From destruction to rejuvenation

After a morning of birding then sharing a yummy lunch with our husbands, Mona Liza and I bid adios to the guys and off we went to explore more of Galveston.  Two days earlier the four of us stopped in at the Galveston visitor center.  The gals at the center were extremely friendly and helpful.  This was the perfect stop to begin our Galveston explorations.

architecture in Texas

Just one of many beautiful homes in Galveston’s historic district

We left the center with plenty of information, brochures, and maps to assist us in getting the most out of our stay on the island.  Mona Liza and I used the ‘birding’ brochure that morning to help direct us to various spots for the best bird sightings.

hurrican Ike

beautiful neighborhood… these trees survived hurricane Ike

Galveston TexasNow it was time for us to pull out the ‘Tree Sculpture Tour’ brochure.  When Hurricane Ike hit on September 13, 2008, the combination of damaging winds and tidal surge led to the demise of many of Galveston’s tree’s.

A group of homeowners decided to turn destruction into symbols of rejuvenation by commissioning local artists to turn these downed and damaged trees into works of art.

These carved tree sculptures are located throughout Galveston but the bulk are concentrated within Galveston’s East End Historic District.

Although many of the beautiful, majestic oak trees are long gone, they are not forgotten.

Hurricane IkeWith map in hand, ML and I set out to see as many of these sculptures as possible.  Although we enjoyed the whimsical sculptures, we were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful architecture.  Each house was unique and lovely in it’s own right.Georgian architecture

Texas architectureWithout the tree sculpture tour incentive, I’m not sure we would have ventured up and down all the residential streets, but I’m really glad we did.

I was so taken by the houses, the architecture, and the gardens that I just had to show the area to hubby.

The next day Al and I went for our morning walk up and down the streets of Galveston’s East End Historic District in lieu of the usual walk on the beach.

Tree carving

The owners of the home own a grey Great Dane and they commissioned the artist to carve a replica of their beloved dog. The tree had actually grown around the fence at the spot where the paws grip the fence.

The Galveston tree sculptures represent a very small percentage of the trees destroyed by Hurricane Ike.  Several organizations worked together to ensure 100% of the “Iked” wood was kept out of landfills.

tree carving

Yes, Toto and the Tin Man are both carved from a tree and still rooted to the ground

Some of the wood was used to restore an American historic whaling ship, 200 tons went to Malago, Spain, to build a full scale replica of the Brig “Galveztown”, and a local lumber yard took a fair amount.  And yes, 100% of the destroyed trees were repurposed in some form.

Tree Scuplture

a Grandmother reading. This tree sculpture sits in a park. How appropriate!

Geisha and Angels

A carved Geisha represents the homeowners love of the Orient. The smaller sculpture “The Angels” represents the homeowners two granddaughters. The Geisha was carved from the trunk of the tree while The Angels were carved from the top of the tree. The tree was originally taller than the home. “The Angels” carving is one of the few sculptures not still rooted in the ground.

No trip to Galveston Island would be complete without a visit to Galveston’s Historic District and that includes “The Strand“…. our next stop!hurricane Ike

architecure photography


53 thoughts on “From destruction to rejuvenation

  1. A wonderful rejuvenation! I was so tempted to go Galveston taking the bird photo trip with you and ML! Weather has been so nice, December is just too short. But, I got the bird book you recommended today 🙂

    • We moved today to Goose Island State Park and the birds were waiting for me. So I’ll be snapping like crazy in the next few days. Enjoy the book!

    • There’s a little something for everyone on Galveston Island to enjoy. Should you find yourselves needing to visit Texas, I would definitely recommend exploring this area 🙂

  2. Glad to see that Galveston rebounded so well, for Ike did hit it pretty hard. Back in 1900, another massive hurricane almost swept the town off of the map. PBS broadcast a documentary a few years ago and the tale is truly tragic. The people of that area must be made from some sturdy stock. 🙂

    • Yes, that hurricane in 1900 was the worst natural disaster in the U.S. Hurricane Ike did a pretty bad number on the island as well. The people AND the buildings are a resilient bunch for sure.

  3. So glad you got to see the tree sculptures in detail, I would love to take a walking and driving tour of them sometime, although I have seen some of the sculptures on the main streets. Those huge trees were beauties, and even though the sculptures are wonderful, it’s still hard to not miss those trees. I was wondering if you got to hang around long enough to go to Dickens on the Strand? That is yet another thing there that is on my list of things to do sometime. Just seems like the timing of it in December is always bad for us to make a trip down there.

