Forgotten Forts in Galveston, TX

Galveston, TX is, historically, a very important city. It’s the oldest deep-water port west of New Orleans, taking in shipments to the region since 1825. The city is positioned right at the edge of Galveston Island along the entry channel to the Galveston and Trinity bays.

Right at the turn of the 20th century during the Spanish-American War, the United States was exercising efforts to modernize its military; this was referred to as the Endicott Period. With war in Gulf of Mexico, these modernization efforts primarily consisted of improving Navy capabilities and erecting forts to protect major ports such as Galveston.

To protect the valuable Galveston deep-water port, two forts were constructed on opposite ends of the entry channel: Fort San Jacinto and Fort Travis. On a recent trip to this area, these are the locations I set out to explore.

Fort San Jacinto would be first on my list since, unlike Fort Travis, it is actually on Galveston Island. While nothing advertises the location of these historic buildings, information is readily available online from resources like uer and fortwiki.

A short hike along the beach at the edge of the island brought me to the first of the old batteries.

This particular set of batteries wasn’t exactly in the best shape due to its ease-of-access. The interior was in especially poor condition.

The ceilings were also especially low.

Outside and up the stairs were mounts for what were most likely some very large guns.

As it turns out; there is actually more to Fort San Jacinto than just this battery. Apparently a couple more buildings exist in the area that are even more interesting than this one. Unfortunately, I did not realize this until well after leaving Galveston and taking a look at this map of the complex from FortWiki:

So this single battery was all I managed to see of Fort San Jacinto. Luckily, just across the channel, Fort Travis had much more in store.

Fort Travis Layout Diagram (pre-WWII)

The abandoned Fort Travis, located in Port Bolivar, was just a quick ferry ride away. The grounds have since been converted into a park, with many of the original structures sitting behind fences commemorated with historical markers and “No Trespassing” signs. This fort was considerably larger, boasting 4 large structures and a number of massive gun mounts that dwarf those of Fort San Jacinto.

The first structure I checked out was this particularly enticing building, Battery Davis:

This building would have had two large guns on top on the left and right sides. The interior would have had machinery to load the guns from the bottom floor.

Here’s a quick little clip I took while wandering the hallways and showcasing the gun mounts on the second floor:

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Next up was another, smaller battery called Battery Ernst. Nothing too impressive here, but the gun mounts and ocean view were quite neat.

Right in the center of the facility was a much larger building embedded in earth: Battery 236. Unlike the previously explored structures, this building was not built until 1945 during WWII. The interior of the battery was sadly inaccessible; two of the three giant steel entrance doors were welded shut, and the third was locked.

And a very, very large gun went right here:

The last of the four buildings was by far the largest. This was Battery Kimble, constructed during WWI and completed in 1922. The structure is impressive and includes the largest gun mount in the entire facility. Unfortunately, all of the large metal doors leading to the interior were either locked or welded shut. However, it was still possible to see most of the structure and to explore the rooftop.

The biggest gun mount onsite:

Fort Travis is by far the most impressive abandonment I’ve explored in the Galveston area. The size of many of these structures is difficult to convey in these images. Since this place is technically a public park, it is quite well maintained with limited graffiti and lots of interesting historical information.

If this place interests you, I’d highly recommend checking out its article on FortWiki for detailed history and specifications of this fort and all its batteries. It and their article on Fort San Jacinto were both extremely valuable for the exploration of these locations and the writing of this post.

Here you can check out some additional images I took during these explores. I also made a post about this explore over on uer.ca, feel free and check it out, or maybe take a look at some of my other content here on Luminated Space.

The Sunken Ship of Concrete

Galveston, TX is kinda cool. There’s Moody Gardens, a couple nice coffee shops, fun painted turtle statues placed around historic downtown, and I suppose it’s a good place to visit if you’re interested in the history and dynamics of offshore drilling or international shipping. It’s neat, but it is certainly no New Orleans. However, every city has its especially interesting quirks and corners if you look close enough.

One such place is this unassuming hunk of rock and metal sitting about a mile off the shore of Pelican Island:

This is in fact an experimental WWI era concrete ship, the largest of the 24 approved for construction by former president Woodrow Wilson (and one of only 12 that were actually built) to test the viability of concrete as means to conserve on steel for ship production.

The Selma was launched on June 28, 1919, the same day the treaty of Versailles was signed with Germany ending WWI. With no war to take part in, the ship was turned into an oil tanker for the Gulf of Mexico.

Its service in the petrol industry only lasted less than a year when on May 31st, 1920, the Selma hit a jetty in Tampico, Mexico. The resulting 60 ft gash in the hull proved impossible to repair, so the ship was intentionally scuttled on the eastern shoreline of Pelican Island, where it lies today.

With only a couple days in Galveston, I decided to rent a kayak and go check it out.

The ship was about a mile off the shore, which was nice considering my lack of ocean kayaking experience.

Prior to my visit, I had heard some warnings about this place from a couple locals. See, large concrete structures require long metal sticks of rebar to be embedded within the material to be stable and not fall apart. The Selma was no exception, and an entire century of hurricanes and salt water have eaten away at the ship exposing cavernous death traps filled with giant spikes of rebar rusted into sharp, pointy pikes of pure tetanus.

While a little bit sketch, this really is quite a cool location. Since the 1922 scuttling, the ship has been subject to failed plans to convert it into a fishing pier, pleasure resort, and oyster farm. Allegedly, the Selma was even used as a disposal location for bootleg liquor during prohibition.

The lower levels were unfortunately inaccessible without proper gear or serious injury. However, some holes allowed for alright viewing of these hidden areas.

If you are going to visit the Selma, wear sturdy shoes and watch your feet very carefully. It’s a wonderful explore with an interesting history, and it’s not going to be around much longer. Also note that boarding the ship in anything but a kayak or canoe seems like it would be excessively difficult in my opinion. Watch for holes and do not get stabbed by rusty rebar.

Here you can check out my post on uer.ca about this explore. If you liked this post, don’t forget to check out my other content!