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The Rosenberg Library Collection - Galveston Beach and Stewart’s Mansion (1928)

Galveston and Texas History Center - Rosenberg Library

Silent | 1928

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  •  The Galveston Seawall and cars on the beach 
  •  Playing in the sand 
  •  At Isla Ranch, better known as Stewart’s Mansion 
  •  George and Jean find the garden hose 
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  • About the video
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This home movie captures George Sealy Jr., a prominent Galveston businessman, and his family in 1928. First, the family spends a day at the beach, where the children play in the sand. Later, the Sealys return to their summer retreat, Isla Ranch. (The home is better known as Stewart’s Mansion, one of Galveston’s most historic—and haunted—buildings.)
Born on December 13, 1880, in Galveston, George Sealy Jr. was the eldest son of George and Magnolia Wallis Sealy, one of Galveston's wealthiest families. After serving in World War I, he married Eugenia Polk Taylor of San Antonio on November 10, 1923. The couple had three children. 
Sealy followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a prominent businessman in Galveston, serving as an executive or board member of countless corporations, from the Galveston Cotton Concentration Company to Hutchings-Sealy Bank to the Gulf Transfer Company. He also was the commissioner of finance for the city of Galveston. Among his many civic contributions to the city, however, Sealy is perhaps best remembered for his work to establish Galveston as "The Oleander City." In addition to cultivating more some 60 different varieties himself, Sealy also shipped more than 800,000 plants to the island during World War II, and proceeded to give them out for free to residents, visitors, and servicemen stationed at Fort Crockett. He also sponsored an oleander festival and parade. 
Sealy died of pneumonia on November 4, 1944, while on a trip to New York.
Stewart's Mansion is an abandoned historic home in Galveston. The property is one of the earliest known sites of occupation on the west side of the island, serving as a campsite for the Karankawa people. In 1817, notorious pirate Jean Lafitte established a settlement there to prey upon shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. He remained there until 1821, when the government ordered him to leave. The site exchanged hands several more times before George Sealy, Jr., a prominent local businessman, purchased the property in 1926. As the previous home had burned down, Sealy commissioned San Antonio architects Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres to design and build an opulent, 8,200 sq ft Spanish Colonial Revival mansion overlooking Lake Como. Marco Stewart, Sr., the founder of Stewart Title Co., purchased the property in 1933 as a vacation resort home. Marco Stewart, Jr. inherited the home in 1939, changing its name to Stewart's Mansion. Stewart's widow, Louise Bisbey Stewart, donated the residence to the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1944, after which it was used as a convalescent home for crippled children. In 1969, the property—minus the mansion—was willed to the State of Texas and became what is now the Galveston Island State Park. 
The mansion, long abandoned, is rumored to be haunted. The property served as the site of the Battle of Three Trees fought between Lafitte's men and the Karankawa people in February 1821, leading to tales of seeing apparitions and hearing cannon fire and screams.