The Moody Building: A Survival Story

In this blog post we're highlighting one of our current projects: The Moody Building in Galveston! This beauty was constructed in 1884 and is prominently located on a corner lot in The Strand National Historic Landmark District. Read on to learn more about the building's fascinating history.

Ezra Stoller, 1965. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Located less than 600 feet from the port of Galveston, the masonry edifice known as the W.L. Moody Building stands as a reminder of Galveston's history- both the period of cosmopolitan wealth and early 20th century natural disaster.

Constructed in 1884, the W.L. Moody Building was designed by Galveston's premier architect, Nicholas Clayton. The building replaced a larger building on the same site, which was destroyed by fire in 1882. The building was erected to serve as the financial headquarters of the Moody empire, named after William Lewis Moody, Jr., who founded a private bank housed in the building after working in his father's cotton business. Moody should be a familiar name to those who know even just a tiny bit of Texas history. In addition to founding the W.L. Moody Company, Moody founded the American National Life Insurance Company in 1905, and later set up the Moody Foundation in the 1940s. Today, you'll find dozens of sites throughout Texas bearing the Moody name: Moody Towers, Moody Gardens, and the Moody College of Communication are just a few.

The building stands prominent on a busy corner on The Strand, Galveston's most cosmopolitan thoroughfare. Now a National Historic Landmark District, The Strand was once known as the "Wall Street of the Southwest" due to Galveston's prominence as a major port city in the 19th century. Shipping merchants, banks, cotton brokers, and attorney offices lined the thriving five blocks that comprise today's historic district, and the street was constantly bustling with people buying goods and making deals.

The aftermath of the Great Galveston Hurricane on The Strand. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Just 26 years after the Moody Building's completion, disaster struck. The deadliest hurricane in United States history, know today as the Great Galveston Hurricane, made landfall on September 8, 1900, killing thousands and sweeping away hundreds of buildings. The 145 mile per hour winds tore off the top floor of the Moody Building, which was a relatively small amount of damage in comparison to the storm's devastating toll on the city. Had the Moody not been built as an immensely strong masonry structure, the damage would have been far worse.

In the century after the storm, the Moody Building housed various businesses, such as an army surplus store and a fur retailer. Fortunately, these uses didn't involve large interior remodeling, leaving much of the building's immaculate millwork and historic features intact. Purchased in 2014 by a Galveston family, the building is currently undergoing extensive restoration and rehabilitation and will open as a mixed-use building in 2018. Ogee is beyond thrilled to be involved in the rehabilitation of one of Galveston's most prominent buildings with tangible links to its past as the "Wall Street of the Southwest." Keep in touch to see how the project is going!

The interior of the Moody Building today.

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