Galveston, Texas, has had many names over its life. The Spanish were shipwrecked on its shallow jagged white sandy beaches. From that day forward, they officially named the sandbar the "Isla de Malhado" or "Isle of Doom." Since that faithful day, the island slowly attracted new settlers and grew over time. While the Spanish put the island on the map, the pirates put the XX on the island. The pirates first saw the lawless island as a perfect smuggler's outpost. Jean Laffite was the first documented settler in 1816 to rebuild over 200 new, more robust structures for his colony of pirates. The island was officially called Campeche during that time. It is believed that the remaining structure at 1417 Harborside Drive could have been the Maison Rouge, where Lafitte conducted most of his business. At its peak, Lafitte's colony had more than two thousand inhabitants. Campeche's annual income reached more than $2 million ($33.4 million in today's terms) in stolen currency and goods plundered by his pirate gang. For a time, Lafitte lived a lavish lifestyle complete with servants, the finest housewares, and other accouterments. Lafitte used this island as his headquarters for several years until he was forced out by the schooner USS Enterprise in 1821.
The port of Galveston was established in 1825 by the congress of Mexico following its independence from Spain. During the 19th century, Galveston became a major U.S. commercial center and one of the larger ports in the United States. It was for a time Texas' largest city known as the "The Queen City of the Gulf". This little sandbar had so much charisma it kept drawing people here with a massive influx of immigrants to the island in the 1900s. The island came to be known as "The Ellis Island of the South." This little island gave people hope for a prosperous future and a better life. It had a golden era that was short-lived again. It was cut short by The Great Storm of 1900. The Great Strom devastated the island unexpectedly overnight. The storm surge nearly wiped out the entire town. That storm is still among the deadliest in United States history. The locals of Galveston at the time rebuilt the island, raising it 17 feet higher and constructing the Seawall to protect it from future storms. It took time, but the city reemerged during the prohibition era of 1919-1933 as the leading tourist hub. It was a center of illegal gambling, prostitution & bootlegging. The new nickname of the day was "Sin City," locals often referred to their island as "Free State of Galveston" until the era ended in the 1950s.
In 2008 the island again got hit by a massive category two hurricane. Hurricane Ike devastated the island and its economy. It left trash and debris piles as high as mountains. Locals were not allowed back on the island for weeks. When they were finally allowed back, they got to work rebuilding the island and their homes like clockwork. It seems no storm can wash the locals away. This island still has that salty charm, and people keep flocking to it. Our little Isle of Doom has once again become a tourist hot spot! Over 7 million visitors a year flock to our 209.3 square mile island! We have over 60 structures listed on the national register of historic places. A downtown that still feels like it's straight out of the 1800s. Our port is still a busy working port today, with cargo and cruise ships bringing visitors to and from the island every weekend. If you keep a keen eye while in town, you may think gambling is still alive and well on the island! While our history is long and sorted, the island hasn't changed much over the centuries. The locals keep this little sandbar standing, which continues to stand the test of time. That's the Galvatraz story in a nutshell. The Island escape you can't escape! Show you love the island as much as locals do by sporting and supporting the Galvatraz brand!