The Tremont Hotel

 The Tremont Hotel
Color postcard image of Galveston’s second Tremont Hotel (1876 – 1928) [image courtesy of Rosenberg Library].

During the month of August, Rosenberg Library exhibited items related to Galveston’s iconic Tremont Hotel (1872 – 1928). The display will include historic photos, an 1880s guest register, an antique serving platter from the hotel’s restaurant, and a brass key fob for Room #93.

 The Tremont Hotel
View of the hotel’s main lobby [image courtesy of Rosenberg Library].

Galveston’s First Tremont Hotel

During the city’s 175-year history, three different hotels have been named “The Tremont.” The first Tremont Hotel opened in 1839, the same year the city officially incorporated. The two-story frame structure was located at the southwest corner of 23rd Street (Tremont) and Postoffice. It was considered the finest hotel in the Republic of Texas when it was built, and it played host to countless social gatherings and visiting dignitaries until it was lost to a fire in 1865.

 The Tremont Hotel
Advertisement for the Tremont Hotel from the 1881-82 Galveston City Directory [image courtesy of Rosenberg Library].

A New Tremont Hotel

In 1872, a group of Galveston investors formed a company with the intent to build a luxury hotel rivaling the finest venues in the South. Local architect Fred S. Steward was commissioned to design a grand new Tremont Hotel along 23rd Street and Church. However, only two of the four planned stories were constructed before the investors withdrew their funding. The building stood uncompleted for four years until a subsequent group of owners hired the architectural firm Clayton and Lynch to finish the job. The partners carried out Steward’s original plan, and the second Tremont Hotel opened its doors in 1877. (Nicholas J. Clayton was also responsible for subsequent remodeling projects in 1884 and 1896.)

The massive, upscale hotel — which reportedly required over 2 million bricks to construct — advertised itself as “the only first-class hotel in the city.” It was also the only hotel with a steam-powered passenger elevator to conveniently transport guests between floors. Like its earlier predecessor, the second Tremont Hotel was a center of civic and social activities for more than half a century. With its ornate architecture, lavish furnishings, and superior accommodations, The Tremont was the hotel of choice for political dignitaries, celebrities, military leaders, and business executives.

 The Tremont Hotel
Brass keyfob from Room #93 at the old Tremont Hotel in Galveston. It was used by Mat Oppenheimer, a traveling salesman representing the New York based Manhatten Shirt Company. He sold the last bill of goods in the hotel to local retailer Sam J. Williams at 5:30 p.m. on the day the hotel was closed, November 1, 1928 [gift of Sam J. Williams].

While the Tremont Hotel was considered the island’s most elite establishment during the late 19th and early 20th century, it began to decline by the 1920s. Its opulence came to be seen as outdated, and guests desired the more modern amenities offered at newer high-rise hotels such as the nearby Jean Lafitte which opened at Church and 21st Street in 1927.

The hotel closed its doors in 1928, and the entire building was razed. However, the former hotel barber shop moved to a new location across the street. Likewise, the hotel’s casual-dining restaurant, the Tremont Café, kept its name and relocated to 525 21st Street.

The property sat vacant for many years until it was acquired by W.L. Moody, Jr. in the early 1950s.

The Rebirth of an Island Institution

During the 1980s, Galveston philanthropists and preservationists George and Cynthia Mitchell embarked on a journey to create a fashionable hotel in Galveston’s newly revitalized downtown district. The Mitchells purchased the 1879 Leon and H. Blum Building located on Mechanic (Avenue C) between 23rd and 24th Street. In 1985, they opened the island’s third Tremont Hotel at this site where it continues to operate.

Past Treasures