Bishop’s Palace, also known as Gresham House, is a National Historic Landmark in the East End Historic District of Galveston, Texas. Historians list the Victorian residence as one of the most significant in the United States. Bishop’s Palace was built for Civil War Colonel Walter Gresham and his family in 1887. Colonel Gresham was also an attorney who served in the Texas Legislature and businessman who founded several rail roads including the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe.
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Nicholas Clayton designed the Victorian house to be Chateausque and mimics a popular French Revival style that was popular at the turn of the century. Elements of Romanesque and Tudor architecture are included in this design making the home particularly unique and a stand out among the other homes in the area then and now. The home is four stories including the raised basement levels.
The archdiocese of Houston purchased the home through funds raised by locals as a residence for the Bishop in 1921. The home was used for this purpose until it was purchased by the Galveston Historical Society in 2012 where grants were acquired for restoration efforts. Recent preservation efforts have included new electrical wiring, new windows and stained-glass repair, work to the foundation with other projects planned. The Galveston Historical Foundation has been managing the property since 2007 and welcomes more than 65,000 visitors annually. GHF was incorporated in 1954 and is one of the largest preservation organizations focusing on local efforts in the United States. The foundation is focusing on redeveloping the Galveston community, public education and historic preservation with stewardship of historic properties and maritime artifacts.
Touring Bishop’s Palace
The 1887 Victorian mansion offers several different options for tours; however, visitors should be aware that the home is not currently wheelchair accessible. There are no ramps allowing wheel chair access into the home and no elevators inside to transport visitors with accommodation needs between the four floors of the home. Audio tours with photographs and written transcripts of tours are available to those with disabilities who cannot access all parts of the home. After your tour make sure to stop at The Shop at the Palace, a one of a kind gift shop offering historic home merchandise, Victorian era themed items, locally crafted gifts and accessories and souvenirs.
Basement to Attic Tours- Reservations for these tours need to be made in advance and allow visitors to see parts of the home not available during the regular tour including Mrs. Gresham’s studio, a panoramic viewing point from the third floor overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, and other details of the home that showcases why it is listed as a National Historic Landmark and one of the best examples of the gilded-age in the region.
Bishop’s Palace Audio Tours- These tours allow visitors to use handheld devices to engage in audio tour commentary detailing the history of the home and Gresham family significance. These tours are great adds to the regular admission tour and are self-guided provided an immersion into the history of the palace.
Bishop Palace Extended Tours- Extended tours are guided and now includes the third floor. Tours are led by experienced and trained volunteers.
Full Moon Tours- After hours tours offered during full moons showcase Bishop’s Palace in a unique way as they are guided through the home on a volunteer led tour.
Private Tours- Private tours can be booked for up to 6 people. Basic guided tours are offered with a more personal and in-depth look at the furnishings, history and architecture of the home. Behind the scenes tours that education on the restoration efforts underway at Bishop’s Palace are also available.
Bishops Palace is open to group and school tours with guided tours being able to accommodate groups of 20 or more. Students can learn a great deal about architecture and history by visiting Bishop’s Palace in conjunction with the other historic landmarks in the Galveston area or that are owned and/or managed by the Galveston Historical Society.
Bishop’s Palace cannot be rented for private events, but can be used for wedding photography when sessions are booked in advance. The home is the location for special events hosted by the Galveston Historical Society throughout the year. Many of the events are not reoccurring and are outlined on the events calendar found on the Bishop Palace website. Past events have included eclipse viewing parties, show and tell art collection events, Lantern light tours, gallery readings, lectures and more.
1402 Broadway, Galveston, Texas, 77550, Phone: 409-762-2475