Logo  Rosenberg Library Museum

GALVESTON, TX
(409) 763-8854 EXT 125





Past Treasures

"Such a library as ours would not only contain books and current periodicals,
but there would be...articles of historic, scientific, and artistic interest."

~ Frank C. Patten, Head Librarian of Rosenberg Library, 1904 - 1934

The Library accepted its first museum piece shortly after it opened in 1904. Since then, thousands of rare and interesting objects from around the world have been added to the collection. Displayed in these pages are the Library's "Treasures of the Month."

July 2013 "Treasure of the Month"

The Elite Café
Interior photograph of the dining room at Elite Café, 2211 Market Street
Interior photograph of the dining room at Elite Café, 2211 Market Street
(image courtesy of Galveston and Texas History Center)

During the month of July, 2013, Rosenberg Library exhibited an assortment of historical items related to the Elite Café, one of the first and longest-running family-owned restaurants in Galveston. Amazingly, the downtown eatery opened its Market Street location on October 25, 1900 — just weeks after the devastating hurricane which claimed thousands of lives and destroyed countless structures on the island.

Nicholas L. “Nick” Ballich, a native of Austria, immigrated to Galveston in 1890. At the age of twelve, he went to work at a local restaurant called the Bon Ton Café on Market Street. He earned $8 per month, and his primary duties were killing chickens and washing dishes. Ballich later went to work as the night pantryman at another nearby restaurant, and his monthly salary increased to $20.

In 1892, Ballich began working for the Pick Wick Café followed by the Starr Restaurant. Shortly after the 1900 Storm, using money he had saved during his ten previous years in the restaurant industry, Ballich made the decision to go into business for himself. He opened the Elite Café at 2208 Market Street. Within a few years, the restaurant moved across the street to 2211 Market where it remained until the late 1930s.

Photograph of the Elite Café lunch counter, 2211 Market Street
Photograph of the Elite Café lunch counter, 2211 Market Street
image courtesy of Galveston and Texas History Center)

Engraved flatware from the Elite Café
Engraved flatware from the Elite Café (gift of Mrs. Vinnie Nesbitt)
Nick Ballich took pride in maintaining high standards for the food and overall appearance of his restaurant. The Elite was regularly remodeled to reflect changing tastes and was outfitted with the most modern and efficient equipment for its time. An extensive renovation in 1934 included the addition of then state-of-the-art electric refrigerators and dishwashers as well electric toasters and mixers.

In 1903, Ballich married Mary Ella Vidovich. The couple had two children. Their daughter, Mary Ella Ballich, was a local music teacher. Their son, Nicholas Ballich, was a physician.

After three prosperous decades, the Elite Café relocated from downtown to Seawall Boulevard at 35th Street in 1938. Nick Ballich’s success as a restauranteur continued, and he became involved in local politics. Ballich served as County Commissioner for Precinct 2 from 1939 until his death in 1946.

After her father died, Mary Ella Ballich took charge of the restaurant. Following the celebration of its 50th Anniversary, the business was sold to chef John Javer in 1950. Javer’s ownership lasted just three years, and the restaurant — which was renamed “The Café” — went out of business in 1953. Hill’s Seafood later opened on the site.

Early 20th century view of the businesses along the 2200 block of Market Street
Early 20th century view of the businesses along the 2200 block of Market Street, including the Elite Café
(image courtesy of Galveston and Texas History Center)

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The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s historic second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, please contact the Museum Office at 409-763-8854 x 125.

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