Ashton Villa, an earlybrick structure in Texas, is located on Broadway in Galveston. It was built in 1859 by James Moreau Brown, who by the late 1850s had developed the largest hardware store west of the Mississippi. Brown purchased four lots at the corner of Broadway Boulevard and Twenty-fourth Street in Galveston on January 7, 1859. He designed the building and used slave labor and skilled European craftsmen. His wife, née Rebecca Ashton Stoddart, named the new family residence Ashton Villa in memory of one of her ancestors, Lt. Isaac Ashton, a Revolutionary War hero.
The imposing three-story home was in the Victorian Italianate style, distinguished by deep eaves with carved supporting brackets. Its long windows and graceful ornate verandas were topped by lintels made of cast iron. 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. Ashton Villa's interior design was based on a central hall floor plan.
Brown died in 1895, leaving ownership of Ashton Villa to his wife. The home withstood the devastation of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, but its basement was filled with sand and silt from the Gulf, and the surrounding grounds were topped with two feet of soil as part of the island's grade raising efforts. In 1927 the villa was sold by a granddaughter to El Mina Shrine. The Shriners made minor modifications to the interior of the house to suit their needs and used it for the next forty years as their business offices and for social functions.
In June 1968 El Mina Shrine placed the Ashton Villa property for sale. It was rumored that the house was also threatened with demolition. In a campaign led by the Galveston Historical Foundation, $125,000 was raised to purchase Ashton Villa. Further funding from both government and private sources helped restore and refurnish the historic home. Much of the original furniture and art was retrieved and is now a part of the collection. Ashton Villa was opened to the public on July 25, 1974, and is administered by the Galveston Historical Foundation. It served as Galveston's official Bicentennial Headquarters. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Programs at the villa include daily public tours, property rentals, continuing restoration, special events, and a volunteer program. In June 1987, after accomplishing Galveston's first urban archeology, Ashton Villa opened an archeology exhibit that includes an interpretation of domestic life as well as the history of the house and its family.