James Moreau Brown buys future site of Ashton Villa
On this day in 1859, businessman James Moreau Brown purchased four lots at the corner of Broadway Boulevard and Twenty-fourth Street in Galveston. On the site he built Ashton Villa, reputed to be the first brick house in Galveston. He designed the three-story, Victorian Italianate residence himself and used slave labor and skilled European craftsmen to build it. To protect the house from the damp, Brown made the brick walls thirteen inches thick, with an air space between the exterior and the interior walls. Brown died in 1895; his home withstood the devastation of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, but its basement was filled with sand and silt. El Mina Shrine bought the house in 1927 and used it for the next forty years as business offices. In 1968 the Shriners offered the property for sale. A campaign led by the Galveston Historical Foundation raised $125,000 to purchase Ashton Villa, and funding from both government and private sources helped restore and refurnish the historic home. Ashton Villa was opened to the public in 1974 and is administered by the Galveston Historical Foundation.