While visiting another island inn, couple falls for Victorian beauty
Galveston long has attracted artists and photographers keen to immortalize the island’s wildlife and scenery. The new owners of the Charles W. Adams Mansion have renovated and updated the grand Victorian with a plan to attract more creative tourists to Galveston.
Bobby and Sandra Connatser live in Houston but fell in love with Galveston during weekend stays on the island, they said. They were looking for a retirement project when the Charles W. Adams Mansion, 2314 Ave. M, caught their eye.
“We were staying at the Coppersmith Inn and visited the farmers market and then walked around the neighborhood,” Bobby said. “We saw it and decided we wanted to buy it.”
Bobby, who has worked in commercial real estate for years, researched the investment opportunity and then hired broker and historic home expert Tom Schwenk, of Tom’s Galveston Real Estate, to represent the couple. They closed on the property in early March, just before the coronavirus hit Galveston.
The couple used the pandemic stay-at-home period for renovations to ensure the updated mansion embodies their vision for a comfortable historic retreat for people wanting to appreciate the island. They have repaired the historic elevator, added a ramp for easy access, updated the garden and styled each room with thoughtful antiques and curiosities to fit the Victorian décor of the property.
The Charles W. Adams Mansion was built in 1860 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The double-galleried home has many historical features, including the original long leaf pine floors, 12-foot ceilings, “bundled wheat-style” porch railings, pocket doors and a grand “floating” staircase in the entrance.
Sandra, who had a career in retail and then education, is an enthusiastic scrapbooker and photographer who loves taking pictures of birds and landscapes. She is the driving force behind the creative retreat part of the business, having enjoyed many creative retreats herself.
“The men’s parlor and library are adjoining rooms with wonderful pocket doors connecting them,” Sandra said. “These are our retreat rooms for crafting, meeting or other retreats. We know there is a whole network of scrapbookers and other such creative organizations looking for new venues for retreats, and we really want to tap into these networks.”
The Connatsers are members of the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council and enjoy participating in FeatherFest, the island’s annual birding and nature photography festival. Because of that experience, they know the island has much to offer creative people, they said. Their retreat rooms are on the first floor and feature 5-foot-long tables, ergonomic adjustable rolling chairs, a coffee and iced tea bar, snacks and table lamps. A whiteboard also is available.
Although they haven’t worked in the lodging industry before, they have had a lot of support from Coppersmith Inn owner Theressa Stonecipher, “who has been amazing,” Sandra said.
Bobby adds he and Sandra are both “people people” and problem solvers who thrive on helping others.
“We just want to give people a great experience of Galveston,” he said.
In their initial opening weeks, they already have hosted a steady stream of guests. They also have hosted an intimate wedding, which resulted in six suites being booked.
The Connatsers are interested in the history of the building and want to learn more about the early days of the mansion, they said.
The mansion features seven rooms. Five suites are on the second floor of the main house and one is on the third floor attic. There also is a Carriage House on the grounds that sleeps two. The suites all have en suite bathrooms and feature a romantic Victorian style, including many antique shop finds.
“One room has an unusual coal shuttle that we found,” Sandra said. “We have a Hungarian cradle in another room, and in another is a gorgeous leather folio, which was used as packaging for silk stockings. That is particularly special as the mansion is in the Silk Stocking District.”
Retired educator Jerry Klekotta lives onsite as venue manager to assist with guest queries.