Island Of Galveston
Construction of the Seawall

.....While the 1900 Storm had a devastating effect on the island, the residents stood united and needed a way to protect the island from another disaster. A committee of three engineers were appointed and ordained to come up with a plan. Colonel Henry M. Robert, Alfred Noble, and H. C. Ripley all had worked various projects from deepening the harbor to bridge building. In January, 1902 they published a report that was challenging to say the least.

Under Construction
Construction Crane on Seawall
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.....Two recommendations were made. First build a seawall, 17 feet high and three miles long. Then raise the entire elevation of the Island from eight to fifteen feet.
.....The seawall was to extend from the south jetty, across the eastern edge of the city, and down the beach. It was to be made out of concrete, be paved on top, and have huge boulders at its base as 'rip rap' to break the force of the waves. The cost of the seawall and the raising of the city was estimated to be 3.5 million dollars.
.....The city accepted the recommendation, but had one problem. The city was nearly bankrupt because of the 1900 Storm. The city had just defaulted on $17,500 on some forty year bonds from 1881.The city negotiated with New York bondholders and they secured a 2.5% interest rate (as opposed to 5%). The city still could not raise enough funds to build the seawall and raise the grade. Isaac Kempner suggested they meet with county officials to ask the county to issue bonds. The county officials, and later the voters agreed to 1.5 million in bonds. The city fathers then went to the state and procured the passage of a law allowing another 2 million dollars in bonds.

Profile of Seawall
Profile of Seawall
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.....The first contract was with J. M. O'Rourke and Company of Denver to build the seawall. Construction began in February, 1903. Along the construction line, the ground was excavated to three feet deep and sixteen feet wide. Pine pilings were driven into the ground from forty to fifty feet. Additional one foot planking was driven down twenty four feet to prevent undermining of the structure. The wall was built in sixty foot sections by pouring concrete into molds with steel rods every three feet. Such a massive concrete pour required seven days to set. So the pours were made in alternate sections and then crews went back and filled in the gaps linking the wall together with tongue-in-groove joints.

.....The side facing the sea was designed concave to redirect the force of the waves upward. To prevent wash-out at the bottom of the structure, twenty-seven feet of granite boulders were placed to protect the base. The pink granite boulders were hauled in from the "Granite Mountain" in Marble Falls, Texas. The first section of the seawall was completed in 1910. Five years later, a storm in August of 1915 gave the seawall it's first real test. The seawall was deemed a success, with a loss of only 275 lives, far short of the thousands lost in 1900.

Storm Water hurled back into Gulf by Galveston's Great Seawall. Sept 14, 1919 Copyright Maurer '19

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S.H. Kress & Co Postcard
The seawall originally ended at 6th street.

.....Originally, the seawall extended to 6th street and wrapped around back to Water (Harborside). Since the initial construction in 1902, the seawall has been added on to repeatedly until today when it spans a distance of 10 miles.

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Last update for this page on April 3, 2005