The first Fort Travis, on the eastern end of Galveston Island, was the first fort established by the Republic of Texas in 1836 to protect the Galveston harbor entrance. It was an octagonal structure mounted with six and twelve pound guns from the Cayuga and was commanded by James Morgan. The fort, originally called Fort Point, was renamed for William Barrett Travis, commander at the Alamo. When building began in April 1836, the nearby construction camp was called Camp Travis. The garrison was withdrawn in 1844. Two other installations, the earthworks of James Long and later fortifications of the Civil War and Reconstruction period, were west of the fort site. Neither is still standing today.
The later Fort Travis was across the harbor entrance at the southern end of Bolivar Peninsula. There the federal government purchased a ninety-seven-acre site in 1898 for $36,000; other parcels were added later. Federal construction began in 1898 and ended in 1943. The fort was turned over to the coast artillery on October 25, 1899. It was defended by four batteries: Ernst and Davis, completed in 1898; Kimball in 1925; and No. 236, finished in 1943. Its firepower ranged from two twelve-inch guns mounted on barbette carriages to three-inch rapid-fire guns. There were twenty-seven buildings, including barracks for enlisted men, officers, and noncommissioned officers; a mess hall; and ancillary frame buildings. All have been demolished. After the Galveston hurricane of 1900, a seventeen-foot seawall was constructed on the Gulf side of the fort. Fort Travis was occupied by troops in both world wars, and a number of German prisoners of war were interned there during World War II. In 1949 the reservation was declared war surplus and sold to the M and M Building Corporation, a private developer, with the stipulation that the former batteries would be made available to the public during hurricane emergencies. In 1960 the fort was designated an official civil-defense shelter and sold to C. Pat Lumpkin Associates of Houston. In 1973 the Galveston County Commissioners Court purchased the site for a public park.