Like many busy seaports, Galveston attracted a substantial immigrant population in the late 1800s. For many, traditional family support was an ocean away, meaning unexpected accidents or epidemics led to shattered families. In 1879, the local business community came together to establish the Island City Protestant and Israelitish Orphans Asylum. The orphanage later dropped its religious affiliation and was renamed the Galveston Orphans Home.
In 2013, The Bryan Museum purchased the Galveston Orphans Home, a local landmark constructed in 1895. All of the walls, floors, doors and ceilings are in exactly the same place as they were in when the building was used as the orphanage. The ground level of the building is where the children played and an under-the-staircase hideout was discovered in a niche during restoration. In this hideaway, a sign demanding “Keep Out” hung on the wall next to a peach can, which apparently was the makeshift doorbell.
Other items were discovered during the renewal of the space and items were found buried in the soil, tucked away in the walls, hidden in the attic, and many are now on display. In addition, former residents of the orphanage have visited the museum and recorded their experiences in an oral history, which is part of the legacy of this facility.