(1839-1865) The Tremont House is a Galveston institution that dates to 1839. The original Tremont House, built the same year that Galveston was officially founded, was one of the island's most fashionable destinations. Located at the corner of Post Office and Tremont Streets, the stylish two-story building was the grandest hotel in the Republic of Texas.
The Tremont House drew visitors from across the world. Six future or sitting American presidents and the foreign ministers of France and England are recorded in her guest ledgers; in fact, during the Civil War, Confederate, then Union, soldiers made a home in the hotel. Noted moments in the Tremont timeline include Sam Houston delivering his last public address; Cotton merchants haggling over deals; and Sioux chiefs sampling Southern cuisine. In The Tremont Halls, Victorians came to dance at grand balls, and soldiers from three wars returned to homecoming banquets. This landmark was a center of the social life on Galveston Island and in Texas for 26 years.
In June 1865, the belle of the South, The Tremont House, succumbed to a great fire that raged in the Strand District for days and destroyed entire city blocks. For more than five years, the beloved landmark lay in ruins. But the Spirit of Galveston is eternal and several of the island's business leaders organized a company to build a new hotel on the ashes of the old.
An Epic History
(1872-1928) The grand new Tremont House was a magnificent, four-story structure that rivaled the South's grandest attractions. Noted architect Nicholas Clayton, designed the hotel, and later went on to design many of Galveston's most distinguished and beautiful buildings. The second Tremont House opened in 1872 and attracted dignitaries and the elite from around the world. Its ads touted being the only hotel with a passenger elevator.
In 1900, a devastating hurricane barreled across the Gulf of Mexico and straight into the island. It is estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 souls passed in this tragic nightmare and the island was left in ruins. As the economy slipped into depression, the once-grand hotel faded into a shadow of her former glory. The second Tremont House was condemned and ultimately demolished in 1928.
A New Beginning
(1981-Today) The legendary hotel was destined to rise again in a new location. In 1981, George and Cynthia Mitchell acquired the Leon & H. Blum Building and transformed it into the third Tremont House. The 1879 building, formerly a dry goods concern, is now a romantic hotel that captures the spirit and elegance of its predecessors. When the hotel opened in 1985 it was the first major hotel to open in downtown Galveston in sixty years and was a catalyst for the revitalization of Galveston's historic downtown. Its grand opening coincided with the revival of Mardi Gras in Galveston and was commemorated with a grand Mardi Gras Ball which continues today.
The Tremont House is managed by Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, LLC and is owned by the Cynthia and George Mitchell family as part of Mitchell Historic Properties.
A native of Galveston, George Mitchell often brought his family to the Island. He shared that his wife, Cynthia, would often say, "Someone should really do something about preserving those beautiful buildings. It would be such a shame to see them torn down."
On a 1972 visit to Savannah, the Mitchells learned about an innovative preservation program that had been established which included a revolving fund for buying and reselling endangered properties. They dispatched the Galveston Historical Foundation to study Savannah's achievements and adapt them to Texas. Contributions from local foundations helped establish a revolving fund for Galveston that to date has saved over 30 buildings.
Mitchell also helped recruit Peter Brink, formerly with the National Trust of Historic Preservation, to lead the Galveston Historical Foundation and The Strand revitalization. Brink persuaded the Mitchells to purchase their first building, 1871 Thomas Jefferson League Building, and restore it for retail space and officesThe Mitchell family now own more than 20 commerical buildings in the historic district.