1880 Garten Verein: Visitor Information
In February 1876, a group of German businessmen organized the Galveston Garten Verein ("garden club") as a social club for family and friends. Only Germans or German speakers could hold stock in the club, but others could petition for membership. The group purchased the five-acre homestead of Robert Mills, a prominent Galveston businessman, and laid out the property as a park, with a clubhouse (Mills' former home), lawns, gardens and walkways, bowling alleys, tennis courts, croquet grounds, playgrounds and a dancing pavilion. The Garten Verein's tiered dancing pavilion, built in 1880, is the only one of the structures to survive the 1900 Storm (though it required extensive rebuilding).
After World War I, when overt Germanness had fallen out of fashion in America, a steady decline in membership in the Garten Verein led the remaining members in 1923 to sell the property to Stanley Kempner. He donated it to the city as Kempner Park, dedicated to his parents, Eliza Seinsheimer and Harris Kempner. It remains today one of the finest public spaces on Galveston Island, and its focal feature, now called Garten Verein, is managed by GHF and is available for rentals. Visitors can enter the park during daylight hours to get a closer look at the Garten Verein pavilion's striking octagonal design and the simple but effective Victorian detail of its ornamentation.