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More of a visual learner? Read the transcript of this week's Galveston Unscripted podcast episode below:
Tune in every Friday for a brand new episode of the Galveston Unscripted podcast.
Galveston Island is a treasure trove of history waiting to be discovered. Let's dive into the Lost Bayou Historic District. This historic neighborhood, teeming with stories of resilience and transformation, unveils a tapestry of grand mansions and unassuming working-class homes that have weathered flames, hurricanes, and time,
recognized for its historical significance. The Lost Bayou Historic District has earned a distinguished place on the National Register of Historic Places. This district is one of Galveston Island's cherished East End Historic Districts, occupying the space where a small bayou once connected to the Gulf existed.
The district spans from 16th to 21st Street, nestled between Broadway and Avenue N 1 2. Galveston was officially founded in 1839, with its early inhabitants residing near the downtown district. The remaining part of the island remained largely untamed, with patches of barren land interspersed with small bayous and water inlets. The area between the Gulf and Avenue L from 20th and 23rd Street was dominated by Hitchcock's Bayou, a significant body of brackish water.
This bayou was the preferred water source for the military service camels that resided on the island in the 1850s, with their corral located directly behind where the Bryan Museum stands today. The United States Camel Corps didn't last long in Galveston, but camels continued to serve throughout the United States through the 1850s.
The bayou wasn't a great water source for residents, as it was pretty salty. As the Port of Galveston grew through the late 1800s, commercial and residential development on the island expanded away from the downtown historic district and eventually extended south of Avenue J, or Broadway. Parts of Hitchcock's Bayou began to be filled in with dirt and sand and by the mid-1880s, Hitchcock's Bayou was almost entirely surrounded by homes. The Lost Bayou District developed as a working-class community with a sprinkling of stunning Victorian gems.
But this neighborhood was not immune to disaster. The devastating 1885 fire, igniting near 16th and Strand, consumed many homes east of Hitchcock's Bayou. The fire's ferocity even reached the Gulf, leaving homes and structures in the modern-day East End Historic District and the Lost Bayou District in ruins. Galveston residents quickly rebuilt or moved structures into the area shortly after the fire. During the 1900 storm, structures crumbled all over the island. Most homes and structures between Avenue M and the beach were obliterated. The rubble from structures destroyed south of Avenue M stacked up, creating a wall of debris, and actually protected many of the homes and structures north of the rubble wall from the battering waves.
This left many of the homes in the modern-day Lost Bayou District intact. After the 1900 storm, the urbanized portion of the island underwent an ambitious grade-raising project, elevating its surface to mitigate the impacts of future storms. In this endeavor, Hitchcock's Bayou met its fate. It was filled with dredge mud, yielding new land for expansion.
Thus, the Lost Bayou neighborhood emerged atop the remnants of the old water source. The architectural diversity rivals the beauty of many homes in other prominent districts on the island. This district is a residential hub and hosts popular attractions like the Bryan Museum and the Lasker Inn. which were both orphanages founded in the 1870s in this area. The Lost Bayou District, its resilient and transformative journey from Bayou to National Historic Landmark, is a story that deserves to be told, one captivating detail at a time. From its small working-class homes to its elegant mansions, 1900 storm survivors, to its homes that used to be waterfront property on a small bayou. A stroll down Avenue M, east of 23rd Street, showcases the district's diverse character, unveiling the striking contrast between ornate mansions and smaller homes.