Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Bishop's Palace

Sunday afternoon we took another trip back to Galveston. It was a bright sunny warm day and the beach was calling to us. Also, during our last trip to the island we had missed touring the Bishop's Palace so that was another planned destination. The opulent Victorian home pictured above was known as the Gresham Castle from 1886-1923. In 1923 the Catholic diocese of Galveston presented Bishop Byrne with the castle and it became the Bishop's Palace for twenty-seven years. The palace survived the hurricane of 1900 and was a safe haven then for many of the townspeople. It has reinforced steel walls, the storm did no damage to either the exterior or interior of the home, but it did get several feet of water in the basement. Mrs. Gresham was a painter with a national reputation in her own right and painted several of the murals in the home. In the turret of the castle she had her art studio. On the ceiling in the dining room is a painting done by her of cherubs. Many of her paintings were removed when the bishop moved in and then a Sister Mary Agnes painted a series of nature scenes on the walls of the home. Another big change made in the home, which occurred when the bishop moved in, was that one of the second floor bedrooms was converted into a chapel. Beautiful stained glass windows from Germany adorn that room. It was amazing to me that the castle has very little in the way of furnishings and yet they are not missed at all. The interior of the home is quite beautiful in its own right and needs no adornment. Each room has a different colored marble mantel for its fireplace. In the ballroom is Mexican marble, and the library has Numidian marble from Africa. I could also go on forever about all the different kinds of wood represented in each room; beautifully carved wood which glows on wall panels, stairs, doors, window shutters and built-in bookcases. The final word in the opulent design of this home is seen in the floral design etched in the basin of the Italian marble-covered sink in the master bathroom. It cost ten dollars per person to tour this home, probably a small price to pay when one considers that there is a large cost to maintain this palace.

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