Galveston as a Beach Resort
Imagine, if you can, the city of Galveston in the early 1880s, a growing metropolis of 37,000 people. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, its fine natural harbor has made it the State of Texas’s principal port and transportation center. The City’s location also presents it with another, new opportunity. That is to become an early participant in the emerging resort industry.
Throughout the 19th-century the healthful benefits of fresh sea air and exercise have been extolled by physicians. As a result, a substantial and growing number of people have begun flocking to the shore in other parts of America to make the most of the health advantages their locations offer and to enjoy the diversions that beach towns present in terms of entertainment. Investors need only look at the examples provided by Coney Island and Atlantic City to appreciate the financial rewards that awaited those willing to exploit opportunities to serve a market eager to spend time and money near the sea.
In addition to the money to be made, there is an alluring prestige and a certain glamour associated with recognition of one’s city as a major resort, to be viewed, like Coney Island as “a symbol of Americans’ increasing pride”. The fashionable people who gathered in towns located on the shore grew to be an attraction that aided in the success of these communities. People flocked to the new seaside resorts, in part to, take in the fascinating, ever changing spectacle of the wealthy leisured class who patronize them. To see and be seen was part of the fun. Although resort towns became more accessible and democratic over time, and the pleasures they offered less rarefied, people watching remained and still is, one of the chief sources of entertainment they present to visitors.
Galveston made its bid for fame as the premier beach destination on the Gulf of Mexico in the early 1880s. Its famous Electric Pavilion, where Oscar Wilde, on tour in America, would draw a crowd, and its luxurious Beach Hotel were constructed in 1881 and 1882 respectively. They would be followed by a long line of bath houses, hotels, casinos and amusement parks over the coming century. Against all odds at times Galveston has continued to attract vacationers to its beaches ever since.