palace, the immense stone mansion located at 1402 Broadway (corner of 14th at Broadway) in Galveston, Texas, is an incredible sight and indubitably the most photographed landmark on Galveston Island. Designed and built from 1887-1893 (at an estimated cost then of $250,000) by prominent architect Nicholas J. Clayton of Galveston for attorney and politician Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife Josephine (the parents of nine children), the structure is regarded as one of the most important Victorian structures in the United States.
At one time called "Gresham's Castle," the ornate edifice of three-stories over a raised basement is in the Châteauesque style (derived from the French revival style). It was constructed from carved limestone (accented with red sandstone, red granite, and gray granite) and steel frame (making the outer walls, including interior wood paneling, twenty-three inches thick). The facade features elaborate carvings of people, plants, animals, and mythical creatures. It has steep roofs and tall turret-like chimneys.
Stained glass windows, magnificent fireplaces (one lined in pure silver), wood floors, exquisite paneling, and a majestic wooden staircase distinguish the interior of the 7,500 square foot home. Rare woods constitute much of the elaborate carved features throughout the house, and most of the luxurious furniture is original.
Born in Virginia in 1841, Walter Gresham enlisted in the Twenty-fourth Virginia Cavalry at the beginning of the War Between the States, later serving in other regiments. In 1863, he was graduated from the law department of the University of Virginia, and late in 1866 moved to Galveston, Texas, to practice law. Among many important activities and positions, he was elected district attorney for Galveston and Brazoria counties; was director of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway (as well as its second vice president); served in the Texas legislature (1887 to 1891); and was elected to Congress in 1892 but did not win re-election. He returned to the practice of law in Galveston. He died in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1920, and is buried in Galveston in Lakeview Cemetery.
In 1923, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston (which in 2004 became an archdiocese) bought for $40,500 the Gresham home, which sits across the street from the Sacred Heart Church, and for many years it was the residence of the bishop, Christopher Edward Byrne. In 1963, following the removal of the offices of the diocese to Houston, the diocese opened the home to the public. It has been managed as a museum by the Galveston Historical Foundation since December 2007.
The mansion withstood the Great Storm of 1900 (the Galveston Hurricane) virtually unscathed. It is said that the ghost of Walter Gresham is seen, sometimes appearing to be inspecting the exterior of the building, whenever the island of Galveston is threatened by a storm from the gulf. (The house also suffered some flooding and roof damage from Hurricane Ike in September 2008, but it has since dried out and been reopened.) Other ghosts are said to haunt the home and publications and websites insist the mansion is quite haunted, one website even saying that the ghosts move about there willy nilly.
The Bishop's Palace is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and is listed by the U. S. Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark (and as such it is on the National Register of Historic Places).