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Harris Gallery

The Small Houses of Galveston: Another Take
A Retrospective Exhibit Presented by Rosenberg Library
with guest curator Ellen Beasley
Please visit Rosenberg Library’s 4th floor Harris Gallery to see this new exhibit curated by
Ellen Beasley, author of
The Alleys and Back Buildings of Galveston and The Corner Store
and co-author of Galveston Architecture Guidebook.
Below is the introduction to the exhibit written by Ellen Beasley.
In 1975, when Galveston was expanding and energizing its preservation program as part of the American Bicentennial celebration, Burke Evans and I felt that a huge swath of Galveston was being overlooked — the city’s remarkable collection of small houses, a collection that numbered literally in the thousands.

2008 N1/2, 1975
2008 N1/2, 2016
2008 N1/2, 1975
2008 N1/2, 2016

Before and after photographs of the raised cottage at 2008 Avenue N 1/2 are among the most dramatic in the exhibit.
It was built in 1893 by brothers August J. and Henry C. Henck, Jr. in their first joint venture as property developers.
We decided that the best way to call attention to the small houses of Galveston was an exhibit. There was nothing academic about what we did or how we did it. Little research had been done so our selection of buildings was all gut but that was allowed in 1975. We went for ones we liked, thought were “interesting,” deserved attention or looked threatened. Sometimes we fudged on the definition of small. For every house we chose, we knew there were dozens more that fit the same rationale for inclusion.

All the photographs were taken in 1975 by Burke, often wearing his white doctor’s coat, and using a 2x2 format camera. Harold Drushel, from the University of Texas Medical Branch, did all the darkroom work while I did the research, writing, and coordination. Featuring thirty-eight houses and addresses, (some with multiple photographs), the exhibit formally opened in Galveston on February 29, 1976 — Leap Day.

2914 L, 1975
2914 L, 2016
2914 L, 1975
2914 L, 2016

Some houses, such as this dormered cottage built in the mid-1880s at 2914 Avenue L, show
little change during the forty year period. It was built for the Ernst Wittig family and, in fact,
may have been built by Wittig who, at the time, was shifting trades from butcher to carpenter.
There are two things that prompted wanting to do The Small Houses of Galveston: Another Take. The first is to answer the question: What has happened to these houses since 1976? After all, it is a forty-year period during which, on the positive side, Galveston’s preservation program has become a national model but on the negative side, the city experienced a powerful Hurricane Ike in 2008.

The houses, like Galveston itself, have fared quite well. The majority show varying stages of renovation and care and only five are gone, a smaller number than what seemed likely in 1976.

1711 N, 1975
1711 N, 2016
1711 N, 1975
1711 N, 2016

In December 1901, this three-room commissary house was built for screwman George Kreid on property his family had
owned since 1875. Kreid received $250 in relief money from the city’s Building Committee after the 1900 hurricane. The
owner of a similar commissary house shown in the exhibit at 1008 Avenue I also received $250 from the committee.
The second reason is to call attention once again to one of Galveston’s greatest resources. Upon moving back to Galveston, it was driving through the streets that reminded me just how remarkable this collection of small houses is. While they each have a story that enriches and broadens the history of Galveston, their most important quality, their major contribution, is their presence on the Galveston landscape.

So, please enjoy The Small Houses of Galveston: Another Take and then go for a drive or a walk and see for yourself!

Ellen Beasley, guest curator
(and Burke Evans in spirit)
December 2016

1975 images by Burke Evens / 2016 images by Ellen Beasley

The Small Houses of Galveston: Another Take is located in the Harris Gallery on the library’s fourth floor. Rosenberg Library Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission to the museum galleries is always free.

History of the Harris Gallery

Harris Gallery 2011

The Harris Gallery came into existence with the addition of the Moody Wing of the library in the early 1970s. After Hurricane Ike in late 2008, restoration of the library included new lighting and flooring in the Harris Gallery. This gallery is utilized to exhibit thematic collections from amongst the Museum's thousands of carefully preserved and stored paintings, illustrations, and photography.

John Woods Harris III (1893 - 1999) became a trustee of the Rosenberg Library in 1934 and served on the board for nearly four decades. As board president during the planning and construction of the building’s Moody Memorial Wing, Harris was one of the primary fundraisers for the monumental project. In 1971, the Harris Gallery was dedicated in honor of the Harris family for their generous gifts to the library.

John W. Harris III was the son of John Woods Harris, Jr. and Minnie Knox (Hutchings) Harris. After serving as a naval pilot during World War I, he graduated from the University of Virginia in 1920 with a degree in law. Harris returned to Galveston and began his career as an attorney.

Harris Gallery 2010

Mr. Harris was on the board of directors of the Hutchings-Sealy National Bank from 1930 until his retirement in 1974. He also served as director of the Sealy and Smith Foundation for the John Sealy Hospital. Harris was on the board of the Galveston Orphans Home for many years and was a trustee of the Galveston Independent School District.

He worked with many local organizations, including the International Oleander Society, the William Temple Foundation, the First Church of Christian Science, the Galveston Garden Club, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Boys Club of Galveston, United Way, Boy Scouts of America, and the Galveston Historical Foundation. Mr. Harris was a member of the American Judicature Society, Sons of the Republic of Texas, the Texas Navy, the American Legion, Delta Kappa Epsilon, the Galveston Artillery Club, and the Galveston Yacht Club.

Harris Gallery 2008

In 1973, he and his wife, Eugenia Davis Harris, formed Galveston Foundation, Inc., an organization dedicated to the beautification of the city, in an endeavor to make Galveston “the Garden of the Gulf.” Galveston Foundation has donated funds for the planting of flowers and shrubs along Broadway and has made numerous grants for the landscaping of schools and parks. The dolphin sculpture on the Seawall and the restoration of the Rosenberg Fountain on 23rd Street are also gifts of the Galveston Foundation.

In 1968, John W. Harris was honored as a Community Leader of America, and in 1976, the Galveston City Council proclaimed October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th as John Harris Days in the City of Galveston. Harris was named Man of the Year by the Galveston Boys Club in 1980 and was named the Rabbi Henry Cohen Humanitarian of the Year in 1981. He died in Galveston in 1999 at the age of 105 years.