Immigrants Built a San Antonio Icon

The 159-year-old Menger Hotel is the grand dame of San Antonio’s Alamo Plaza, thanks to the hard work of two young immigrants William and Mary Menger. William was one of those younger sons in Germany who didn’t inherit so he became a cooper, making casks and

William Menger
Courtesy Menger Hotel

barrels for beer and wine. The twenty-year-old sailed for the United States in 1847 and arrived in San Antonio about 1850. He took a room in a boardinghouse run by Mary Guenther because the young widow spoke German and she was a fine cook and housekeeper.

Mary and her mother emigrated from Hanover in 1846. Soon after they reached San Antonio, her mother died, and Mary was robbed of all her money. She worked for an American family until she married Emil Guenther in 1848. Together, they operated a boarding house, but within the first year of marriage, Emil and their infant baby died, leaving Mary alone again.

Mary’s new border, William Menger found that his cooperage skills served him well because barrels were in demand for shipping and storing everything from coffee to crackers, molasses to bacon and flour. The following year, although she was eleven years his senior, William and Mary decided to marry.

William was Lutheran, but in deference to Mary’s Catholic faith, he hired a horse to go thirty miles west to Castroville to bring his friend Rev. Claude Dubuis (future Bishop of the Galveston Diocese) to perform the nuptials. When the priest arrived, William apologized for the horse that was obviously a broken-down old nag. The priest said, “I’m glad you didn’t send a better horse or Indians along the way would have killed me to get my horse.”

William helped with the boardinghouse, continued with his cooperage business, and over the next nine years, they had four children, three of whom lived to adulthood. In 1855, William decided to stop making the barrels and concentrate on filling them. He hired a German master brewer and constructed the Western Brewery east of Alamo Plaza. He selected the site for two reasons: its access to the spring waters of the Alamo Madre Acequia or irrigation ditch. The waters cooled his thick-walled underground cellar and chilled the lager beers. And the locale sat next door to the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Depot, providing a clientele of officers and soldiers.

The Mengers also built a larger boardinghouse nearby. They solved the problem of it being across the San Antonio River from the primary commercial centers of the Main and the Military plazas by offering carriage rides for boarders and diners in the boardinghouse restaurant. Of course, the guests enjoyed the brewery.

1859 Menger Hotel

Apparently, the high-quality beer and fine restaurant grew the business, because within two years the Mengers hired a Prussian born builder J.H. Kampmann to construct a two-story limestone (from the quarry that created the current Sunken Gardens) hotel on the boardinghouse site. The Menger Hotel opened on February 1, 1859, with tours of the rooms, a reception, and positive reviews even in the national press. By the third night, the hotel was fully booked with army officers, their families, and traveling merchants.

Menger Gallery, historic wing.

Almost immediately, plans began to add a forty-room annex with a tunnel connecting to the brewery. Since the railroad would not arrive until 1877, the Menger offered fine stables for the convenience of their guests.

The Menger family and many of their employees who were German immigrants lived in the hotel, along with about twenty-four hotel guests. The restaurant under the direction of Mary took advantage of German farmers for fresh fruits and vegetables that were not common to Anglo-Americans. She broadened the meat selection to include venison, wild turkey, quail, bear meat, buffalo, and turtles from the San Antonio River. William raised and butchered his own hogs for bacon, ham, and sausage. They imported specialty items such as tea, cod fish, seasonal cranberries, sultana raisins, English currents, and stuffed olives. Eager to make the hotel more than a local attraction, Menger brought in champagne, wine, claret, sherry, and whiskey. The hostelry was famous for its ice shipped from Boston through the port at Indianola and hauled to San Antonio on special wagons. It cost extra if a guest wanted ice in their whiskey.

Menger Hotel prospers

The Menger served as a center for social and civic organizations. In the approach to and during the Civil War, the hotel accommodated political groups where speeches were held and parades gathered in front of the building. Despite the Union blockade of the Gulf ports, Confederate officers stayed at the hotel, and Menger acquired food through his connections in the West and South for shipments from the neutral Mexican ports.

By 1867, the city was still ten years away from getting a railroad that would connect with Texas ports, and the Army was looking for a better location. Menger quickly built facilities following Army specifications, which included a large warehouse and two cisterns, next to the hotel. He then leased the buildings to the federal government at a low rate. The Army used the facilities until Fort Sam Houston was opened in 1877.

