2300 Ship Mechanic Row St, Galveston, TX 77550
Twice destroyed, Galveston's Tremont House Hotel is acquainted with catastrophe. It's witnessed "fires and rivers of blood," the Civil War, and the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. It's hosted prime ministers and murderers, lunatics and liberators. The superstitious even allege that the hotel is haunted, beset by specters and other paranormal personalities. Yet, despite its ghoulish ongoings, the Tremont is considered the "Pride of the South" – General Sheridan was so impressed with the establishment that he regretted his much-publicized remark, "If I owned Texas and all hell, I'd rent out Texas and live in hell." So, what’s the history behind this high-profile hotel? Is it really haunted?
With a breezy, four-story atrium, the Tremont House Hotel seems natural enough. Birdcage elevators offer a bird's-eye view of the foyer, well-kept and uncluttered. It's an airy atmosphere, complete with tropical palms and pianos. Visitors will be surprised to know that a Civil War Soldier lurks about the building, marching in time to a phantom melody. Or that "Lucky Man" Sam still frequents the establishment – though he's long-dead. What about "Young Jimmy," the playful poltergeist? Or the Ghosts of the Great Galveston Storm?
Tremont’s most popular poltergeist is the “Civil War Soldier.” Guests witness this armed apparition marching throughout the front lobby, rhythmically stepping past the elevator shaft. He turns towards the front desk, then back again. Whenever he isn’t seen, he’s heard – his boots clack and clatter across the floor. Employees have seen the Civil War Soldier in the bar, dining, and office areas. Is this a Union troop, defending his Texas retreat? Or a Confederate, reclaiming the Tremont?
The Tremont House Hotel changed hands throughout the Civil War, so this specter may pledge himself to either side.
Sam the Salesman is another infamous inhabitant of this haunted hotel. "Lucky Man" Sam returned from the Belmont Boarding House after a night of gambling. He packed his pockets with his prize. Yet Sam's grand-slam was short-lived: he was murdered in his sleep the same night, his life, as well as his winnings, stolen.
Some skeptics disagree with Sam's ghostlore, arguing that he was the victim of a Victorian murder. They claim that burglars bludgeoned Sam in the hallway. Both legends include Sam's limp, by which he’s best identified. He drags himself across this historic, hair-raising hotel with one foot – the primary suspect of unidentified knocks from unseen hands, or the patter of one-footed plodding.
It’s no surprise that poltergeists are active during rowdy weather. In 1900, Galveston was hit by the worst natural disaster in United States history: the “Great Galveston Storm,” which claimed over 6,000 lives.
During storms, televisions turn off and on again, untouched by human hands. Ceiling fans, too, turn themselves on, stirring and spinning around. For Islander Magazine, Amy Matsumoto records how one guest witnessed strange lights followed by “three low deep moans in our room very close to our faces.” The guest continued, claiming that they “felt an unusual pain, like a knife stabbed into my ribcage.” The guest had never believed in ghosts, yet one night at the Tremont House Hotel changed everything.
Are these poltergeists the lingering souls of the storm?
Built 1839, the Tremont House Hotel was the largest boarding house in the Republic of Texas. Although the Austin Business Journal described the structure as a “sturdy, two-story building,” the Tremont House Hotel was an extravagant establishment, frequented by presidents, foreign ministers, celebrities, chieftains, and soldiers alike. The Tremont House Hotel hosted dazzling banquets, homecomings, and speeches, astonishing guests with unprecedented glamor.
Plus, the Tremont House Hotel was a historic landmark from its onset: the Tremont House Hotel officially opened on April 19 to commemorate San Jacinto, the last battle of the Texas Revolution. Texas wouldn’t join the United States until seven years later, making the historic hotel older than its flagship state. Yet Tremont’s first structure would be short-lived. Its address on Post Office Street, too, would be temporary.
In 1861, Sam Houston delivered cautionary advice upon the hotel’s north gallery. Houston warned an inhospitable mob that the Civil War would bring “fire and rivers of blood,” discouraging the secession of the southern states. Texas Governor Francis R. Lubbock spoke from the hotel’s east gallery the following year, advising Galvestonians to “lay waste” to the city. Lubbock wanted Union Soldiers to find neither shelter nor water once they arrived. His advice was futile – Union Soldiers would occupy the same hotel from which he delivered his speech.
The Tremont House Hotel caught fire in 1865. Galveston's once lavish landmark was devastated. It remained deserted and in disrepair until 1871, saved at last by the Galveston Hotel Company.
The Galveston Hotel Company plotted a second structure that would rival the first. It would surpass its predecessor in every imaginable way, becoming the "Pride of the South." Unlike the first Tremont, the second sat on Tremont, Church, and 24th Streets.
Supervised by Architect Nicholas J. Clayton, the second Tremont House Hotel opened in 1872. It sat at four-stories high, already exceeding its prototype. The second establishment also boasted a grander guest-list: Presidents Rutherford Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield, and Chester Arthur alongside General Sam Houston, Edwin Booth, Buffalo Bill Cody, Anna Pavlova, Clara Barton, and Stephen Crane.
One notable night, General Phil Sheridan had such a fantastic experience that he apologized for an earlier comment. He had once remarked, "If I owned Texas and all hell, I'd rent out Texas and live in hell." His time at the Tremont was so exceptional that he felt compelled to confess that he was mistaken.
In 1900, Galveston was hit by the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. The hurricane claimed over 6,000 Galvestonian lives, irreparably marking the island. Yet the Tremont House Hotel survived the storm, and later provided sanctuary for Clara Barton. Barton was the organizer of the American Red Cross, arriving at Galveston Island to assist victims of the storm.
By November of 1928, the Tremont House Hotel had slipped into an irreversible state of decay. Galveston demolished the establishment by December. The second installment of this historic, haunted hotel had met its end.
The third and current Tremont was established in the former Leon & H. Blum Co. Building in the 1980s. With 119 rooms, the Tremont rivals its predecessors in size and splendor. Victorian decor rests beneath vaulted ceilings, creating an airy, opulent atmosphere. It's a treat for ghost-hunters and globetrotters alike.
Let us know if you encounter any paranormal activity. There's more than meets the eye in this Wyndham Hotel.