Construction of the Galveston Seawall after Hurricane 1900 | columns

Hurricane 1900 was the deadliest natural disaster in American history. For months after the storm they had to deal with death and destruction. First they took corpses into the gulf and threw them overboard, but when they swam back on the beach they built pyre to cremate the 8,000 or so dead. The 15.7-foot storm surge exceeded the 1875 hurricane by six feet, and every building in Galveston was washed away, destroyed, or badly damaged in the storm. The construction of a revetment or sea wall had been proposed several times over the years, usually after hurricanes, but builders could never muster enough political will to make it happen. Eventually, after losing 8,000 souls, the citizens of Galveston seriously grappled with protecting the island.

It was a two-step process. First a dike would be built and then the land behind it would be raised. It sounds easy to say quickly, but the project would require engineering that has never been accomplished before. General Henry Robert retired from the Army Corps of Engineers in 1901 and was assigned a group of engineers to design the project. His name may not sound familiar to you, but if you’ve ever used Robert’s rules of order to hold meetings, you owe it to him. The wall was supposed to extend nearly a foot and a half above the highest point reached by Hurricane 1900. The plans were finalized and approved in January 1902. A major campaign was carried out to gain support for the project. The Galveston Brewing Company even created Seawall Bond beer to gain support for the bond election. The company’s president was Bertrand Adoue. If the name sounds familiar, Adoue was also a partner in Galveston’s Adoue-Lobit Bank and had bought a park called Sylvan Grove in 1896, which he developed

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