    • Mona and I did the driving tour version then hubby and I walked it. We just loved all the beautiful houses. We DID attend Dickens on The Strand. Working on the post about it. What a fun festival. Tomorrow it’s moving day and I’m sad to be leaving Galveston. I really like this place 🙂

    • We’ve spent a very enjoyable month here in Galveston and it has surpassed our expectations. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.

  4. Ingrid, I just loved this post! It’s so wonderful to see the beautiful art they’ve created following the devastation of the hurricane. Brilliant!

    • Thanks Nancy. It’s been inspiring to see how beautifully Galveston has been restored after such a devastating hurricane. All I can say are the folks AND the buildings are resilient 🙂

  5. Oh wow, my kind of wandering!! Super cool … love the tree art and what decorative architecture. Truly right up my alley…we are gearing up for a similar run in Pensacola’s Historic District soon. Truly so much art in someone’s handicraft…having been there, guess you apprecite it more. Galveston is beautiful!

    • Have a great time at Pensacola’s Historic District. We’ve enjoyed Galveston’s very much. This city has surpassed our expectations and the nicer weather has also helped 🙂

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    • What’s been fascinating are the occasional plaques on buildings indicating hurricane surge water lines. Today we noticed a plaque from the historical society stating the building survived the 1900 hurricane. So many of these places, residential and commercial, have been restored so beautifully one would never think they were severely damaged just a few years ago.

  7. I love seeing beauty created from what was such a devastating event. It’s so hopeful. I’m so excited that you’re headed for Rockport and Goose Island! That has been our favorite place on the Texas Gulf Coast. I remember your great posts about it last year, and I’m looking forward to your adventures there this year. 🙂

    • I’m looking forward to hitting the road Tuesday although we’ve enjoyed our month on Galveston Island immensely ….. more bird photos once we hit Rockport 🙂

  8. What a wonderful way to preserve the trees! The sculptures are just beautiful as are the mansions. That grandmother reading with the children is my favorite. Love the dog with the paws on the fence. Thanks for sharing so many of them:)

    • The dog sculpture just made me smile each time I walked past it and the sculptures are definitely a wonderful way to preserve the trees. There are 21 of them in the Historic district and each was unique and different!

    • During our walk through this residential area, we noticed a carriage house for rent and hubby and I thought it would be fun to live there for a while (that is once our wanderlust wanes). So I guess you could say “I’d slum there” as well 🙂

    • Each home was prettier than the next and I know my photos don’t do them justice. I have such an appreciation for the craftsmanship and preservation that goes into these beautiful homes. I may need to grab a few more photos before we leave town.

  9. Paul and I must get down there to see these carvings. They are all so awesome. Paul has done many chainsaw carvings so these would be a treat for him to see. I love the architecture of the homes also. They are so beautiful.

    • You guys would REALLY enjoy this self guided tour especially since Paul does carving. The visitor center has a brochure outlining each sculpture and the home address where the sculpture is located. Shoot me an email if you’d like more details or info 🙂

    • To see photos of what the island looked like days after Hurricane Ike and then to see it now ….. all I can say is wow, what an amazing transformation.

    • I still have a couple more posts to finish to continue to share this fun place. We too knew nothing about Galveston before this visit. It’s been a pleasant surprise 🙂

  10. Fabulous photos! Looks like there was a lot of old money in Galveston…I also love walking the neighborhoods and seeing the different character the homes have…Love that they re-purposed that wood, ..someone had a very great idea when they did that! Another historical place in Texas to put on our agenda for a future visit!

    • Thank you Donna. We’ve enjoyed our stay in Galveston very much and were surprised with it’s wonderful history, beautiful architecture, and overall charm. This is a place we’d like to return to time and again. Tuesday we’re off to Goose Island State Park 🙂

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  12. Well… now you have really done it! I love almost any kind of great architecture… especially the old and ornate… so now I have put Galveston on my “gotta go” list. Shooting anything white is difficult but you have done a lovely job. leafy trees.. white porches. Nice. And the underlining story of the “tree art”. Inspiring stuff. Thanks!
    And PS… some of those bird photos from your last post… absolutely beautiful.

    • Thank you Gene. I really appreciate the kind compliment on my photos. Definitely put Galveston on your list. I’m not a ‘beach’ person and thus wasn’t sure what we’d do for a whole month here. Well, that month has flown by and it’s time to move on come Tuesday. When you do decide to visit, be sure and email me and I’ll share even more info if you’d like 🙂

  13. Ingrid I adore these tree sculptures.Delighted to see the dog statue again and it so big! The wonderful homes do so remind me of the Painted Ladies of San Francisco. You have captured them beautifully!

    • I wasn’t sure what to expect in Galveston especially after Hurricane Ike. They’ve done a fantastic job of rejuvenating the entire island. It’s been a wonderful stay and I love the overall charm of the island.

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