Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

A Big Win for Galveston Preservation and CW History

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 17, 2012

From today’s Galveston County Daily News:

In another coup for conservationists, Mitchell Historic Properties, a company owned by the family of billionaire developer George Mitchell, might as soon as today finalize the acquisition of a long-troubled building.

Mitchell Historic Properties plans to buy the east two bays of the Hendley Building on the northwest corner of 20th Street and The Strand. The building long housed Demack & Co., a produce wholesaler that closed in 1999. Demack & Co. couldn’t survive when the University of Texas Medical Branch and Galveston Independent School District began awarding multimillion contracts to larger grocery supply chains outside the city.

Bill Ross, senior vice president and general manager of Mitchell Historic Properties, said plans call for a major renovation of the building. One idea is that Galveston Historical Foundation would move into the first floor. Officials with the foundation could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Demack building has fallen into disrepair and has made the foundation’s Heritage at Risk list since 2003. Several family members claimed ownership of the building, complicating city efforts during the years to bring the building up to code. Mitchell Historic Properties, which is buying the building from James K. Rourke Jr. and Jack Alexander Demack, has invested many millions of dollars restoring 17 historic downtown businesses. Stay tuned.

This is wonderful news. Hendley’s Row — a single, large building encompassing four separate bays — is, along with the old U.S. Customs House, perhaps the most important war-related structure in town that survives. A cupola on its roof (visible in the top photo) was used as a lookout to track Union blockaders during the war, and Confederates occupying the building on the morning of January 1, 1863, used its back windows as a platform for sharpshooters and even light artillery during the Battle of Galveston. This structure has been slowly crumbling for a long time — even under Demack & Co.’s active proprietorship, it was a pretty sorry sight — and it’s great to see the prospect of serious and long-lasting restoration work being done.

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Image: The Hendley Buildings on Strand Street, Galveston, in the 1870s and in 2011. As one of the tallest commercial buildings in town at the time of the Civil War, the Hendley Buildings (or Hendley’s Row) were a natural lookout point for observers watching both the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay. A red flag flown from this building on July 2, 1861 announced the much-anticipated arrival of the Federal blockade. Upper image: Rosenberg Library.

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