History of the Lykes Gallery

The James M. Lykes Maritime Gallery was a gift to the people of Galveston from the family of James McKay Lykes. Genevieve Parkhill Lykes, the wife of James Lykes, was instrumental in establishing the gallery in her deceased husband’s honor. Sadly, Mrs. Lykes passed away in 1971 before the room was finished. Her four children, however, oversaw the design and execution of the exhibition area.

The art glass window depicts the Doctor Lykes, the first ship used by Lykes Lines, as well as the Lykes and Parkhill families’ coats of arms. The teakwood paneling, ship’s bell, and steering wheel were intended to recreate the interior space of a ship’s cabin. While the gallery opened in 1971 along with the rest of the newly constructed Moody Memorial Wing, it was not formally dedicated until its completion in 1972.

Mr. and Mrs. Lykes resided in Galveston from 1906 until 1925. When the couple first moved to the island, they lived in a house directly across the street from the Rosenberg Library.

Over the years, Genevieve Lykes developed a deep love and appreciation for the city’s library. When the plans to expand the building were developed in the late 1960s, Mrs. Lykes provided a generous donation toward the project. This led to the creation of the James M. Lykes Maritime Gallery.

Mr. Lykes’s father, Dr. Howell Tyson Lykes, left the medical profession to become a rancher and shipping agent in Florida after the Civil War. His seven sons followed in his success and founded Lykes Brothers, Inc., a cattle and shipping company, in 1903. The brothers opened an office on Galveston Island in 1906, and James Lykes oversaw this operation. He purchased cattle and chartered ships to deliver the animals to Cuba. In return, sugar was sent back to refineries along the Gulf Coast. During the 1920s, the firm shifted to more general cargo business and shipped commodities such as cotton, flour, and lumber to the Caribbean in exchange for sugar.

During WWII, the Lykes family’s steamship company served as a general agent for the War Shipping Administration. By 1954, Lykes Brothers Steamship was considered the largest United States cargo fleet under private ownership. Today, descendants of the Lykes family are still involved with the agricultural and shipping industries in Florida.