Past Treasure of the Month – January 2017
On January 1, 1999 — New Year’s Day — thousands of emotional Galvestonians gathered to witness the implosion of the Buccaneer Hotel — a beachfront icon which stood for more than 70 years on Seawall Boulevard.
During the month of January, Rosenberg Library exhibited several architectural fragments from the demolished Buccaneer Hotel. The items were donated by Gary Jackson.
A Brilliant Beacon
In the late 1920s, William L. Moody, Jr. and his associates hired Galveston architect Andrew Fraser to design a new beachfront hotel along Seawall Boulevard between 22nd and 23rd streets. Fraser’s plan called for an 11-story, Spanish Renaissance style building featuring spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico from each of its 440 guest rooms. Construction costs exceeded $1,000,000 — a huge sum of money at the time.
The towering Buccaneer Hotel was composed of ivory-colored brick and included a striking arched arcade along Seawall. On its opening day, May 1, 1929, the Galveston Daily News hailed the new hotel, stating: “It stands as a brilliant beacon to all, bringing renewed faith and courage, and extends the hand of hospitality and friendship to those who enter its doors.”
The hotel’s main lobby was outfitted with elegant bronze fixtures, oak beams, and colorful tile in shades of blue, purple, orange, and olive green. One of the most memorable features was an oversize plaster panel depicting the legendary buccaneer Jean Lafitte with his sailing ship. In addition to its striking décor, the hotel boasted other impressive amenities including a rooftop deck for sunbathing, recreation rooms, and even an indoor putting green. The Buccaneer was also known for the fine cuisine served in its upscale dining room. For several decades, it was a premiere venue for professional gatherings, social events, and important celebrations on the island.
The End of an Era
After sustaining significant damage from Hurricane Carla in 1961, the Buccaneer Hotel closed its doors to the public. Later that year, the Moody Foundation donated the property to the Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was converted into a retirement home and renamed the Moody House Edgewater Retirement Community.
During the 1990s, the Edgewater Board of Directors began assessing the future of the nearly 70 year-old-building. Major renovations were required to bring the facility up-to-date with modern safety standards. Estimates for the project totaled $14-20 million, nearly twice the cost of constructing a new building. In the end, a new Edgewater facility was built just behind the original building.
What remained of the old Buccaneer Hotel was demolished by 250 pounds of dynamite in about 7 seconds on New Year’s Day, 1999. After the implosion and clean-up were completed, the site became a garden terrace for residents of the Edgewater Retirement Community.
As a nod to its glorious past, architectural elements from the Buccaneer Hotel were incorporated into the new Edgewater facility. These included doors, wooden beams, and paneling. Other artifacts were sold as souvenirs, and some items were donated to the Galveston County Historical Museum.