The Mengers traveled to Germany and Paris in 1867 to purchase furniture for the hotel. Upon their return, William saw a Silsby Rotary Engine used for firefighting in New York. He had founded and led the Alamo Fire Association Number Two before the war. He immediately paid $4,000 for the equipment and had it shipped at a cost of $900 to Indianola and then by ox wagon to San Antonio, giving his city the first steam engine in Texas.

William Menger died unexpectedly at the age of forty-five in 1871, leaving Mary and their eldest son Louis to successfully maintain the high standards of the hotel. Mary bought more land to expand the hotel and added modern gaslights. Illustrious guests continued to frequent the hotel. When President Ulysses Grant visited in 1880 the menu for his reception was printed in French.

With the arrival of the railroad in 1877, national beer companies moved in to compete with the Western Brewery. Mary and Louis Menger closed the brewery the following year and used its space to build a three-story, L-shaped addition, which added one hundred rooms. In 1881 Mary and Louis Menger sold the hotel and property for $228,500 and the furniture for $8,500 (about $2.8 million today) to the original builder, J.H. Kampmann.

The Menger continued to prosper, underwent several major restorations and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. It is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

The Menger Hotel today

Advertisements

The Grandest House on the Texas Coast

Today Fulton Mansion would be called the empty-nest home of George W. Fulton and Harriet Gillette Smith since at the time of its construction the Fulton’s six children were already grown.

Fulton Mansion

Fulton Mansion

In 1877 when the 3 ½-story, nineteen-room Second Empire style mansion rose along the shore of Aransas Bay, it was grandest house on the Texas coast, and the Fultons, with the help of seven servants, entertained lavishly in their elegant new home.

Fulton, like his cousin Robert Fulton of steamboat fame, was a brilliant engineer and used his skills to design a house with features that were rare for that time—hot and cold running water, gas lights, a refrigeration system, central heat, and flush toilets. Despite sitting only yards from Aransas Bay, the Fulton Mansion withstood massive storms, including the 1919 hurricane and ten-foot tidal wave that destroyed most structures in the area. Fulton designed a shellcrete (a form of concrete made from the plentiful local shell) foundation. Walls, both inside and out, were made of one-by-ten-inch pine boards stacked side-by-side to form a solid ten-inch thick frame. Shellcrete filled in between every fourth or fifth board in the floors creating a structure as stable as a grain elevator.

Parlor, Fulton Mansion

Parlor, Fulton Mansion

Fulton could afford to construct the house, which cost about $l00,000, because of his wife’s inherited land and his own entrepreneurial spirit. Fulton, born in 1810, had worked in Indiana as a schoolteacher, watchmaker, and creator of mathematical instruments until he organized a company to fight in the Texas Revolution. They arrived too late for the action, but Fulton joined the Army of the Republic of Texas in 1837 and for his service received 1,280 acres. Fulton worked for the General Land Office, which introduced him to the legal maneuvering necessary to acquire land. In 1840 he married Harriet who was the daughter of Henry Smith, governor of Texas for a short time in 1835 before the war for independence from Mexico. After Smith failed to win the presidency of the new Republic of Texas, he continued to serve in several government positions, to purchase land along the coast, and to promote the development of his property.

Meantime, George Fulton and Harriet left Texas and spent the next twenty years in Ohio and in Baltimore where they raised and educated their children. After Harriet’s father died and the Fulton’s cleared the titles on Smith’s coastal land, they returned to Texas. Using his knowledge of land titles, Fulton purchased acreage, and combined with the land Harriet inherited from her father, Fulton acquired 25,000 acres. After joining with partners in the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company, the holdings peaked at 265,000 acres, creating one of the largest cattle companies in Texas. The lavish lifestyle that ensued from the business allowed the partners to live like cattle barons and the Fultons to build their grand mansion.

Much of the partners’ wealth came from the hide and tallow factories lining the shore of Aransas Bay near the Fulton’s home. Hundreds of thousands of cattle and mustangs were slaughtered and their carcasses reduced to tallow in great boilers. The hides were cured and shipped along with the tallow, bones, and horns on waiting steamers headed for the U.S. east coast.

Ever the inventor, Fulton received a U.S. patent for shipping beef using artificial cooling and for a steam engine modification. He introduced new livestock breeds that are still prevalent in Texas. Before barbed wire became available, the company used smooth wire to fence some of the ranges. A wooden plank fence enclosed one 2,000-acre pasture near present Rockport. Fulton gave land for the railroad, and towns—Sinton, Gregory, Portland, and Taft—were laid out on the company’s vast holdings.

