Forget all the crazy rumors and stories you’ve heard about the Galveston Kettle House. The actual most likely true story of how the unusual Galveston West Beach-area landmark known as the Kettle House came to be — and what’s about to happen to it — has at long last been revealed by the builder’s daughter (and current owner), Mary Etheridge-Rachels, to Dallas-area writer Linda Armstrong.
Among the shocking revelations — well, okay, interesting facts — included in Armstrong’s account of the steel bowl’s history, pieced together from her interviews with Etheridge-Rachels:
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Legends in Steel
STARTING IN JULY, YOU’LL ONLY NEED 2 BUS RIDES TO GET TO GALVESTON Since 2013, when the last regular bus service was canceled, taking a trip from Houston to Galveston on public transportation has been a bit of a challenge: It might take you 1 light-rail train ride, 4 buses, a 3-mile walk, and 4 hours. Thanks to a 2-year grant from TXDoT, support from Galveston County and Texas City, and an approval by Houston’s Metro Board today, it’s about to get a whole lot easier. Beginning July 10th, an Island Express route coordinated by the 2 cities’ transportation agencies will allow weekday service between the Downtown Transit Center in Houston and Island Transit’s Downtown Transit Terminal at 25th St. and the Strand in Galveston 3 times a day — with a transfer at the Bay Area Park & Ride — for $9. There’ll be a stop in Texas City, and bikes can ride too. Metro expects about 20 riders a day to use the service. [OffCite; Christof Spieler] Draft schedule for Island Express: Metro
The shot above captures the Saturday night scene along the Galveston seawall southwest of Stewart Beach, where bulldozers were pushing around the gush of sand and water being piped in as part of the latest round of beach building on the island. The crews were still at it around 9 pm; the shot below shows the Pleasure Pier over-water amusement park still lit up in the distance to the west:
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CREWS NOW PUMPING REPLACEMENT BEACH SAND ALONG GALVESTON SHORELINE The Galveston.com Sand Cam was pointed east yesterday morning to capture the action as work crews pumped a slurry of sand from the Big Reef area on the northern end of the barrier island onto the beaches along the seawall, as part of a $19.5 million project intended to add between 100 and 150 feet of beach back to the eroded shoreline. A few smaller sand-adding projects have taken place over the last few years, winning a nod from the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association; Kelly de Shaun of the Galveston Parks Board tells Harvey Rice that this round of sanding is proactive maintenance, unlike the sand trucked in back in 2009 after Hurricane Ike paid a visit to the island. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Galveston seawall: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool
STATE LEADERS LOOK TO BAN PROPOSED GALVESTON BAG BAN, STOP LOCAL CALIFORNIA-IZATION Members of Galveston’s city council expect to vote next year on a ban on plastic bags, writes Harvey Rice this week — and also expect the state government to try to overturn that ban, whether by lawsuit or through new legislation. Proponents of the ban note that the bags frequently make their way into the water around the island, where they may start new careers decorating the local beaches or killing birds and turtles that try to eat them. Rice notes that top members of the state government believe, however, that the bigger problem is Texas cities being “California-ized” (as governor Greg Abbott called it) by their own locally-developed rules; this include the 2014 Denton fracking ban that inspired a no-local-oil-and-gas-regulations-allowed law last session, invalidating dozens of older municipal ordinances around the state. Attorney general Ken Paxton has also sued Brownsville over a fee on retailer bag use, and supports the ongoing lawsuit that put the brakes on Laredo’s recent bag ban (which in turn caused Port Aransas to quietly stop enforcing its own ban, until the Texas supreme court weighs in). The Chronicle‘s editorial board also notes that state senator Bob Hall from Edgewood in Northwest Houston has already filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session aimed at eliminating all local bag rules. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Galveston seagulls: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool
Atop the retail-harboring ground floor of this 1878 building now for sale in Galveston is a living space — or several, the listing suggests, if you’re willing to get creative. The 2-story mixed-use RF Martin & Company building at the southeast corner of 25th and Market streets (a few blocks south of the Strand, and of the Galveston Ship Channel cruise terminals) went up for sale early last week. The asking price is currently set at $1.4 million — though the listing says that can be offset by income from the street-level tenants (currently including eclectic cafe Eatcetera and stationary station Betsy by Design), or a potential conversion of the space into condos or a boutique hotel.
Here’s the view from Market St.:
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Market St. Market
OYSTER TYCOONS FIGHT OVER BAYBOTTOM TERRITORY AS REEFS RECOVER FROM FLOODING More action is expected next week in the Galveston County courtroom hosting part of the ongoing underwater real estate fight involving some of the biggest names in the local oyster fishing industry, writes Harvey Rice. At stake: oyster rights on 23,000 acres of subsea land leased out in 2014 by the Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District — including some areas already leased out to other fishermen by Texas Parks and Wildlife. The move spurred several lawsuits, first from the lessee’s industry competitors and (former) friends, and later from the state of Texas itself; the issue has since worked its way to several appeals courts, one of which stopped the case from being moved to Chambers County. And even the oysters themselves have faced a dramatic few years, Rice notes, between the recent Houston–area flooding (which sent enough freshwater runoff to the coast to drastically alter the bay’s salt levels) and the stretch of drought before that (which let salinity get too high). [Houston Chronicle] Map of oyster habitat in Galveston Bay: General Land Office
Down in Galveston, seafood-slash-southern-focused Harborside Mercantile is opening up for a preview this evening, after clearing some liquor licensing hurdles that set back the planned December startup. The restaurant, located at 2021 Strand St., is a collaboration between Richard Craig (whose 3-wheeled Hubcap Grill will be getting a 4th location inside IAH) and Joshua Martinez (owner of The Modular foodtruck and the former Chicken Ranch).
The Strand, buoyantly styled as the “Wall Street of the South” in the 19th century, was battered by fires, the Civil War, and numerous destructive hurricanes before sinking out of prominence and settling into life as a warehouse district; historical restorations in the 1960s paved the way for the district’s eventual resurgence as a tourist destination.
Photos: Harborside Mercantile
On the Island