It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Hurricane Ike barreled into Galveston, flooding streets and destroying homes. Beautiful trees, including majestic live oaks that once formed canopies over the island’s many historic neighborhoods, also fell victim to Ike’s salty storm waters. But out of the destruction came rejuvenation as sculptors used their sharp cutting tools to carve beautiful figurines out of the otherwise doomed tree trunks and branches.
At one house, a Great Dane straddles a fence not far from a smiling dolphin and stoic owl. Herons stand majestically with their long slim beaks pointing upwards. Other favorites are the Tin Man and Toto, a glamorous mermaid and a life-sized geisha clutching a fan – all adding a touch of beauty to Mother Nature’s wrath.
There are more than 30 “Galveston Tree Sculptures” within the East End Historical District alone. Each year these art pieces – as well as the district’s picturesque Victorian homes – draw thousands of visitors for walking, bicycling and shuttle tours.
Finding the tree sculptures is half the fun as many are tucked away in side yards and back yards while others stand as bold statements and the focal point of neatly manicured front lawns. And, the personality and meaning behind these sculptures are just as diverse as the homeowners that commissioned them.
Perhaps the most majestic sculpture is “Birds of Galveston” carved by artist Dayle Lewis on Sealy Street. On this tree, what were once limbs now branch upwards with delicate carvings of nearly 20 different birds while carvings of small plants and animals wrap around the tree’s trunk.
Others include a wildlife totem pole, a toad, pelicans, a hand clutching a diploma and a yellow lab. There’s a large sculpture of a mermaid holding a clamshell over her head. And, near a Galveston fire station, sits a carved hydrant and a Dalmatian posing.
These sculptures, bittersweet as they may be, are marvelous reminders of the trees that once shaded the island’s charming neighborhood streets. Even more so, they are inspiring symbols of Galveston’s resilience and the beauty that can be found even within Mother Nature’s wrath.
If you go:
- Self-guided Galveston Tree Sculptures tour brochures are available at the Galveston Island Visitor Information Center at Ashton Villa (2328 Broadway) or online by clicking here.
- In addition to self guided tours, there are several options for shuttle tours to see these beautiful sculptures with Cool Tours and Galveston Historic Tours.
Interesting Fact: the Galveston Tree Sculptures represent only a small percentage of trees lost during Hurricane Ike. The wood from other downed Ike trees has been used for recycling projects, including restoring historic ships, and for other projects including art pieces for sale by Galveston galleries.