Though the third hotel to bear this name in Galveston since 1839, the current Tremont House remains as elegant and classic a hotel experience as any of its forebears. Its history, however, has come with an interesting set of side effects, namely a few guests who’ve decided to stick around long after they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil…
As with any structure with a history as rich as the Tremont’s, there are tales of strange goings-on that defy explanation. With mysterious figures stalking the rooms and spirits that may well belong to denizens of the city’s dark years wandering the corridors, the Tremont House is a boon for anyone looking to take a peek into Galveston’s haunted history.
The Tremont House History
A Tempestuous Beginning
The first Tremont was built in 1839 by the McKinney and Williams firm. At two stories tall with long galleries that ran across both floors, it was this classy hotel that held a ball celebrating both its own opening and the Battle of San Jacinto on the same day, securing Texas as a republic independent of Mexico.
While Texas joined the United States in 1846, trouble began to brew in the ensuing years. In 1861, General Sam Houston gave a speech from the hotel’s north gallery warning about what horrors a potential civil war would bring upon the US. His warnings were for naught, however, as only a year later Texas governor Francis R. Lubbock gave a speech from the Tremont’s east gallery, telling citizens to lay waste to the city so “invading” Union soldiers wouldn’t be able to use any of the available facilities.
Over the coming years of war, Galveston changed hands between Union and Confederate forces on numerous occasions, with the Tremont acting as a local Union headquarters during the occupation of 1862. While 1865 saw an end to the Civil War, it also saw the end of the Tremont, as a fire started from a foundry’s furnace accidentally left lit destroyed more than 40 blocks of Galveston, the Tremont included.
Rising from the Ashes
With many holding fond memories of the Tremont House, a group slowly formed who wished to bring it back to its former glory. In 1871, the Galveston Hotel Company was formed by a number of local citizens who wished to rebuild the Tremont even greater than it had ever been before.
The new Tremont House was opened in 1872, and over the coming years would host a number of celebrities of the period. Five US Presidents, General Sam Houston and Clara Barton, among many, many others would spend time in the beautifully rebuilt Tremont, a return to its former glory years that many hoped would last forever.
Unfortunately, like many things in life, the good times would not last forever.
Death and Yet Another Rebirth
The great hurricane of 1900 that nearly destroyed Galveston saw the Tremont House acting as a shelter for hundreds of Galveston residents. Though this dark event saw Galveston almost at its lowest, for the Tremont the hundreds they saved proved among the hotel’s finest hours.
Sadly, with Galveston in ruins, recovery for the city was slow. Depression hit the city hard, and though the Tremont tried to hold on, by 1928 it was all too clear they couldn’t. On November 1, 1928, the Tremont’s doors were closed for good, with demolition beginning the next month.
Even so, there were forces at work that ensured the Tremont would never be forgotten, and would live to see yet another day.
Local citizens George and Cynthia Mitchell became interested in revitalizing Galveston’s forgotten downtown, and among other projects set their sights on bringing the Tremont House back. In 1981, they acquired the Leon & H. Blum building in downtown Galveston and transformed it into the third iteration of the Tremont House.
This new hotel opened in 1985 and has been a Galveston staple since, offering a recreation of the elegance and romantic spirit of the hotels that came before. The first major hotel to open in Galveston in nearly sixty years, it remains to this day a pillar of the city’s downtown area, and a memory of the city’s fascinating history.
The Tremont House Ghosts
With a history as long and winding as the Tremont House’s, it’s no wonder that it’s picked up a handful of spirits and specters over the years. Though their experiences and behaviors vary wildly, they all add up to the fact that the Tremont House is one of the most haunted locations Galveston has to offer.
A lot of what the Tremont has experienced are similar to other paranormal encounters you’re apt to find, with tales of appliances turning off and on in the night, strange howling noises and people awakening in the night with the feeling that they’re being watched, but a few unique spirits have come to enter Tremont House lore as some of their most unique permanent residents.
The Limping Ghost
Sometimes called “Sam” or “the Lucky Man”, this spirit is believed to be the spirit of a gambler who stayed at a boarding house that used to be located where the Tremont is now. Legend has it, the man returned to his room after a lucrative night of gambling, only to be murdered in his sleep in a robbery.
Since the Tremont has opened, many a hotel guest on the fourth floor has reported a similar story of a strange noise in the night. They state that a loud pounding sound hits their door, shaking it slightly, before the sound of a man with one heavy foot and one dragging leg stalks off, leaving no trace of his presence in the hallway.
The ghost of a little boy by the name of Jimmy is reported to wander the hotel by more than a few former employees. The pale spirit of a small child has been seen by both front desk and kitchen staff, hiding and playing his mischievous jokes on any unwary passersby. Bartenders have reported glasses sliding off the bar by more than a foot, followed sometimes by the giggle of a small boy.
Though it sounds like he’s having a good time, it might be best to hold onto your glasses to be safe.
The Civil War Soldier
Probably the best known ghost of Tremont House, this spirit is said to haunt pretty much every part of the Tremont’s first floor. Often heard, if not always seen, marching up and down the long hallway leading to the lobby, his telltale boots are unmistakable. Often, someone will report having searched for the sound down the hall, only to find that no one was there.
Whether or not Tremont House is truly haunted, it’s undeniably a part of Galveston history and should certainly be checked out if you’re looking to do some sightseeing while in town. Come on by, take a look, even have a meal, and if you feel like you’re being watched, well… maybe you might’ve just made a new friend of some of Tremont House’s permanent residents.