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10 Historical Facts You Probably Don't Know About Galveston

Updated 666 days ago

As you may already know, Galveston's rich history is one of the many things that makes us a one-of-a-kind destination. From the spectacular Victorian homes to the wonderful people whom have molded Galveston in to what it is today, there is just so much to learn and discover. Here are 10 historical facts about Galveston that you have probably never heard before: 

Number 1, Galveston is the home of the inventor of condensed milk.

Gail Borden was named Galveston’s first customs inspector in 1837. Borden would later achieve fame by inventing condensed milk.

Number 2, Galveston is home to Texas' first bakery.

Irish immigrant Christopher Fox opened a bakery in Galveston in 1838. It was the first bakery in the State of Texas. 

Number 3, Galveston was once the leading port of Texas.

In 1842, Galveston received the first cotton press in Texas. By 1899 Galveston was the world's foremost cotton port and the fifth most important port in the United States.

Number 4, Galveston was the first city in Texas with light.

Galveston was the first city in Texas to have gas lights (1856) and later the first city to have electric lights (1883). 

Number 5, Galveston is home to Texas' first opera house.

The first opera house in Texas opened in Galveston in 1870. It was on the corner of Tremont and Market Streets. Below are past and present images of Galveston opera houses.

Number 6, Galveston had the first telephone in Texas.

The first telephone in Texas was installed in Galveston in 1878. It was installed in the office of Colonel Belo, founder of the Galveston Daily News, the oldest surviving newspaper in Texas, founded in 1842. 

Number 7, Galveston is home to the oldest medical college, now UTMB.

The oldest medical college in Texas opened in Galveston in 1891 followed by the first school for nurses in 1894. Originally known as the Texas Medical College, today it is known as the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). 

Number 8, prior to the 1900 Storm, Galveston was the 2nd richest city in US.

On the night of the Great Storm of 1900, Galveston was the second richest city per capita in all of the United States. The only city with more wealth than Galveston was Newport, Rhode Island. 

Number 9, Galveston was raised in grade after the 1900 Storm.

After the Great Storm of 1900, a seawall was constructed to protect the city from future storm surges. After construction of the seawall was completed, 500 blocks behind the seawall were raised to even the grade. The task took eight years to complete. 

Number 10, Historic Ashton Villa's fence is mostly underground.

Half of Ashton Villa’s historic iron fence is underground. Set into concrete when installed in 1859, the Brown family allowed half of it to be buried during the grade-raising. The gates and newel posts were removed and then reinstalled once the grade was raised so that they could maintain function. 

Facts are courtesy of Jami Durham, Historian - Property Research and Cultural History for the Galveston Historical Foundation.

Article written by Clayton Kolavo

Clayton is the Engagement Strategist for the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, overseeing the bureau's social media presence and engagement initiatives. He began working in the tourism industry following his graduation from Texas State University with a BS in Public Relations and Mass Communication.