Alleys of Galveston
Growing up exploring the back alleys of Galveston in my youth gave me a sense of empowerment and excitement. I had little control over of how far I could explore because my Big Mama (my mother’s mother) was strict and had eyes everywhere. What I could control was where I would explore on my self-guided adventures. The alleys of this beautiful island gave me agency over my surveillance as my sister and I acted out the plots from the latest Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys novel. The homes seemed larger than life and the sudden scurry of the local alley cats would send our hearts racing and our feet running.
As an adult, the back alleys provide needed relief from tourists and their lunacy-induced driving on the main thoroughfares. I still enjoy the adventurous nature of ducking off into an alley as if only I know the secrets that rest behind those houses and random buildings. These island alleys are sometimes seedy, dank and dark. Most times though, these back alleys are mysterious portals transporting you to the other layers of life happening in the city. Thinking about the idea of alley life, mural art and the architecture of Galveston, it had not occurred to me that alleys and all of those interesting back buildings are considered a part of the architecture of the city! Well, thanks to Google, I found the book The Alleys and Back Buildings of Galveston: An Architectural and Social History by Ellen Beasley (tamupress.com).
This book won the 1997 Ottis Lock Award for the Best Book on East Texas History as presented by the East Texas Historical Association. The author investigates how alleys and back buildings are largely omitted from studies of urban America’s environmental development. Ellen Beasley’s work illuminates rental alley houses, carriage houses, stables, servant housing, slave quarters and other secondary structures. These buildings have occupied the backyards and alley landscape of Galveston since its early days of growth. Beasley, a preservationist and writer, interweaves written documents, oral interviews and pictorial portrayals to highlight a vibrant, authentic perspective of the buildings, inhabitants and the visual, physical, and social impact of Galveston’s alleys and alley life from the founding of the city well into the twentieth century.
Finding this wealth of information has reignited my passion to take a more artistic approach to my own artistry and community engagement moving forward. I am proud to be BOI! The more I learn, or should I say re-learn about my birth city, the more deeply I fall in love. I truly love this hunk O’ dirt and look forward to doing my part to preserve and share the depth of Galveston’s cultural contribution to world history.