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GALVESTON CUSTOM HOUSE. The Galveston Custom House, also known as the "Old Customhouse," a Greek Revival-style two-story red brick structure at Twentieth and Post Office streets, was constructed between 1858 and 1861. The customhouse was designed in 1854 by United States Treasury architect Ammi B. Young and is thought to be the first Galveston building designed by an architect. Contractors Charles Blaney McCluskey and Edwin Ward Moore altered Young's design; the building was completed by contractors Blaisdell and Emerson. The rectangular structure, with projecting double gallery on the west side and inset double galleries on the north and south sides, also housed a post office and the United States district court. Much of the building, which has cast-iron columns, cornices, balustrades, window architraves, and other wrought-iron features, was fabricated in the north and shipped to the site. Construction was interrupted by a yellow fever epidemic in 1858, and the building was not completed until the eve of the Civil War. It was used only briefly before the outbreak of the war, when it was turned over to the Confederacy. During the conflict it probably took shelling during the battle of Galveston in 1863 and was the site of a "bread riot" initiated by wives of absent Confederate soldiers who stormed the building demanding flour. On June 2, 1865, Union forces took symbolic possession of the site by raising a flag, and the war officially ended there three days later. A new customhouse was built in 1891, and the old structure subsequently housed offices and served as a post office. It was restored in 1967 and in 1970 was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The building was damaged by a boiler explosion in 1978 but was afterward repaired.


Samuel Butler Graham and Ellen Newman, Galveston Community Book: A Historical and Biographical Record of Galveston and Galveston County (Galveston: Cawston, 1945). Donald J. Lehman, Lucky Landmark (Washington: U.S. Public Buildings Service, 1973). James Wright Steely, comp., A Catalog of Texas Properties in the National Register of Historic Places (Austin: Texas Historical Commission, 1984). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Diana J. Kleiner

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Diana J. Kleiner, "GALVESTON CUSTOM HOUSE," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 30, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.