Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mitchell Historic Properties: The Namesake of a New History

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{Originally Published for Island Guide Magazine, July 12, 2013}

Mitchell Historic Properties

The Namesake of a New History

Presenting Party on the Pier and Music on the Strand

By Kimber Fountain

                Earning a place among the portals of Galveston’s historic figures is a name that is largely responsible for the revitalization and revival of the city as it is known today. George Mitchell and his wife Cynthia (now deceased) have been vitally invested in Galveston for over thirty years. Not only do Mr. Mitchell’s vast enterprises thrive on the preservation of Island heritage, he has also led the charge in philanthropic initiatives, donating close to 200 million dollars to organizations and efforts across the Island. The collection of historic properties owned privately by the Mitchells grew to such an extent that a company was needed to efficiently manage and handle the intricacies of real estate and historic restorations, thus was born Mitchell Historic Properties.

Over one quarter of the Strand is owned and operated by Mitchell Historic Properties, including the Hutchings and Sealy Building (24th and Strand, built 1895), the Thomas Jefferson League Building (23rd and Strand, built   ), Old Galveston Square (23rd and Strand, built   ), and Saengerfest Park at the intersection of 23rd Street and The Strand. Their vested interest in Galveston real estate has also dramatically affected Galveston’s recovery from Hurricane Ike in 2008. Sarah Harano, the Marketing and Special Projects Coordinator of G-1 Enterprises, says the Mitchells “really set the pace for the recovery of the downtown area.” Indeed their fearless efforts blinked not an eye at the devastation, but in keeping historical pace with the resiliency of Galvestonians past, they jumped right in and began to rebuild and repair. Some of those recovery projects are still going on almost five years later. It was recently discovered that flood waters from Ike did not drain from the hollow, cast-iron pillars that adorn many of the historic storefronts on the Strand, and they are currently undergoing restoration. Past projects include the complete restoration of the Harbor House, as well as the conversion of a 19th century warehouse into what is now the acclaimed Tremont House on Mechanic Street.

But the generous and far-reaching influence of George Mitchell goes far beyond the property lines. G-1 Corporation, a division of Mitchell Historic Properties, was launched initially as the philanthropic branch of the company. It has since developed into a marketing and promotion firm, set to enhance the experiences of both residents and visitors alike by creating special events and community activities. Unlike most firms that fall in the real estate category, Mitchell Historic Properties does not cease their efforts at plaster and paint, or sales and leasing. They are committed to preserving and promoting Island culture, as well.

One distinct way that Mitchell Historic Properties and G-1 Corporation keep the energy of the Island alive is through special events that take perhaps relatively common activities and infuse them with the Spirit of Galveston and put them in a setting that only the Island can offer. In the past they have hosted such events as Boots on the Beach, live, beachfront performances by some of the nation’s top country acts; they also host the largest and longest running Mardi Gras Ball since the Mitchells singlehandedly reintroduced the festival to Island culture over 35 years ago.

For Summer 2013, Mitchell Historic Properties has an array of attractions planned to supplement the season, whether you will be here for its entirety or simply for a day. One of the main events this year is the newest addition to the lineup, Party on the Pier. It is designed to draw people to Pier 21 off of Harborside Drive and 21st Street, a little-known area of downtown. “It is its own destination,” says Harano, “it is not here to compete with other attractions, instead it just really adds to the variety of Galveston’s [venues].” Pier 21 includes the Harbor House hotel, museums, the Tall Ship Elissa, Pier 21 Theatre which showcases short historical documentaries, and as an added bonus, Harano asks, “How often do you get to hang out on a working harbor?” Party on the Pier includes a live music series that runs once a month during the summer months through October. The concerts are outdoors, under the stars with a breathtaking view of the harbor, and are all free and open to the public. There is a dance floor and tables and chairs are set up, although spectators are encouraged to bring along seating of their own as it is often limited. The lineup for the remainder of the series is as follows: July 20th, Del Castillo (Latin Rock); August 17th, Silverado Band (Country); September 21, Pee Wee Bowen (Classic Rock); and October 19th, Vallejo (Rock).

This summer marks the fifth year of Music on the Strand, and also brings with it double the amount of performances of any previous year. Music on the Strand takes place on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month, coming up on July 27th is a performance by the Texas favorite Sam Nevarro and the Lone Star Devils. As an accompaniment (or alternative), Mitchell Historic Properties, in conjunction with the Galveston Visitors’ Bureau, also hosts Movie Nite on the Strand on the first Saturday of every month. For August, the feature film will be The Muppets, showing on August 3rd.

Continuing on into the Fall, Mitchell Historic Properties continues their special events through the end of the Halloween season. Look out for the Saengerfest Mini Monster Bash, an annual celebration of everything fun and spooky. The Mini Monster Bash includes a carnival atmosphere with games and prizes, trick-or-treating on the Strand, and costume contests for ages 0-11. For the adult Halloween enthusiast, two themed dance parties are slated for two weekends in October, as well. On October 12th is the Voodoo Dance Party featuring the band Indiginis, and on October 26th is the Zombie Dance Party featuring the band CSMDP.

With all of their fun and fanfare, the efforts and events of Mitchell Historic Properties inject the Island population with a sense that the glory days of Galveston are not as far behind us as we may think, and may be nearer to our future than we realize. This possibility, to some but a pipe dream, is fitting for the namesake of an individual whose distinctive class and unending dedication to Galveston has made it what it is today. When you admire the historic architecture of downtown, remember George Mitchell is probably the reason it is even there to behold. When the excitement and rapture of Mardi Gras take over the senses, remember it was George Mitchell who brought it back. And when you appreciate the local Galveston community, remember that anyone who calls themselves an Islander look to men like George Mitchell who set the standard, not by force, but by his generosity and service.