What began as a fix-and-sell project turned into a cherished forever home
It isn’t often someone takes a four-unit apartment complex and converts it into a one-bedroom house. But 20 years ago, that’s what islanders Craig and Angela Brown did when they found a dilapidated two-story house they intended to fix up and sell. Instead, it became their forever home.
“A few months into the renovation, we were both standing in a large, open space upstairs and realized we were in love with the house,” Angela said. “With all the windows and tall, old trees, it felt like we were standing in a treehouse.
“That is when we decided this needed to be our new home.”
It’s a majestic house. Thick tall columns guard the front and several large and small porches provide comfortable outdoor space. A compact studio garage apartment provides a place for visitors. A playful tall, red metal sculpture by artist Nic Noblique is prominent in the front yard, which is surrounded by a white picket fence.
Inside, the Browns, who have been married more than half a century, have made this 1870s house a peaceful respite from their busy lives. Craig was elected mayor of Galveston in 2020 after serving six years on the city council.
The 2,000-square-foot house, in the tree-lined historic San Jacinto Neighborhood, is surrounded by oaks and palms, many of which survived the 2021 freeze. The grand entryway — rebuilt with wood salvaged from the interior during the restoration — is decorated with custom stained-glass windows to match the glass on the front door. The foyer, anchored with a table and chairs, is where many of the family’s antiques are housed along with the original marriage certificate from Craig’s parents and Angela’s great-grandmother’s marriage license. Precious items salvaged from earlier homes and storage units that burned or flooded are displayed — an old clock, an antique lamp and paintings done by each of their grandmothers.
The living room is large and open with comfortable couches and lots of art by local artists, including silverleaf paintings by Butch Skynear, whimsical structures by Maggie Fuller and an unusual doll head by Ann Wood. One thing visitors notice in the house is the walls. Everything is painted in a light creamy tan faux finish, giving the rooms a soft glow and absorbing the natural light that flows in from all the windows.
“Everything in Galveston has a story,” Angela said. “You meet the most talented and unique people here. It is a gift and a surprise of talent.”
The Browns salvaged enough wood during the restoration to construct a sizable island in the kitchen and a second staircase in the back of the house, using the old boards with their imperfections and character.
“We feel that harnessed the good energy of the past into this house,” she said.
During the restoration, two brick fireplaces were found behind some drywall, Craig said. Interestingly, their neighbor had in his garage the ornate metal grate for the living room fireplace.
“Our next plan is to turn those two fireplaces into working gas fireplaces,” Craig said. “An idea came to me after experiencing this year’s winter storm in a house that registered 38 degrees inside.”
The couple added a breakfast nook, powder room and a utility room, maintaining the personality evident in the rest of the house. Walls are decorated with religious icons, multi-cultural symbols and creative touches with similar messages: peace, harmony, love.
The upstairs of the house is rather private for the Browns. There Angela has a large desk where she spends much of her time. She shares the room with Craig, who only has a small folding table as his work area.
“This is really my space,” said Angela, noting he has a small office at city hall where he can work.
The adjacent bedroom is large, actually spacious. Light filters in through the windows and doors that lead onto two large porches, where the Browns spend much of their outdoor time.
“I love the porch,” she said. “We are in the trees and because of all the windows in the bedroom, it is like we bring the outside in.”
The Browns for more than 30 years have had homes on Galveston Island, including two earlier houses on the West End. But Angela’s family history with Galveston goes back more than 120 years. Her great-grandfather Oscar Kuhn lived a block from where the Browns live now. When the 1900 Storm came, Kuhn lost his wife and two children. He later moved to Fort Worth and started a new family, including Angela’s grandfather.
“I feel the spirits are active in the entire neighborhood,” Craig said. “In a strange way, without the 1900 Storm I would not have met the love of my life.”
Craig loves the soul and character of their home, he said.
“I feel good just being in it,” he said.