Lykes Gallery

The Lykes Gallery holds the Rosenberg Library Museum’s only permanent exhibit. Recessed into the walls of the gallery are ten glass cases containing artifacts significant to Galveston Island’s history with descriptive information on beautifully designed boards.

Founders of Galveston contains Karankawa native American artifacts and early navigating instruments.

A City of Firsts holds historic artifacts from Galveston’s early enterprises and representative of Galveston’s Texas “firsts” such as first telegraph, first telephone, and first hospital in the state.

The Texas Navy case contains telescopes, scales and charting equipment.

The Battle of Galveston exhibits artifacts from the October 1862 Civil War battle in Galveston Harbor, including Confederate and Yankee effects and souvenir cannon balls.

Immigration: “The Ellis Island of the Southwest” showcases articles brought by immigrants to America and includes a page of signatures of petitioners for American citizenship.

Port of Entry holds imported goods and traveler’s items from the early days of Galveston.

Cotton Is King contains goods relating to the Texas cotton industry and shipping.

The Strand and Downtown case holds articles from Galveston’s early commercial enterprises.

Natural Disasters showcases the Great Fire of 1885, the 1900 Storm, and Galveston’s recovery, including the monumental grade raising and seawall construction. It also contains a digital slide show.

Tourism and Entertainment holds relics from Galveston’s golden era of entertainment, gambling and tourism in the early 1900s. It also contains a digital slide show.

Other jewels in the Lykes Gallery include a unique video tour of the Galveston Ship Channel (from the vantage of an authentic ship’s wheel) and a soothing audio backdrop of Galveston sounds.

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.