The Tremont House Hotel Galveston, Texas Copyright AMWeigel
The Tremont Houston located on Ship Mechanics Blvd. in the center of the Galveston Island historic district is the third hotel to bear the Tremont name. The first Tremont Houston located on Postoffice Street and Tremont was built by the McKinney and Williams firm in 1839. The hotel was two stories tall, with long galleries on both floors extending the length of the east and not facades. It played host to a grand call in honor of the battle of San Jacinto (the last battle for Texas Independence from Mexico) on April 19, 1839. The ball officially marked the opening of the hotel and tickets were sold for an astounding $50 in Texas currency or $25 gold reflecting the struggling and unstable new republic that was still not part of the United States. Some 7 years later, Texas officially joined the United States on February 19, 1846.
On April 19, 1861 General Sam Houston made his last public speech from the hotel's north gallery warning a hostile crowd of the horrors of civil war and predicting that "fire and rivers of blood" would result from the South's efforts to secede from the Union. A year later Texas Governor Francis R. Lubbock spoke from the East gallery of the hotel advising citizens to lay waste to Galveston with the exception of fortifications sot hat when the "vandal hordes" (union soldiers) arrived they would find neither potable water or shelter. That same year the hotel was occupied by Union soldiers during one of the many times Galveston Island exchanged hands in the midst of civil war and a fire destroyed the building.
Second Tremont Hotel Opened February 1872
In 1871 a group of Galveston citizens created The Galveston Hotel Company and began plans for a second Tremont House that would rival the first. The group sought to build a hotel that would preserve the grandeur of the original hotel which had made it famous through out the state and country. The new hotel was built on half a block worth of land bound by Tremont, Church, and 24th Street. Architect Nicholas J. Clayton came to Galveston to simultaneously supervise the construction of the new Tremont House and the Presbyterian Church. The second Tremont Houston opened February 1872.
The second Tremont House was host to many celebrity guest including United States Presidents Rutherford Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield, and Chester Arthur and other luminaries including General Sam Houston, Edwin Booth, Buffalo Bill Cody, Anna Pavlova, Clara Barton, and Stephen Crane.
At a banquet honoring former President Ulysses S. Grant in 1880 union General Phil Sheridan, mellowed by good liquor and southern hospitality arose an apologized for his famous remark that if he owned Hell and half of Texas, he would rent out Texas and live in Hell.
Rendition of 1900 Storm with Tremont House in the background
During the storm of 1900 hundreds took refuge in the Tremont House. Clara Barton, organizer of the American Red Cross stayed there when she came to Galveston after the storm to assist disaster victims. On November 1, 1928 the hotel was closed, its days of glory over it was in serious disrepair, and demolition started on December 11, 1928.
The current Tremont House is a worthy successor to these legendary hotels. The third Tremont was built in the mid 1980s in the former Leon & H. Blum Co. Building. The building served as the headquarters for the leading Galveston dry goods importer for over 20 years. The company also had offices in Boston, New York, and Paris, France.
The depression of the 1890s severely affected the business of Leon & H. Blum Co. and in 1896 the company dissolved. Since that time the building has served as a Mistrot & Bros. large department store until 1917. Then after sitting vacant for many years the building was taken over by the Galveston Tribune. To read the full history of the building you can click on the historical marker pictured at right.
The Tremont House of today is a gorgeous 119 room complex that takes up an entire block and half a black across the street. The elegant hotel sports Victorian era style guest suites with white rod iron beds, luxury bed linen, 15 feet high vaulted ceilings, hard wood floors, and windows in every guest room. The decor is delightful and sure to please anyone that has the pleasure of staying in this quaint little hotel.
The Civil War Solider
"The Civil War Solider" ghost is probably the best known at Tremont House. This ghost is said to haunt the first floor lobby, bar, dinning, and office areas of Tremont House. This ghost has been spotted by both staff and guest over the past 20 years the Tremont House has had its doors open for business.
