Family of Volunteers from the 1950s to Reunite
at Galveston’s Historic Homes Tour Mother’s Day Sunday
This weekend, Barbara Hopper is going to have a Mother’s Day to remember, as she and all her children travel back to the Samuel May Williams House in Galveston for the Galveston Historic Homes Tour. When Hopper’s children were young, 50 years ago now, she would bring them down to Galveston from Houston every summer to stay with her mother, Sara Lawes, at her family home on Avenue Q.
Lawes was one of the early leaders of Galveston Historical Foundation. Her daughter and grandchildren spent summer after summer for more than a decade over at the old Williams House scrubbing, pruning, weeding, hauling and painting alongside other early Galveston Historical Foundation volunteers whose extraordinary efforts brought this previously neglected property back to life. When Hopper’s family comes together to visit the house this weekend, they will see it transformed once again.
The Samuel May Williams House, the second oldest house in Galveston and the first property bought by the newly incorporated Galveston Historical Foundation in 1954, was the headquarters of the foundation throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. It served as a house museum for many years, and now has been transformed into a designer showhouse by the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and is featured on this year’s Galveston Historic Homes Tour.
Hopper’s son, Trey Click, who has now been a resident of his mother’s hometown of Galveston for the past five years, says he looks forward to hosting his family on their trip here on Mother’s Day Sunday to visit their old family haunt.
“My mother brought my sisters and me to the Williams House to work every summer from the time we were babies till we were teenagers,” says Click, 52. “My grandmother worked all of us hard. We have scrapbooks full of pictures of how the house was transformed by volunteers from a dilapidated eyesore into one of the most treasured restorations on the island,” says Click. “It was a very dedicated group of people back then who really devoted their lives to saving and reviving the Williams House.”
Galveston Historical Foundation’s decision last year to convert the house from a museum to a residence suitable for a contemporary family to live in was difficult and controversial. By the mid-1950s, the model of preserving historic houses and supporting them on visitor admissions as museums was becoming established nationally, and was pioneered in Texas by Hopper’s and her mother’s generations of civic-minded women who worked tirelessly to see that the material presence of the past was not lost. They dressed these houses with carefully collected period furniture, interpreted them with docents and carefully designed signage, and by the 1980s, as in the Williams House’s case, with sophisticated audio-visual installations.
As the 21st century turned, however, the house museum model was becoming less viable. Except for attractions with the grandeur and appeal of the Bishop’s Palace, tourists, even those with an interest in history, were no longer in the habit of visiting house museums. The Williams house had been a successful save, and had in the process given birth to one of the most active local preservation organizations in the country. But as of 2007, the house had not been sustaining itself through admissions revenues for years. Galveston Historical Foundation made the decision to close the Williams house as a museum but to restore and revive it as a single-family home—to be leased to a resident curator.
Galveston Historical Foundation’s (GHF’s) annual Galveston Historic Homes Tour, held the first two weekends every May for the past 34 years, will continue during the upcoming weekend, Saturday, May 10 and Mother’s Day Sunday, May 11. Ten private historic homes will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. A Mother’s Day Champagne Brunch and Fashion Show is being held at Galveston’s historic Garten Verein Pavilion at 10 a.m. Sunday. Full information about the tour and brunch are available at http://www.galvestonhistory.org/.
Tickets to the Historic Homes tour cost $25. A package ticket that includes the Homes Tour and the Williams House cost $35. A package that includes the Mother’s Day Brunch and the Homes Tour costs $45. Tickets may be purchased online at galvestonhistory.org, or by phone at 1-777-77CLICK.