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Blazing History: Galveston's Fires & the fight to save the island




Welcome to the latest episode of Unboxing History, hosted by Christine Hopkins and Jodi Wright-Gidley. Christine is a local author and Galveston expert, and Jodi is the director of the Galveston County Museum. Every month, they unbox an artifact from the museum's collection and talk about its historical significance. In this episode, we're exploring the story of a fire  bucket and discussing the impact of fires in Galveston's history through an interview with James Anderson, author of "Galveston Burning: A History of the Fire Department and Major Conflagrations."


In this blog, we’ll cover:

  • The Fire Bucket Artifact

  • Interview with James Anderson

  • Galveston's Historic Fires

  • Texas City Explosion

  • Lost Buildings

  • Preserving History at the Galveston County Museum

  • The Museum as a Research Tool

  • General Information about the Museum


The Fire Bucket

Our featured artifact this month is a fire bucket used in the late 1800s and early 1900s by people in a bucket brigades. Unlike regular buckets, this one has a cone-shaped bottom to prevent it from being repurposed. It was designed specifically for fighting fires. The cone shape, with the pointed bottom helped break ice in freezing conditions, and water flows easily in and out.


Interview with James Anderson

James Anderson, a local author, joins us in this episode to talk about his book "Galveston Burning," which provides a comprehensive look at the history of fires in Galveston. Anderson's research reveals many fascinating aspects of how fires have shaped the town via detailed accounts and historic photographs, many sourced from the Galveston County Museum.


Galveston's Historic Fires

The Great Fire of 1885

Among the many fires discussed, the Great Fire of 1885 stands out for its massive scale and the lasting changes it brought to the community. This devastating blaze destroyed 42 blocks and 568 homes, stretching from the commercial district on the Strand all the way to the beachfront. The fire prompted significant updates to building codes and fire-fighting measures in Galveston, including the usage of non-flammable building materials and paved streets for quicker fire engine response times.


Texas City Explosion

Another significant event covered in the episode is the Texas City Explosion of April 16, 1947. This disaster greatly impacted the fire-fighting efforts of nearby towns, including Galveston, whose fireboat played a crucial role in combating the ensuing fires. 


Lost Buildings

With fire comes great loss of life and property. James shares the history of some of the historic buildings destroyed by fire, including the Beach Hotel, Electric Pavilion, and Harmony Hall.


The Museum as a Research Tool

The Galveston County Museum, a free museum, plays a critical role in preserving the local history, including documentation and artifacts. For anyone looking to trace family history or work on historical projects, the museum houses a treasure trove of resources, including subject files, rare local history books, and artifacts.


General Information about the Museum

The Galveston County Museum is located at 722 Moody (21st Street) in Galveston. It's open for free on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 AM to 4 PM. Private tours and the interactive Padlock Mystery Game are available by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information, visit their website at www.galvestoncountyhistory.org or call the museum directly at 409-766-2340.


Conclusion

Fires have profoundly shaped the history and evolution of towns like Galveston and Texas City. We get a deeper understanding of these impactful events through artifacts like the fire bucket and stories shared by historians like James Anderson. Visit the Galveston County Museum to explore these stories further and connect with the rich history of the region. Don't forget to subscribe and comment on what you'd like to learn more about in future episodes of Unboxing History.


About the Galveston County Museum: 

The Galveston County Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich history of Galveston County. The museum provides visitors with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the region's cultural heritage through engaging exhibits, educational programs, and research materials. The museum’s podcast, Unboxing History, is available on Pod NOW on i45NOW, Apple, Spotify and YouTube. The Museum is part of the Galveston County Historical Commission and houses its research library. The Museum is inside the courthouse at 722 Moody/21st Street in Galveston. It is free and open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 to 4. Private tours and the museum’s interactive Padlock Mystery Game are available by appointment. Donations are greatly appreciated. 



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