Queer in Galveston

Cameron Dunbar Joins Galveston Historical Foundation

GHF weaves the Island’s past and present into a diverse cultural tapestry.

Cameron Dunbar (Courtesy)

Since 1871, members of the Galveston Historical Foundation (GHF) have upheld and preserved the Island’s rich history for future generations to enjoy. Cameron Dunbar is the newest staff addition who is helping GHF fulfill that mission.

“The Island has always felt like a refuge for me, a place where I felt comfortable to be myself,” he says. “The goal of our foundation has always been preservation, keeping Galveston’s opulent history intact and available for tomorrow’s islanders and visitors.”

Originally the Galveston Historical Society, GHF resulted from a 1954 merger of two organizations into a nonprofit entity devoted to historic preservation and history in Galveston County. Over the last 60 years, the Foundation has expanded its mission to encompass community redevelopment, historic-preservation advocacy, maritime preservation, coastal resiliency, and stewardship of historic properties.

According to chief executive officer Dwayne Jones, GHF embraces a broader vision of history and architecture that encompasses advancements in environmental and natural sciences and their intersection with historic buildings and coastal life. That broader vision also includes history as an engaging story of individual lives and experiences on Galveston Island from the 19th century to the present day.

For Dunbar, his role as director of retail services includes buying and developing merchandise for GHF’s retail locations, along with providing satellite retail locations during events. Prior to working at GHF, Dunbar lived in one of the historic properties under GHF’s stewardship. It’s there that his fascination with the Island’s history truly came alive.

“Few know that there is a private apartment above what was once the carriage house at Ashton Villa,” he says. “Ten years ago, this apartment became my first home with my partner, Justin. We lived there for four years and I quickly got to know GHF staff and fell in love with Galveston’s booming history. When a job opening appeared, I applied and haven’t looked back. I graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in acting and directing. While I never would have imagined working  for a historic-preservation nonprofit, my training as a director has come in handy. Most of what a director does for any play is research, trying to figure out what story the playwright is trying to tell and how best to present that story. It’s the same with Galveston’s history. The story is just factual and features real humans.”

For Dunbar, whose childhood was steeped in evangelical Texas suburbia, Galveston always felt like an escape to him—a community with vibrant offerings and rich entertainment. It’s those qualities that he says attract many tourists to the Island

“Maybe it’s the freedom of the open Gulf, the laid-back Island time that everyone seems to run on, or maybe it’s the lively, unfaltering queer community that has staked its claim on this coastal vacation hotspot and dared onlookers to tell them otherwise,” he says. “‘We’re here, we’re queer, and this Island is ours. Visitors, beware!’ I started acting at Island ETC theater in the spring of 2013, and after meeting my long-time partner in a production of The Rocky Horror Show, I decided to stake my claim and make the Island my home.”

Dunhar says the open arms of the community keep him here, and it’s this sense of pride that locals feel about the Island that keeps him on the sandbar.

“I feel most locals share this sense of pride,” he says. “Working with the Galveston Historical Foundation has opened my eyes to this beauty: this living, breathing, thriving island that has endured hurricanes, fires, wars, pandemics, and ice storms. And yet, it still endures. I serve on the board of the Third Coast Pridefest, and our goal was to bring back a family-friendly Pride parade to the Island. In our current political climate, you can understand how that might be a scary undertaking. Last October, when our dreams became reality and our rainbow parade marched down Strand Street, past the endless Victorian architecture and history, the Island community opened its arms and cheered us on with wide smiles and open minds. That’s been one of the happiest moments of my life.”

As Dunbar helps shepherd GHF into the next generation, the islander is hoping that the organization can remain intact for future generations to come.

“My biggest hope is that the Foundation outlasts us,” he says. “The goal has always been preservation—keeping Galveston’s opulent history intact and available for tomorrow’s islanders and visitors. The biggest part of that, as a nonprofit, is community involvement. Keeping the community involved and engaged in the importance of preserving that history is paramount.”


Favorite brunch spot? Sunflower Bakery and Café. The challah French toast is to die for!

Best-kept secret in town? Not so secret, but people need to go to Groovy Grind Coffee in Hendley Green Park.

Favorite spot for a cocktail or mocktail? I love grabbing a drink at Hotel Lucine.

Your go-to spot for self care? The beach! Nothing is more therapeutic than a morning in my hammock under Murdoch’s.

Best place to celebrate a birthday? Sound Bar. Karaoke fun all night!

Favorite place to go dancing? Island Time Beach Bar, after the drag show.

Best place to satisfy a sweet tooth? La King’s. Best sweets on the Island.

Favorite place to work out? I love Lasker Pool.

Favorite local business to support? Island ETC theater.

For more information, go to galvestonhistory.org

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Connor Behrens

Connor Behrens is a communications graduate from the University of Houston. He has written for the Washington Post, Community Impact Newspaper and the Galveston County Daily News (the oldest newspaper in Texas). When he's not writing stories, he is likely watching the latest new release at the movie theater.
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