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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Galveston in Galveston County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Federal Building 1857

 
 
Federal Building 1857 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 14, 2018
1. Federal Building 1857 Marker
Inscription.
In 1854, a congressional appropriation was secured for the erection of a government building in Galveston for the customs, post office departments, the United States Court, and the United States Marshal.

Three lots on the southeast corner of Postoffice and Twentieth Streets were purchased. Complications began immediately. It was bid on three times, and the contract re-negotiated several other times, and the building was redesigned three times. In 1857 construction was started.

With the threat of secession looming on the horizon, work on the building was rushed to completion. It was formally turned over to the United States Government on March 17, 1861, the first non-military Federal building in Texas, and was receiving final touches when Texas seceded from the Union.

An outstanding example of the Greek Revival style, the Custom House is a rectangular, two story, white columned, red brick structure, with recessed galleries on the north and south sides and a projecting gallery to the west side. The columns on the ground floor are of the Ionic order and on the second floor of the Corinthian order. The upper galleries are enclosed by a wrought iron railing. The main entrance is on the north porch. Wrought iron was used for the beams and girders of the structure as well as the stairways and shutters. An innovation in the 1850's, the use of iron both strengthened the building structurally and made it more fireproof.

The post office occupied the west half of the ground floor, and the custom house the east side while the court, clerks, marshal and United States Attorney were housed in the upper story.

Federal forces captured Galveston in 1862 and held the city until defeated in the Battle of Galveston, Jan. 1, 1863. They flew the American flag on the Customs House but did not occupy it. During one of the bombardments of Galveston by the Federal fleet, a 9 inch shell passed through the walls of the second story but failed to explode and did no damage beyond making a large opening in the bricks.

During the rest of the war the Confederate Post Office remained in the building, with the upper story used as headquarters by the officers commanding the military post of Galveston. At the close of the Civil War the custom house and United States Courts were re-established in the building.

Too small for increasing business, the Customs Department was moved in 1870, and not returned to the Old Federal Building until 1987.

By 1911, the brick walls, iron work and trim had been covered with a dark red paint. In 1916 appropriations were obtained to convert the building into a United States Courthouse. It was renovated again in 1933, in 1943, and 1962. An authentic restoration was re-dedicated in 1967.

The structure survived the fire of 1885, which raged within a half block of it, and the hurricane of 1900 although the roof was torn off and there was interior damage. In the storm of 1915 there was some minor damage, but the tornado that followed Hurricane Carla in 1961 did the most damage. An explosion in the boiler room, December 14, 1978, made a huge hole in the east wall and weakened the floor of the second floor courtroom. Structural damage was repaired in 1981 by GSA, and extensive iron work restored in 1988.

The building has housed many government offices. It appears on a commemorative United States postcard, issued July 20, 1988, and was re-dedicated as one of the 13 historic Customs Houses in the United States on May 12, 1988.
Federal Building 1857 Marker (<i>tall view</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 14, 2018
2. Federal Building 1857 Marker (tall view)

 
Location. 29° 18.307′ N, 94° 47.392′ W. Marker is in Galveston, Texas, in Galveston County. Marker is on 20th Street south of Postoffice Street (Avenue E), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is located on the sidewalk, near the southwest corner of the subject building. Marker is at or near this postal address: 502 20th Street, Galveston TX 77550, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Galveston Historical Foundation (within shouting distance of this marker); Custom House, Post Office and United States Court House (within shouting distance of this marker); 1894 Grand Opera House (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); First Presbyterian Church (about 400 feet away); St. Mary's Cathedral (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named St. Mary's Cathedral (was about 500 feet away but has been reported missing. ); American National Insurance Company (about 600 feet away); Site of Galveston Seminary (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Galveston.
 
More about this marker. Marker consists of text on one side and an historic picture of the old Federal Building on the other side.
 
Regarding Federal Building 1857. National
Federal Building 1857 Marker (<i>side 2: Federal Building 1866</i>) image. Click for full size.
Courtesy of Rosenberg Library
3. Federal Building 1857 Marker (side 2: Federal Building 1866)
Register of Historic Places, Designated Historic Customhouse (1974)
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. U.S. Custom House, Galveston, Texas (1861)
 
Also see . . .  United States Customs House and Court House (Galveston, Texas). The building symbolized the importance and prosperity of Galveston which was Texas' leading seaport and commercial city during the nineteenth century, and the port where most of the imported commercial goods entered the state. The United States Customs House and Court House, also known as Old Galveston Customhouse, in Galveston, Texas, is a former home of custom house, post office, and court facilities for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, and later for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Completed in 1861, the structure is now leased by the General Services Administration to the Galveston Historical Foundation. The courthouse function was replaced in 1937 by the Galveston United States Post Office and Courthouse. (Submitted on June 18, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Categories. ArchitectureDisastersWar, US Civil
 
Federal Building 1857 Marker (<i>side 2: wide view</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 14, 2018
4. Federal Building 1857 Marker (side 2: wide view)
Federal Building 1857 (<i>west side view</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 14, 2018
5. Federal Building 1857 (west side view)
Federal Building (<i>north side view</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 14, 2018
6. Federal Building (north side view)
Federal Building (<i>north side entrance</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 14, 2018
7. Federal Building (north side entrance)
Federal Building 1857 (<i>northwest corner view</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 14, 2018
8. Federal Building 1857 (northwest corner view)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 25, 2018. This page originally submitted on June 18, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 51 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on June 18, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   6, 7. submitted on June 23, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.   8. submitted on June 18, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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