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Everything Old is Green Again: 2010 Galveston Historic Homes Tour

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The 2010 Galveston Historic Homes Tour features a Green Revival Show House.

by Karen Derr

Visitors to the 2010 Galveston Historic Homes Tour will be able to see the Green Revival Show House renovation in progress on May 1, 2, 8, and 9. “Green” building features and LEED certifications are more and more common in new construction today. Ironically, drafty old homes may prove to be the smarter choice for those looking for sustainability and energy efficiency. Brian Davis, director of the Galveston Historic Foundation (GHF), says, “It’s a fact: there is no greener home than a home that is already built.” Just for starters, home buyers who can avoid demolishing a 1,000 square-foot home will save 150 cubic yards of landfill space.

Last February, the Galveston Historic Foundation moved a modest Ike-damaged home 17 blocks to a site at the corner of 31st Street and Avenue Q. A typical 19th-century bungalow, much like many other small historic homes found on the island that are dear to preservationists, this home is being restored and renovated to be a show house demonstrating how historic features and new technology can co-exist in a LEED Platinum-certified building. This Galveston Green Revival Show House project is sponsored by the 1772 Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and GHF.

The renovation will show how energy-efficient features inherent in historic design can work in tandem with modern systems to conserve both resources and heritage. GHF plans to preserve or reuse over 90 percent of the existing home. As for the additional material needed, 90 percent will be from salvaged items or made from recycled materials. Very little waste material will be generated by the project, and almost all of it will be sent to recycling plants or used in other ways.

Historic homes such as this show house were originally designed with large windows to let in natural light, reducing the need for daytime artificial lighting. Nineteenth-century homes like this one, built prior to air conditioning, have design elements that still work well today to keep us more comfortable with less energy. A large central hall, high ceilings, transoms above doors, and floor-to-ceiling walk-out windows opening onto deep porches provide air circulation and shade. The original windows in the show house will be fitted with energy-efficient magnetic insertion windows that are mounted behind the original ones. Film treatments for window glass will also be utilized. Visitors will see first-hand how these products can preserve the historic fabric of the house while improving efficiency at a fraction of the cost of replacing windows.

In addition to taking advantage of energy-efficient aspects of historic design, the project will add solar and wind energy technology to the show house. Locally headquartered Positive Energy Resources, LLC, is sponsoring a bird-friendly Windspire for the project. Specifically recommended for the Gulf Coast, where concerns about migratory birds limit the use of traditional windmills, the spire turns at a slower rate so birds are more likely to see the motion and avoid flying into it. It is also much quieter than a traditional windmill, making it more acceptable in residential settings. The spire can generate electricity with winds as low as 10 mph. Installation of just one spire can reduce energy consumption 30 to 50 percent, according to Positive Energy Resources.

Brian Davis reports, “Between the solar panels, the Windspire, and thoughtful planning, we expect to provide substantially lower energy bills. We don’t anticipate being totally off the grid, but definitely less dependent on it.”

Many local businesses already involved in providing green products and services are contributing to the Green Revival Show House. Permeable pavement that allows water to soak into the ground, rather than running off to storm sewers and into our ecologically sensitive watershed, will be utilized. Sustainable landscaping that uses less water and fertilizer will be incorporated in the garden design. Very little, if any, grass will be used. Originally, many historic homes had cisterns to catch water off the roof for most of the home’s water needs. A rainwater harvesting system will be designed and installed to provide for outdoor watering needs.

In addition to the businesses and professionals involved in the actual renovation, GHF held a green home and garden furnishings competition. They also encouraged entries of artwork made from recycled materials with a theme of sustainability and energy conservation. About 25 entries were received.

Incorporated in 1954, Galveston Historical Foundation is one of the nation’s largest local preservation organizations. Over the last 50 years, the foundation has expanded its mission to encompass community redevelopment, public education, historic preservation advocacy, maritime preservation, and stewardship of historic properties. During the Galveston Historic Foundation’s annual Historic Homes Tour, May 1, 2, 8, and 9, the Green Revival Show House will be open to the public as a work in progress.

Robyn Newburn, who plans to renovate her circa-1925 bungalow in the Houston Heights is excited about the green historic renovation because she’d like to incorporate energy-saving features into her own bungalow. Newburn, who visits Galveston often, says, “It’s exciting to be able to see a green show house right here close to home that is designed for our climate.” GHF plans for the home to be a resource for the entire Houston/Galveston region and beyond.

Matthew Pelz, who is the GHF Partners in the Field project coordinator, says, “We’ll learn what can work and share this information with preservationists and consumers across the country.” With the help of LEED professionals volunteering on the project, GHF will seek LEED Platinum Certification for the 109-year-old Green Revival Show House.
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Other homes included in the 2010 Galveston Historic Homes Tour

