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STRAND

STRAND. The Strand, or Avenue B, in Galveston, Texas, runs parallel to the bay. Included in the original plat of the city in the late 1830s, origins of Avenue B's nickname are unknown. While the avenue extends throughout Galveston, the Strand has usually referred to the five-block business district situated between Twentieth and Twenty-fifth streets. Throughout the nineteenth century, the area was known as the "Wall Street of the Southwest," serving as a major commercial center for the region. At that time a majority of goods and people came through Galveston to get to Texas, making the city and the Strand a vibrant, vital, and bustling place where deals were made, goods bought and sold, ships supplied, and people served. In the late nineteenth century Galveston harbor annually hosted between 700 to 1,400 vessels. Major businesses included the shipping and trading firm of McKinney and Williams as well as the state's five largest banks. Wholesalers, commission merchants, cotton brokers, attorneys, and (prior to the Civil Warqv) slave auctioneers all had offices on the Strand. Businessmen included Pierre J. Menard, Michel B. Menard, Samuel M. Williams, William L. Moody, Thomas F. McKinney, Gail Borden, Jr., James M. Brown, George Ball, and William Hendley. In 1881 $38 million worth of merchandise and services were sold through the various establishments in the district. Early buildings on the Strand were usually wooden and thus vulnerable to the frequent fires and storms that plagued the island throughout the nineteenth century. Eventually, owners began to replace the frame structures with iron-front brick buildings. Two buildings in Hendley Row date back to 1855 and 1859. The Berlocker Building located at Strand and Mechanic Street was built in 1858. Other historic buildings date back to the 1870s and 1880s. Nicholas J. Clayton, Galveston's premier architect, designed fifteen commercial structures on the Strand. Eight of them still stand. During the Civil War, when the Union forces blockaded Galveston, many businesses on the Strand closed shop and moved to Houston for the duration of the war. The battle of Galveston was fought on the bay and on and around Kuhn's Wharf at Twenty-first street. The Confederate forces on the island fought from every corner of the street. The Hendley buildings and several others sustained some damage from shots and shells. Most businesses returned after the war to enter a period of prosperity that lasted until the early 1900s.

As with the rest of the city, the Galveston hurricane of 1900 proved to be a turning point for the Strand. Many of the buildings suffered serious damage. The W. L. Moody building lost its entire fourth floor. Other structures lost elaborate cornices. In the rebuilding process, businesses moved off the Strand and away from the wharfs. The area became a warehouse district. In the 1960s amidst widespread deterioration of the Strand, the Junior League of Galveston County restored two buildings sparking interest in the area. In 1973 the Galveston Historical Foundation initiated the Strand Revolving Fund, a catalyst in subsequent years for dramatic restoration and adaptive use in the Strand Historic District. The fund and private investors continue to revitalize the area, making it a tourist attraction as well as a legitimate business community. The area is listed as an historical district on the National Register of Historic Places. It features shops, historical exhibits, and art galleries and hosts annual Mardi Gras celebrations and a Christmas festival known as Dickens on The Strand.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Howard Barnstone, The Galveston That Was (New York: Macmillan, 1966). Virginia Eisenhour, The Strand of Galveston (Galveston, 1974). Galveston Daily News, September 27, 1856, October 25, 1908, April 23, 1911. Charles Waldo Hayes, Galveston: History of the Island and the City (2 vols., Austin: Jenkins Garrett, 1974). David G. McComb, Galveston: A History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986).

Betty Hartman

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Betty Hartman, "STRAND," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ghs01), accessed December 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.