The most elegant of Fulton’s achievements, which survives today, is the Fulton Mansion, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and operated as a house museum by the Texas Historical Commission. A project is currently underway to raise $3.4 million to strengthen and preserve the grand old mansion.

Log Church Cathedral

A one-room log church sits on a lane leading off a country road in Wesley a farming community between Houston and Austin. Wesley boasts the first Czech school in Texas that started here in 1859 when the town was called Veseli meaning “joyous.” The church building, erected in 1866, housed the community school and the place of worship for the first Czech-Moravian congregation in Texas.

photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

Rev. Bohuslav Emil Lacjak, serving as teacher and pastor in 1888, began painting the interior of the wood building using an art technique called trompe l’ oeil, a method of creating realistic imagery in three dimensions to give the impression of a basilica-style cathedral, which resulted in rustic-appearing brick walls, columns, and geometric decorative patterns.

photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

Unfortunately, Rev. Lacjak was killed in 1891 in a hunting accident before he could explain the meaning of his work, although he clearly had not completed his creation because the outlines of more designs are still visible.  The congregation believes the gray bricks highlighted in black that stretch to the top of the windows depict the strength of the walls of Jerusalem.  The Star of David atop white pillars casting dark shadows remind congregants of the pillars of Solomon’s Temple.  The continuous chain design around the edge of the ceiling represents the unbroken link of brotherhood and the word “Busnami,” above the pulpit area translates as “God with Us.”

Photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

Photo credit: Alan Oaks, C.S.P.

Czech immigrants, searching for cheap land, began arriving in Texas in the 1850s. Although most of them were Roman Catholics, ten to fifteen percent were Protestant and most of those were United Brethren who came to Texas after generations of persecution by the Catholic Church in their homeland. They held worship services in homes until they built this little one-room chapel.  The building was enlarged and the steeple added in 1883.  One hundred years later, the congregation built a new church next door, which serves a community of about sixty.  The “log church cathedral,” listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is open as a museum reminding all Czech-Moravians of their rich heritage.

Texas Capitol Paid For in Land

The Texas Constitution of 1876 set aside three million acres in the Panhandle to fund construction of the state’s fourth capitol.  Big land giveaways in Texas started in 1749 when the Spanish Colonial government began establishing villas along the Rio Grande.  Mexico continued the practice of granting empresarial contracts to establish colonies in Texas.  The Republic of Texas issued land grants to pay its debts, including payment to the army and volunteers for their service in the war for independence from Mexico.  After Texas joined the Union and negotiated to keep its public land, the state offered land to encourage development of farms and ranches, to attract new industry, to fund its public schools, and to entice railroad construction.  So, it makes sense to use land in payment for the state’s fourth capitol.

Texas State Capitol

The third capitol burned on November 9, 1881, increasing the urgency to name a contractor for construction of the new building.  By 1882 the State of Texas initiated one of the largest barter transactions in history to pay wealthy Chicago brothers, John V. and Senator C. B. Farwell, three million acres of Panhandle land in exchange for building the $3 million State Capitol at Austin.

Owners of Granite Mountain, a solid rock dome about fifty miles northeast of Austin, donated enough “sunset red” granite to construct a Renaissance Revival design modeled after the national Capitol in Washington.  Convict labor hauled the huge blocks of granite to a newly built narrow-gauge railroad that carried 15,700 carloads of granite from the quarry to the building site in Austin. Upon completion of the 360,000 square foot capitol in 1888 and the placing of the statue of the Goddess of Liberty atop its dome, the building reached a height of 311 feet—almost fifteen feet taller that the National Capitol.

Goddess of Liberty Intended for the Capitol Dome

Since the land used to pay for the capitol stretched across the unsettled Texas Panhandle from present Lubbock to forty miles north of Dalhart, the capitol syndicate decided to establish a ranch until the land could be sold.  Representatives went to England in 1884 to secure $5 million from British investors to finance the purchase of cattle, fencing, and the entire infrastructure for the huge enterprise.

Trail boss Abner Blocker drove the first herd to the ranch in 1885 only to discover that a brand had not been selected.  Trying to create a design that could not be easily changed, Blocker drew “XIT” in the corral dust with the heel of his boot, and it stuck as the brand and ranch name.  In later years the story spread that the brand stood for “ten (counties) in Texas” because the ranch spread into ten counties.  Other folks speculated that it meant “biggest in Texas.”