  • Archibald and Alice Campbell House, c. 1871, 1515 Broadway. A grand Italianate mansion never opened to the public before, and still owned by a Campbell family descendant.
  • Edwin Aronsen House, 1946, 1317 Broadway. This eclectic Mid-Century Modern features porthole windows with radiating muntins suggestive of a ship’s wheel.
  • Fernand Lobit Tenant House, 1909, 1310 Sealy. This high-raised Victorian townhouse retains original stained-glass panels, fireplaces, woodwork, and working transoms that allow ventilation and air flow.
  • Benjamin Doherty Cottage, 1905, 2928 Avenue P. This raised Gulf Coast cottage was restored using historic materials acquired at the Galveston Historical Foundation’s Architectural Salvage.
  • Warehouse. The current owners have reclaimed the space below the home and use it as a working office.
  • James and Ella Davis House, 1899, 1315 24th Street. Built in 1899 for Galveston Daily News reporter James ‘Nat’ Davis, this house was designed by renowned German architect Charles Bulger. Bulger is second only to architect Nicholas Clayton in importance to Galveston’s architectural history.
  • Conness-Arnold House, 1899, 1417 24th Street. This Queen Anne-style house features rounded double galleries rimmed with lintels and replete with radiating ball spindles. Tall windows and wrap-around porches on the east and south side of the home face the prevailing Gulf breezes.
  • John and Agnes Roemer Cottage, 1888. 2415 Avenue L. This five-bay gable-fronted cottage was built for Agnes Moser Roemer and her husband, John. The $1,350 purchase price included wallpaper in every room, weatherboard siding, slate roof, heart pine floors, eight doors, 18 windows, and 13 sets of window blinds.
  • James and Jessie Fendley Cottage, 1885, 1403 Tremont. The current owners of this high-raised Victorian cottage recently completed a renovation and restoration using many materials recycled and repurposed that they purchased from architectural salvage warehouses in Galveston and Houston.
  • Ernest Stavenhagen House, 1915, 1527 Postoffice. This Classical Revival house, with its commanding presence, boldly stands out from its Victorian neighbors. The most prominent feature is the gabled entry portico. The paired boxed columns of the double-galleried portico are the modern interpretation of a classical colonnade.

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Historic Homes Tour Special Features

  • Bogan and Wilson Family Quilts Exhibit. 1861 Custom House, 502 20th Street. Two Galveston women, Susan Bogan and Dawn Wilson, have gathered collections of their families’ quilts for public display. Generations of love, skill, and creativity are on display through May 21. Open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Homes Tour Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free to Homes Tour ticket holders.
  • The Cradle of Texas. 2902 Avenue O½. This building was originally the law library of William Pitt Ballinger, father of Betty Ballinger. Now known as The Cradle, it is cherished as the place where Betty Ballinger formulated the idea for the organization that would become The Daughters of the Republic of Texas. The Cradle was restored in 1993–95 to reflect the original furnishings of the late 1800s. Free to Homes Tour ticket holders. Closed Mother’s Day.

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Historic Homes Tour Special Events

  • The Art of Eugene Aubrey. During the Green Revival Homes Tour, GHF will welcome renowned Florida architect and artist Eugene Aubrey, who designed Houston’s Wortham Theater Center and the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, Florida. Aubrey’s distinctive ink and watercolor drawings of Galveston’s historic homes will add a new level of architectural artistry to the Galveston Historic Homes Tour.
  • Electric Tour Coaches. The latest in “green” tour travel, GHF’s new electric tour vehicles will be unveiled during the Galveston Historic Homes Tour. GHF has installed an electric car-charging station at its downtown Galveston headquarters.
  • First Impression Preview Evening Tour. Friday, April 30, 5:30 to 9 p.m. An East End Historic District stroll that includes a wine-and-cheese reception at the imposing Trube Castle. The homes on this tour are open exclusively for the preview tour and will not be shown during the regular tour. Tickets are $60 per person and include a Historic Homes Tour ticket.
  • Lemonade Lunches at Custom House. Saturdays, May 1 and 8, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Gourmet boxed lunches and fresh lemon-ginger mint coolers will be served in the beautiful setting of the 1861 Custom House courtroom. The courtroom will be adorned with heirloom quilts as part of the Bogan and Wilson Family Quilts Exhibit. $20 per person, advance reservations required.
  • Basement to Attic: Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Bishop’s Palace. May 1 and 8 at 4 p.m. Guests will view areas not normally open to the public in this grand structure, named the 14th most important Victorian building in America by the American Institute of Architects. Limited to 24 per tour. Patrons must be able to negotiate steps and may not wear flip-flops or strapless sandals. $30 per person, advance reservations required.
  • Sally Wallace Preservation Awards. Ashton Villa Ballroom, May 7. These awards recognize outstanding projects involving the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of Galveston’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. This year’s categories are Restoration, Rehabilitation, Adaptive Use, New Construction/Infill, Craftspeople, Community Service Award, and Galveston GREEN. $15 per person, $12 per GHF member.
  • Linen and Lace, a Mother’s Day Brunch. May 9. Celebrate Mom at the seventh annual Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch. Begin your Mother’s Day Sunday Homes Tour enjoying a delectable and abundant buffet and fashion show by Galveston’s own Head to Footsie’s Boutique. The picturesque 1880 German dancing pavilion, Garten Verein, is the setting for this charming tradition. All patrons are automatically entered to win prize drawings including dinners, gift certificates, and framed artwork. Linen or lace is the preferred attire. $45 per person (includes a Historic Homes Tour ticket), advance reservations required.

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Windspire turbines harness wind power. The standard 1.2kWh Windspire stands only 30 feet high and has a diameter of only 4 feet, and the new High Wind Windspire stands only 23 feet high. Windspire installs easily to capture wind energy in more places—at homes and businesses, as well as for larger energy projects. The Windspire’s slender design and low height allow it to fit where other turbines don’t. Because of its unique size, the unit is lower than a two-story home and below most residential zoning restrictions. Because it uses wind from all sides, the Windspire can be located closer to buildings and obstructions and requires only 75 feet of clear surrounding area.


Karen Derr, a Houston-area Realtor for over 20 years, writes and speaks about home and small-business topics. Last month she wrote about Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams.

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Karen Derr

Karen Derr is a Houston-area Realtor and the founder of Karen Derr Realtors. She writes and speaks about home and small-business topics and is a frequent contributor to OutSmart.

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