Thursday, September 18, 2008

Galveston's Murdoch Bathhouse



People who live and work in coastal cities along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic know that hurricanes and hurricane damage are just part of life there.

The history of one of the structures totally destroyed by Ike is testimony to the tenacity of coastal dwellers. The first Murdoch's Bathhouse was constructed in the late 1800's dirctly on the sand. The famous 1900 hurricane totally destroyed the first one. Quickly rebuilt in 1901, it provided rental bathing suits and showers for the tourists. However, storms in 1909 and 1915 necessitated rebuilding each time.

William J. Guyette Sr. began his business, the Guyette Gift Shop in 1910 inside Murdoch's providing souvenirs. The original Guido's Seafood started in the 1910 Murdoch's Bathhouse building.

Fifty one years later, Hurricane Carla struck the Texas coast between Port O'Conor and Port Lavaca. Carla was classified as an unusually large Category 4 hurricane, the largest hurricane on recored in the Atlantic basin. Port Lavaca had 170 mph wind gusts. Of the 26 tornados spawned, an F4 tornado ripped through downtown Galveston. Even though the eye of the storm was 100 miles away from Galveston, buildings unprotected by the seawall were severely damaged by the storm surge. Near the heads of the bays the storm surge was measured at 22 feet and in places penetrated 10 miles inland. Murdoch's Bathhouse was demolished. When rebuilt, it was raised several feet above the seawall and moved over the Gulf of Mexico on sturdy wood pilings.

1983's Hurricane Alicia caused minor repairs to the pier, but Murdoch's continued operating by members of the extended Guyette family. It was enlarged in 2005 using original piling that once held Murdoch's Bathhouse following State of Texas rules that do no allow new piers to be built in Texas.



From the Murdoch's Pier website you can get an idea of what was destroyed in only a moment of time. I talked with someone who had actually witnessed the destruction. He lives a block away from the seawall. He heard a noise and looked out the window to see the Balinese room rise off its pilings and roll over onto Murdoch's and the Hooter's Restaurant. Apparently Hooter's exploded because he saw a blue glow as it was demolished.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

It was beautiful, I sure hope the family still has the tenacity to rebuild.

Hilary said...

I LOVED Murdoch's and I am SO heartbroken about what is left of it. It was such a cheerful sight to see when driving the seawall. I've shopped there ever sinse I was a little girl and our weekend home at Jamaica Beach was demolished from Hurricane Alicia. I do hope the family does rebuild Murdoch's...it is such an asset to Galveston tourism.

Anonymous said...

I have so many fond memories of visiting Murdoch's as a child on vacation. I'm so glad I got to visit this May before the storm. To the owners: If you rebuild, we will come!

Chris from Austin said...

My family and I go to Galveston every Labor Day Weekend and loved visiting Murdochs. It was such a great place and added so much to Galveston. I was so sad when I heard the news and saw the pictuers. I hope to see it rebuilt some day! My heart goes out to the family...

Anonymous said...

Murdoch's was the BEST, and with the new breezeway connecting it to the Mermaid Pier, it was by far the best place to be during a hot summer day. I will sorely miss sitting there, sipping a fruity drink and watching the waves. I pray it will be rebuilt yet again, just as it was. God Bless Galveston and the people who live there.

Anonymous said...

lhMy family and I have been to Galveston twice and both trips we visted Murdochs at least 2-3 times the week we were there... I loved that place.. and the atmosphere and missed visting this summer due to the fact I was sick. I hope when I am well next summer to visit and hope there is a Murdoch's for us to shop in and soak in the gulf atmosphere

Anonymous said...

As a BOI and working Galveston as a nurse this weekend, seeing it destroyed made me physically ill. I m so sad for those who knew and love it. I believe with the 2005 building codes, they will never be able to rebuild on the water again :(

Mary Ann Melton said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. Since a part (albeit a small part) of the building still stands and the pilings are still there, I hope and pray that there will be a way for this great business to rebuild. Perhaps there can be a grass roots effort to pass legislation to make Galveston an exception so that the historical piers can be rebuilt.

I grieve with all the Galveston families who have gone home and found so much damage and devastation!

Blessings,
Mary Ann

Anonymous said...

That is so sad. I was there last Thanksgiving, for the first time. My kids, husband, and I loved it. I'm glad I got to see it. My heart goes out to the owners and hope they, and their families, are all safe.

allison said...

As one of the owner's of Murdoch's Bathhouse, THANK YOU so much for these great comments. It is comments like these that are helping my family deal with this devastation. We are so saddened by what Hurricane Ike has done to Galveston Island. Murdoch's Bathhouse is a Galveston landmark, and in the year 2010 it will have been a part of my family for 100 years. Our hopes and desires are to be open again that year to see Murdoch's make that special anniversary date. Thank you so much for these great comments , they are so appreciated, Allison Schoenvogel

Mary Ann Melton said...

Allison - This blog has been the most visited of any blog I've ever written. It is surely a measure of how much Murdoch's was loved. I will be praying that you will have a smooth path in rebuilding in time for your centennial celebration!

Love, prayers, and blessings,
Mary Ann

Anonymous said...

My son and I were at Murdoch's in July, just two short months before Hurricane Ike hit. I'm so glad we got to visit again before it was demolished (visiting Murdoch's was a family tradition), but so saddened by the fact that, at least for the time being, we won't be able to visit for awhile.

I check in at the Murdoch's site periodically to see if there are any updates - we are fervently hoping that it will soon be back and better than ever.

Anonymous said...

Allison,

I and my entire family miss Murdoch's!!! We were raised in Galveston many, many yrs. ago and even now that we are spread out from Houston to Dallas to Florida, we all still seem to make it back to our roots - Galveston..Frequently too!!

This past weekend the Houston gang came to Galveston for the Festival of Lights, but we were lost without our "home base": Murdoch's!!

Please know that we, along with so many others are so looking forward to your re-opening in 2010 when your family celebrates Murdoch's 100th anniversary!!!

God bless.

patrick said...

Yesterday Murdochs Bathhouse was demolished. Although it was a hard to watch and many tears were shed, it had to be done to begin the rebuilding process. This entire experience has been like a death and yesterday was the funeral. We are working very hard to begin construction in February , and our prayer is to be open Spring Break 2010 for our 100th anniversary. You can go to Galvnews.com and enter the blog section and watch the video of the demolition. Thank you again for all the great comments, Allison Schoenvogel

Anonymous said...

For the record, your other photography is beautiful. I'm a photographer and Christian also, so I find your point of view refreshing. I'm so glad someone was able to capture these images of Murdochs; when it's rebuilt, these will serve as a reminder that hurricanes happen, and it's possible to bounce back.

Mary Ann Melton said...

Thank you - anonymous and all of the other people who have commented on this blog. The number of views and the number of comments are representative of how many people loved Murdoch's Bathhouse. We will all be glad when it is rebuilt and open again!

Kai said...

I am so happy they rebuilt.Murdocks is actually my FAVORITE part of Galveston. I was devistated when the news reported that it was gone. 'The balanese room just hit murdocks" the radio said. Everyone in the room gasped. But it's back and beautiful as ever. It may be all new, but the history of teh place is still remembered. And if you didn't know it was gone, you wouldn't know looking at it now. beautiful pictures take of this.

Jaci Oldham said...

I found an old picture frame at an antique store here in Missouri and in it there were multiple other pictures, one included a picture postcard of a couple at Murdochs bathhouse. Would love to know if there are records of who were in these pictures. I realize if there were there may be gaps because of the hurricanes destroying documents. I have enjoyed investigating the picture and reading about the Galveston area. I have added it to my top ten list of places I need to visit.