Islanders put a lot of love and work into their historic homes
Galveston Island is known for charming historic cottages. But that charm comes with challenges.
Cottages, which are typically smallish houses, are usually near bodies of water, said Catherine Gorman, historic preservation officer with the city.
Preserving homes in Galveston poses unique challenges because the salt air can be corrosive to old materials. People have to ensure their homes are watertight, Gorman said.
“Our environment’s just a little more dynamic,” Gorman said.
But despite such challenges, many people enjoy living in historic cottages that have storied pasts. In fact, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mid-island cottage-style home
Will Wright and Shannon Guillot-Wright bought their cottage-style home in the summer of 2013, they said.
As chief creative officer for the Galveston Historical Foundation, Wright was definitely looking for something a little historic, he said.
“It’s hard to live in Galveston and not feel like you’re involved in that history,” Wright said.
Most of the couple’s renovation work was focused on opening up and simplifying the house to emphasize its architectural features, Guillot-Wright said.
“I didn’t know some of these pieces existed,” Guillot-Wright said.
Their home is known as the James W. and Pauline Foster House. The Fosters hired architect Charles Bulger in 1896 to design what’s now a city landmark, according to the Galveston Historical Foundation.
James Foster worked for several major railroad companies in
Old houses come with challenges, Wright said. Things have a tendency to break or need fixing more often than in a modern house, Wright said.
But there’s a charm to living in a historic home, they said.
The couple doesn’t think of the home as theirs, but as a home they’re taking care of for a time, Guillot-Wright said.
“There’s a history to it that’s both before us and after us,” Guillot-Wright said. “We’re keepers of this house for a time being and then it will get passed onto someone else.”
East End cottage home
Bailey Shinn knew the second she walked into her cottage home it was for her, she said.
“I love being in a house that feels like it withstood some serious storms and different struggles over its time,” Shinn said. “It’s something I didn’t know that I would care about that much.”
Shinn and her husband, Chris, bought their home in 2014 after the Galveston Historical Foundation greatly restored it, Shinn said.
The house was vacant for about 20 years before the foundation rehabilitated it in 2012, including repairing holes in the roof.
Built between 1875 and 1885, the house originally had two rooms downstairs and one large upstairs room, according to the foundation.
Living in a historic house is appealing, but it can come with some issues, Shinn said.
Because the floors and windows all are historic, cold air can blow through during the winter, making it difficult to keep the place warm, Shinn said.
“We bundle up probably like they did 100 years ago,” Shinn said.
Shinn loves to think about how many other people might have lived in the house and to see various holes or marks that tell the story of the house’s life, she said.
“There’s just such a cool story behind everything,” Shinn said.
Seaside cottage-style home
Robert and Kathy Girndt, from Sugar Land, thought they’d buy their cottage-style home in 2013 as a weekend getaway. But a year later, they wanted to become full-time islanders, Kathy Girndt said.
Getting to know Galveston in a historic home was a lot of fun, she said.
“It has a lot more charm,” she said.
A city landmark, the house was built in 1924 by contractor M.C. Bowden, who built several houses for the survivors of the 1900 Storm, according to landmark records. These houses originally were two-room homes, according to landmark records.
Bowden never lived in the house, according to records.
The great thing about houses in Galveston is that they’re all different, Robert Girndt said.
“There’s always something different about each one,” he said.
The previous owners did much of the post-Hurricane Ike restoration after the 2008 storm damaged the home, but the Girndts try to refurbish what’s already in the house, including a clawfoot tub, rather than replace, he said.
“Instead of thinking about having it replaced, we had it refinished,” he said.