The vastness of the operation required dividing the ranch into eight divisions with a manager over each.  A 6,000-mile single-strand wire fence eventually enclosed the ranch, the largest in the world at that time.  By 1890 the XIT herd averaged 150,000 head, and the cowboys branded 35,000 calves a year.  Fences divided the ranch into ninety-four pastures; 325 windmills and 100 dams dotted the landscape. Cowhands received pay of twenty-five to thirty dollars a month.  XIT men and their “hired guns” sometimes formed vigilante groups to combat problems of fence cutting and cattle rustling.  Wolves and other wild animals took a heavy toll, especially during calving season.  Lack of ample water, droughts, blizzards, prairie fires, and a declining market resulted in the XIT operating without a profit for most of it years.

The schoolteacher wife of one of the managers, Cordia Sloan Duke, kept a diary, writing notes on a pad she carried in her apron pocket while she “looked after” her own family and the 150 cowboys who worked the ranch.  She successfully encouraged eighty-one cowboys and their families to keep diaries.  Eventually, she and Dr. Joe B. Frantz published a book, 6,000 Miles of Fence: Life on the XIT Ranch of Texas.  Through Mrs. Duke’s efforts, an authentic account of the work and lifestyle of that early phase of American life has been preserved in the cowboys’ own language.

With British creditors demanding a positive return, the syndicate began selling the land for small farms and ranches.  Although the cattle had been sold by 1912, the last parcel of land was not sold until 1963.  One hundred years after the land exchange, the tax value on the property reached almost $7 billion.

The XIT Ranch, built on land that served as payment for building the largest state capitol in North America, is remembered at the annual Dalhart XIT Reunion where a horse with an empty saddle honors the range riders of the past.

Horse With an Empty Saddle, Dalhart Reunion

A CENTURY OF CHAUTAUQUA

An octagonal-shaped wooden building in Waxahachie began hosting hundreds and then thousands of enthusiastic farmer families and small-town residents from all over North Texas when it opened in 1902.  They came in wagons and on horseback to camp out for a week to ten days; they slept in tents and under their wagons; and for the first time in their lives they enjoyed a chance to hear humorists, watch jugglers, listen to statesmen talk of patriotism and actors read Shakespeare.

Before the turn of the last century, a few Waxahachie residents reported with great excitement their travels to the famous summer adult education center on Chautauqua Lake in western New York State where they heard speakers, musicians, preachers, and scientists.

Organized in 1874 by a Methodist preacher and a businessman, Chautauqua started as a training program for Sunday school teachers in an outdoor summer camp setting.  It grew in popularity and soon “daughter” Chautauquas began springing up all over the United States.  In the early days, the most popular lectures were inspirational and reform speeches.  Over the years, the fare lightened with the addition of current events, story-telling, and travelogues—often in a humorous vein.

The first Waxahachie Chautauqua Summer Assembly met in 1900 in a pavilion constructed along a creek in West End Park.  More than 75 tents dotted the landscape that first year.  With the completion in 1902 of the 2500-seat Chautauqua auditorium, the pavilion became a dining hall.  The new all-wood building, constructed at a cost of $2750, boasted large wooden windows that slid upward into the wall to create an open-air facility, which boasted electric lights.  Drinking water came from a large, nearby water tank.  At times crowds from 5,000 to 7,000 milled in and around the building.  Buggies often pulled up beside the windows to offer extra seating and at least once, tents stretched out from the windows to protect the audience standing outside from the summer sun.

The list of programs and the response of the audiences paints a clear picture of how eagerly rural and small-town residents grasped for an opportunity to know about the world and to be challenged with new information in those days before widespread communication.  A professor from Trinity University captivated the audience with experiments showing the many uses of liquid air.  A group of local men shared their world travels with a packed auditorium and people standing in the windows.  In 1906 a standing-room-only crowd arrived for a demonstration of wireless telegraphy. A packed house paid fifty cents a ticket to hear William Jennings Bryant, the famous populist orate on “The Price of a Soul.”

The attendees enjoyed plenty of social life.  A Chautauqua Parlor offered popular piano and vocal solos and tables set up for games of Forty-Two.  The local Young Men’s Chautauqua erected a social tent complete with electric fans and ice water.  Later, they added sofas and rugs.  The group became known as the “matrimonial agency” because of the number of couples that met at the social tent and later married.

