The Bryan Museum opened in 2015 and is housed in the old Galveston Orphans Home which opened to 1898. The museum contains the extensive collection of businessman and collector, J.P. Bryan. Bryan began collecting Texas artifacts at an early age. His lineage goes deep into Texas roots. In fact, Emily Austin Bryan Perry, Stephen F. Austin’s sister, is Bryan’s great-great-grandmother.
This Texas-sized collection holds some seventy thousand items from rare books and documents to weapons and artwork. Bryan’s goal for the museum is to demonstrate the wonder of the American West and provide evidence of the events that happened there.
Throughout seven galleries, you will take an in-depth look at Texas history. From the calling card of Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas to the artwork of Frank Reaugh, Texas history is found in every corner of the building. Due to the massive size of the collection, the docent-led tours are recommended. Tours are available twice daily.
The main floor galleries take you through the history of the West from Spain’s involvement to the creation of the Republic of Texas. You will also find a Civil War violin case and a wall of Old West saddles. On the second floor, the artwork of the Old West Masters covers the walls.
The upstairs gallery is dedicated to the art of the Old West. A collection of rifles and pistols used in the American West dominates a large display alongside that of with cowboy spurs. Bryan’s favorite artist, Frank Reaugh, the “Rembrandt of the Longhorn” covers a large portion of the gallery. In the special exhibits area is a collection of murals of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.
In the basement, you will find the children’s area and a gallery dedicated to the building itself. The home was damaged in the 1900 hurricane. It was rebuilt and continued to serve as an orphanage until the mid-1980s.
History buffs will be absorbed at the Bryan. It tells the story of Texas like no other.
W.L. Moody, Jr. purchased the thirty-one room Mansion in 1900 and it served as the family’s home for some eighty years. Moody was one of the wealthiest people in America in 1950 having interests in some fifty businesses.
Built in 1895 by the Willis family, the mansion is a magnificent work of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. The residence did not receive much damage in the 1900 storm due to its steel and concrete construction. The ornate wood paneling, ceiling, and staircases are massive. Moody died in 1954 and his daughter Mary inherited the home and businesses.
Mary Moody was a woman ahead of her time in the 1950’s. She managed the fifty companies left to her by her father. During the 1950’s, she was the first lady of finance in America. Mary was also a world traveler and loved to hobnob with celebrities and funded the theater.
The Galveston Children’s Museum is housed on the ground floor of the mansion. In a unique twist, the self-guided tour of the mansion is narrated by the six members of the Moody family. The likes of this fine piece of architecture is something not seen today. Be sure to look in when in Galveston.
Bishop’s Palace is an extraordinary building. Located in the East End Historic District of Galveston, it has stood the test of time against the elements. Built in 1892, by Walter Gresham, the Chateauesque mansion constructed of steel and stone weathered the 1900 Hurricane with little damage. From 1923 through 1960, it served as the residence of the Bishop of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese. The residence is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The residence is massive. Sienna marble columns flank the ornate mahogany staircase to create a grand entrance for the residence. The staircase is lit by an elaborate skylight and there are fourteen-foot coffered ceilings are found in the first floor formal rooms. The large windows light the space with rich stained glass.
The audio guided tour is well worth your time to enjoy this magnificent architecture and design.
I ended my Galveston journey with a ferry ride across the Bolivar Peninsula that put me on the road toward home. This ferry is a free service offered by the Texas Department of Transportation takes only about 15 minutes but is well worth the trip. If you’re lucky, you might spot some dolphins on the way.