Normally seen or heard marching back and forth up and down the length of the long hallway that makes up the front lobby area in front of the elevator shafts, down past the front desk, back towards the office areas of the Hotel Staff. Front Desk Clerks have heard the click click click of boots on the hard marble floor, come out of the backroom, only to find the lobby empty and no one standing at the front desk.
Could the solider be watching the front doors of Tremont House? Waiting on Union soldiers to invade the island and standing guard against that possible invasion?
The Lucky Man "Sam"
One story we've been told over and over about Tremont House is that of a salesman with a limp leg named Sam. After gambling most of the night Sam returned to his room in the former Belmont Boarding House which used to be located where the original brick facade is visible in the black and white marble lobby. Sam had a good night and at the tables and returned to his room with his pockets full of his winnings. That night as Sam lay sleeping someone murdered him and took the money he had won.
We've also heard the story another way in that the Lucky Man was the victim of a viscous Victorian era murder and was ambushed and robbed in the 4th floor hallway not killed in his sleep as the other story above is told.
To this day the east side of the 4th floor of Tremont House still experiences odd unexplained occurrences. Just after reconstruction, post Hurricane Ike, hotel guests on the fourth floor complained of having peculiar experiences, strikingly similar in nature. One night, the doors to their rooms shook, followed by a loud pound — like a knock — on the door, startling them awake. Then guests reported hearing strange, one-footed stomping in the hallway, accompanying a distinct dragging noise.
The Storm Victim
Guest of the Tremont have also experienced other unexplained activity believed to be caused by a storm victim of the 1900 storm. According to witnesses whenever there is a storm, thunder, lightening, rain, and/or wind activity really amps up. Floors 3 and 4 have the most paranormal activity including knocking, ceiling fans switching on and off, shadow figures, moaning and crying after loud sounds of thunder, lights being turned on and off while guest are asleep, and televisions going on and off randomly in both occupied and unoccupied rooms.
According to a article written in the Islander Magazine titled Hauntings & History in the Tremont House written by Amy Matsumoto claim an employee who worked in Guest Services for several years relates a few hair-raising stories, including one from a manager of another hotel who complained of his shower going on and off intermittently, “breathing” on his ear while he slept and whispering of a man’s voice. Paralegals on a major case complained about the petulant nature of the shower, as did the employee’s sisters, who also reported feeling a “presence above her while she was sleeping.”
The Little Boy "Jimmy"
A former chef of the Tremont told me about a little boy that haunts the lobby and elevators of the Tremont House Hotel. She said that they used to see him often in the kitchens and that new employees at the front desk always had an experience with "Jimmy" during their first month. Most front desk clerks would tell her about seeing a little boy out of the corner of the eye and when they would look again he would be gone.
Another account is that a female front desk clerk was helping a guest check-in and saw a young boy playing behind the man which she assumed was his son. When the man walked away the little boy didn't follow, she looked around trying to find the young boy again but he was gone. Later that evening when the guest came down to ask her to call a taxi she asked him about the little boy and the guest reported he hadn't seen a child and didn't have any children.
Bar-staff that work in the bar area of the Tremont House Hotel have reported glasses being pushed off the bar. One bartender mentioned that one time he saw a glass move and assumed it was because of condensation built up under the glass so he just ignored it, then he watched the glass move again even further that second time, this really got his attention and he continued to watch the glass, and finally he watched as the glass slide a good 12" across the bar and tumbled to the ground. It certain sounds like a mischievous spirit playing a trick like a child, I wonder if Jimmy is giggling at all the trouble he causes the staff of the Tremont House.
Scattered Clothing Ghost
Another guest of the Tremont House Hotel in Galveston, Texas told us that prior to a cruise she and her husband woke up the morning they were supposed to leave on the ship to find their belongings all over the room. Clothes scattered out of their suitcase, shoes in the bathroom, and a jewelry case that was locked in the wives' suitcase was suddenly unlocked and they never were able to locate the key. The couple was scheduled to come back from their cruise and stay the night in the Tremont House again but they decided to stay at another local hotel instead.