By Terry Card
Galveston Historic Foundation was incorporated in 1954, establishing Historic Districts and is the main advocate of preservation and renovation of individual properties. In addition, the GHF operates a salvage warehouse, several paint programs, an incentive grant program, and a revolving real estate fund providing the money necessary to save historic homes.
Resulting from these programs, the GHF has preserved over the years, many historic sites and programs which it owns or administers. These include Pier 21 Theater, which regularly shows films such as the Great Storm and Galveston’s own pirate, Jean Lafitte. Also included under the GHF banner is the tall ship Elissa and the Texas Seaport Museum, regularly scheduled Galveston harbor or reservation-only Marine Biology tours on Seagull II, and regular tours of the GHF Bishop’s Palace, St. Joseph’s Church, and Menard House which was built by Canadian Joseph Menard who founded Galveston in 1838.
Galveston Island Tours is an affiliate of Galveston Historic Foundation and therefore is the only Galveston tour with full access to all GHF historic buildings, shows and ships. Being an affiliate of GHF allows Galveston Island Tours to customize tours of GHF sites and buildings for large groups beforehand. Depending on the size of the group, tour times can be adjusted to meet group scheduling requirements.
Galveston Island Tours utilize a solar powered electric shuttle for many of their tours. In speaking to Matt Farragher who until recently was the tour guide for the tours, on a sunny day the shuttle would be entirely powered by solar energy. Over the course of the year this represents approximately a 20% saving in energy usage and is environmentally friendly. On overcast days, the shuttle is charged overnight at their garage. On inclement days, the shuttle has plastic side covers to protect the passengers. Shuttle service has been recently suspended while repairs are being made, but it is expected to be back in operation in September. Once back in service, the shuttle can also be rented by groups for private functions of any nature and by making arrangements in advance with Galveston Island Tours.
Regularly scheduled one hour tours of the East End Historic District, The Strand, or the Hurricane Ike tree sculptures depart from the parking lot behind Ashton Villa located at 2328 Broadway, Thursdays through Sunday at 12:30pm, 2:30pm, and 4:30pm, with an additional Saturday departure at 10am. The prices for the regular tours are $15 for adults, $12 for students under the age of 18, and $12 for seniors over the age of 65.
In addition to the regularly scheduled tours, Galveston Island Tours offers Step on Tours. For groups with their own bus transportation, a Galveston Island Tour Guide will step on their bus and provide a guided tour of Galveston Storm Stories relating the history of the more than five hundred blocks of the city that were raised, and during the tour, you will pass monstrous churches like St. Patrick, some of which were raised five feet utilizing 700 jack screws, all turned by hand. These buildings were elevated one excruciating half inch at a time. While all this ensued, citizens walked along elevated planks, many feet above grade to enter and exit their homes which had all been jacked up onto new pilings. Included in the tour is a showing of the Great Storm Experience at Pier 21 Theater. This is an hour and a half tour at $10 per person (minimum 20 people). There is also a one hour tour of Historic Galveston exploring the many renovated Victorian era buildings for $5 per person. Arrangements must be made ahead of time, and if the group does not have a bus available, Galveston Island Tours can make all arrangements for a nominal fee.
Galveston Island Tours will also arrange educational tours for groups to visit any GHF sites, or for $4 per student, will arrange for school bus Step on Tours of the Island. For $5 per student, they have School Group Guided Tours of the Broadway Cemetery, the Strand Historic District, and other interesting sites.
Galveston Island Tours is also cognizant of the needs of Senior Groups. They provide a Step on Tour Guide for $5 per senior and provide a tour of the island, especially highlighting its architecture. As well, for seniors, they provide a 1900 Storm Combo Tour at $10 per person, combining a Step on Tour with the Pier 21 showing of the Great Storm. Or for something a little more on the nautical side, a Historic Tour of Galveston Harbor is provided for $8 per person on board GHF’s Seagull ll. Other tour arrangements are also available by contacting Galveston Island Tours.
Wes Hocott, Captain of Seagull ll, provides overall management of all Galveston Island Tours, including the bus and shuttle tours. Individual guides conduct the shuttle and Step on Tours.
Being an affiliate of Galveston Historic Society provides Galveston Island Tours with great flexibility for those people, tourists, student and senior groups, who wish to be able to make special arrangements with respect to all GHF managed sites, whether it is for certain days, times, or combinations of visits to GHF attractions.
Galveston Island Tours
502 20th St., Galveston
(409)765-8687 or (888)425-8687