Music brought in crowds especially when the U.S. Marine Band performed in 1914.  Scottish music and the Highland Fling became a 1922 hit.  The next year an electrical storm interrupted for twenty-five minutes a lecture and demonstration of electricity and the radio.  John Phillip Sousa changed his schedule at the last minute in 1925 and crossed out Waxahachie on his hand-written itinerary and in its place wrote “Korsikana,” obviously meaning the lucky town of Corsicana a few miles down the road.

World War I themes turned to patriotism and the war effort.  A war tax boosted the new ticket price of $2.50.  A 1918 program highlighted war inventions–two-wheel automobiles or gyrocars, airplanes with gyroscopes, ultra-violet rays, and hearing torpedoes—for a spellbound audience.

By the 1920s at the height of its popularity, twenty-one companies operated ninety-three Chautauqua circuits in the United States and Canada.  Often, one performer finished his presentation and left for the train as another arrived.  When circuits began booking performers, access opened to New York City actors presenting plays such as “The Melting Pot,” “Little Women,” and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pinafore.”

By 1926 the talent began arriving via automobile, which caused one performance to be cancelled because the actors coming from their show in Ardmore, Oklahoma, ran into bad roads and did not make it in time for the production.  Will Rogers the cowboy humorist, on his third U.S. tour, made a stop in Waxahachie in 1927.  As the audience waited for his show, they listened in delight to a radio program amplified with music.  Although he spoke for 101 minutes, some in attendance left disappointed because he did not do his famous trick roping, for which he named himself the “poet lariat.”

Several cultural, social, and financial events—advent of the automobile, the popularity of the radio, and the Great Depression–began a slow erosion in the attendance at Chautauqua.  Ticket sales declined, forcing local supporters to underwrite more and more of the Chautauqua expenses.  By 1930 the Chautauqua Assembly in Waxahachie came to an end.

The old building slowly declined and its door shuttered in 1971 as the city considered tearing it down.  Members of the community formed the Chautauqua Preservation Society and began fund raising to restore the building.  The Texas Historical Commission awarded the building a state historical marker, and it was placed n the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1975, with the restoration complete, the grand old building reopened with a July 4 celebration.  It serves today as a city auditorium hosting reunions, conferences, civic and educational events, and high school graduations.  The Fort Worth Symphony performs several times a year.  And a new generation has a visual reminder of an era when people came from miles around, eager for a sampling of the latest in culture and entertainment.

AUSTIN’S MOONLIGHT TOWERS

From dusk to dawn, travelers entering Austin, especially those heading to the downtown fun spots, often notice sprinkled all over the older part of town clusters of six moon-like lights glowing atop strange metal contraptions.  The 165-foot structures are Austin’s Moonlight Towers.  They started illuminating the central part of the city in 1894 when the City Council traded an unused narrow-gauge railroad to the Fort Wayne Indiana Electric Company for thirty-one of its 5,000-pound towers.  The Moonlight Towers propelled Austin into the modern age of the 1890s along with other cities like Detroit, New Orleans, and San Jose, California.  Today, Austin is the only city in the U.S. continuing to light its streets with Moonlight Towers.

The towers arrived in pieces with assembly specifications requiring that the six carbon arc lamps in each structure spread a 3,000-foot circle of light bright enough to read an ordinary watch on the darkest night.

Guy wires extending over streets and across neighborhoods secure the giant structures.  Originally, each Moonlight Tower connected to its own electric generator at the Colorado River Dam.  Some claim that many residents expected the blue-white lights to wreck havoc with nature, cause crops to grow 24 hours a day and hens to lay eggs around the clock.  Apparently, only a few roosters refused to stop crowing.

Although signs warn against climbing the towers, they have not been altogether safe.  A short time after the lights began operating a workman fell to his death from the top of the tower at 9th and Guadalupe.  In 1930, an 11-year-old boy, on a dare, climbed the tower at Wooldridge Square.  After viewing the city, the boy became dizzy and fell through the inside of the triangular-shaped structure, his body miraculously ricocheting from side-to-side.  He completely recovered in a month.

The city continued modernizing the towers over the years.  Incandescent bulbs operated by switches at the base of each tower replaced the carbon arc lamps in the 1920s.  Mercury vapor lamps were installed in 1936, and during WWII the need to quickly black out the city during air raids led to installing one central switch for all the towers.  In 1993 all the towers underwent a complete overhaul, restoring every bolt, turnbuckle, and guy wire at a cost of $1.3 million.

Several towers have been moved, including the one in Zilker Park, which is strung from its top with extra guy wires to accommodate over 3,300 colored lights fanning out at its base to form a giant Christmas tree.

