Past Treasure of the Month – October 2012
During the month of October, Rosenberg Library displayed several items from the legendary island clothier, E.S. Levy and Company. These included a top hat, a velvet jacket, and vintage advertisements. The family-owned clothing emporium operated for more than 100 years in Galveston. The story of Levy’s began in 1877 when Abraham Levy and his business partner opened a small store front along the 2200 block of Market Street. The firm of Levy and Weis sold fine clothing and furnishings for men and boys. After Abraham Levy’s death in 1879, his son Edward S. Levy assumed control of the business and renamed it E.S. Levy and Company.
Market and 23rd. Courtesy of the Galveston
and Texas History Center, Rosenberg Library
In 1896, the company constructed a four-story building on the corner of Market Street and 23rd at the former site of the Tremont Opera House. The upscale clothing store operated on the ground floor with more than 80 professional office spaces on the upper floors. Tenants included architects, attorneys, and physicians. The U.S. Weather Bureau offices were actually located in the E.S. Levy building at the time of the devastating 1900 Storm. Within a few years, Levy’s began to outgrow its single-story Market Street location. In 1917, the company moved one block north to Postoffice Street. Outfitted with the day’s most modern glass display cases and hanging racks, the new building offered a ground floor for the men’s department with space on the second floor for a boys’ shop. Levy’s specialized in uniforms and equipment for Boy Scouts as well as everyday sportswear and special occasion clothing.
from E.S. Levy & Co. ca. 1890s.
Gift of the Morgan Family.
As an incentive for their young male shoppers, Levy’s issued shiny tokens with every purchase in their boys’ department. These tokens could then be redeemed for a toy of choice available at the store. Boys who registered with Levy’s also received cards and gifts on their birthdays.
For their more mature clientele, Levy’s employed a buyer in New York to keep pace with the latest international fashion trends. From sportswear and suits to hats and shoes, Levy’s provided Galveston’s most distinguished gentlemen with the finest apparel available.
Galveston. Made by Knox Hat Company, New York.
Complete with cowhide traveling case lined
with satin. Gift of the Morgan Family.
By the 1930s, Levy’s had expanded its offerings to include fashions for women and girls, and in 1941 the firm renovated and enlarged its building, adding a warehouse facility and additional offices. Further updates made in the 1960s included replacement of the original façade.
The establishment of shopping malls coupled with the overall decline of Galveston’s downtown district led to the closing of Levy’s in the 1970s, along with other once-thriving businesses along Postoffice. In 1979, after 102 years in operation, the company closed its doors, ending its reign as one the island’s oldest and most beloved fashion houses.