This grand home, which was cited by the American Institute of Architects as one of the hundred most important buildings in America.
Was built from 1886 to 1892 by prominent lawyer Colonel Walter Gresham. Its architect, Nicholas Clayton, was considered Galveston’s premier architect.
The Palace is three stories over a raised basement level, with steep roofs and long sculptural chimneys.
The Palace Was built In Galveston’s great period of mansion building. The small lot and over sized house make it an anomaly among similar houses of its period and architectural style and it is Victorian.
Nicholas Clayton, however, expanded on the style by using varicolored and irregularly shaped stone. Round Romanesque and depressed Tudor arches with heavily articulated carvings of vegetation.
Constructed of steel and stone (it survived the Great Storm of 1900 virtually unscathed).
The interior spaces are grand with exotic materials such as a pair of Sienna marble columns flanking the entrance hall.
The first floor rooms have fourteen foot ceilings. An octagonal mahogany stairwell is forty feet tall with stained-glass on five sides.
The stair is lit by a large octagonal skylight. A massive fireplace in the front parlor is made of Santos Domingo mahogany.
The house includes abundant stained-glass, wood carvings, and decorative plaster ceilings and walls.
It was built from native Texas granite, white limestone, and red sandstone, which were all cut and shaped on the premises.
The hand-carved interior woodwork is made of several rare woods, such as rosewood, satinwood, white mahogany, American oak, and maple. The wood surface on each side of its massive sliding doors matches the room it faces.
On Gresham’s request, Clayton showcased rare and luxurious materials, such as African marble and pure silver, in the house’s numerous fireplaces. Has an inventive cooling system comprised of slatted windows that allowed breezes from the Gulf to enter without admitting the hot sun as well.
The main stairwell is famously beautiful. Note the domed ceiling with an octagonal skylight, stained-glass windows, and marble columns.
Colonel Gresham was an attorney and entrepreneur who came to Galveston from Virginia following his service in the Civil War.
He was a founder of the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad, and also served in the Texas Legislature.
His wife, Josephine, with whom he had nine children, was an amateur painter whose work can be seen throughout the house. Painted wall details, were recently discovered in the basement. Josephine Gresham called the area her “grotto,” and some of her painted walls survive.
In 1923, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston purchased the building, and it served as a bishop’s residence until 1963, when the diocese opened the building to tours.
The house belongs to the Galveston-Houston Catholic Archdiocese and is managed as a museum by the Galveston Historical Foundation.