Although downtown construction forced the removal of two towers, the project manager at Austin Energy says both towers will be reactivated–one at a new location–at the conclusion of Austin’s building boom.  When all the construction dust settles, Austin will boast 17 functioning Moonlight Towers.  Boasting is appropriate for the towers have earned designation as State Archeological Landmarks, and in 1976 the towers won a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today the Moonlight Towers send their soft blue light across the city.  Even if alternative lighting proves more efficient, don’t expect Austinites to allow all the old structures to disappear.  They are unique among cities, objects of curiosity, and bring back a romantic memory of days when the towers reigned as both fashion and technological marvels.

Elissa: Texas’ Tall Ship

She is a pricey lady, but Galvestonians claim her as their own and money seems not to be a concern when it comes to preserving this beauty. As far as anyone knows she only visited the island twice but she is a prize the city is proud to sail and show.  Built in 1877 in Aberdeen, Scotland, at the beginning of the age of steam, she is one of the last of her kind—a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship—measuring 205 feet from her stern to the tip of her jibboom.

After years of traveling the world, by 1961 she had been reduced to smuggling cigarettes between Italy and Yugoslavia.  Aware the Galveston Historical Foundation wanted a sailing vessel to display as a visual link between the city’s thriving 19th century port and its major businesses lining The Strand, Peter Throckmorton, a marine archeologist, spotted the much-altered old square-rigger in a Piraeus, Greece, scrapyard.  Once aboard, Throckmorton discovered a plaque identifying the Elissa.  More investigation revealed the dilapidated hulk as the oldest ship registered with Lloyds of London and its log confirmed two visits to Galveston.

When she first arrived in Galveston on December 26, 1883, she carried one passenger and a cargo of bananas.  The following January 25 she left port loaded with cotton, bound for Liverpool, England.

Her next visit occurred on September 8, 1886, when she arrived from Paysandú, Uruguay, probably carrying a cargo of hardwood or sugar.  She sailed for Pensacola, Florida, on September 26 carrying only her ballast.

Over the years, the Elissa knew at least seven owners and carried names such as Fjeld, while berthed in Norway; Gustaf, while sailing out of Sweden; and even Christophoros when purchased by GreeksEach new name reflected the identity of her owners and brought physical changes such as losing some of her grand sails and acquiring her first engine in 1918 and having her bow snubbed in 1936.

Even after Throckmorton discovered the Elissa, the Galveston Historical Foundation waited  until 1975 to purchase her for $40,000.  Despite the GHF sending a restoration team to Greece to make her seaworthy, removing tons of rust and rotten wood and replacing 25 percent of the hull, the Elissa had to be towed across the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston.

As she made the journey across the Atlantic, the Elissa became the first object to be granted placement on the National Register of Historic Places while still outside the bounds of the United States.

No blueprints existed to guide the restoration, but the new owners realized she must be made seaworthy to attract the support needed to complete the enormous task.

Experts arrived from Europe, Africa, and all over the United States to direct a corps of volunteers who descended on the fine old ship, varnishing the woodwork and going aloft to “tar” the rigging to keep it from rotting.

On July 4, 1982, with the restoration completed at a cost of $3.6 million, Texas had its “Tall Ship.” The Elissa sailed the Gulf of Mexico and began receiving a long list of awards for her restoration, for her volunteer program, and the most prestigious accolade from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1984—the Preservation Honor Award.

In 1985 Elissa made her first voyage as a restored sailing ship to Corpus Christi, Texas.  The following year she sailed to New York harbor for the Statue of Liberty celebration and tall ship parade where she held the honor of being the oldest of the event’s Class A vessels.

Over the years the Elissa represented Texas from Brownsville to Pensacola and received designation as a National Historic Landmark.

Anchored at Galveston’s Pier 21 next to the Texas Seaport Museum, Elissa reigned as one of Galveston’s prime tourist attractions until January 2011, when her trip to dry dock for regular maintenance revealed corrosion penetrating spots in her hull.  Apparently Hurricane Ike in 2008 caused far worse damage than inspectors recognized.  With hull repairs estimated at $2.1 million and an additional $1 million to replace the wood deck, THC officials expect the Elissa to be ready to sail in the annual Harvest Moon Regatta from Galveston to Port Aransas in October and to resume her regular day sails in March 2013.  Again, Elissa meets the challenge to retain her place in Texas history.