For Galveston’s most beloved architect’s 175th birthday, Galveston Historical Foundation will be joining the City of Galveston for a special week of celebration to conclude with Nicholas Clayton Day on Sunday, November 1. The public is invited to the 1892 Bishop’s Palace from 10 am – 5 pm for complimentary admission to the National Historic Landmark. There will be a special presentation at 2 pm featuring custom created cookies and champagne, a reading of a proclamation from the city announcing November 1 as Nicholas Clayton Day, a gathering of Clayton descendants and other special attractions.
GHF will also be adding a series of driving tours on their official mobile app, featuring: Lost Clayton and Residential Clayton. These tours will be released on October 15 exclusively through the Make History app available for iTunes and android. To download, you can search for Galveston Historical Foundation on either phones app store.
In addition to the November 1 celebration, the city of Galveston’s Landmark Commission has also been working with existing Clayton-built structures for recognition as Galveston landmarks. This designation will protect the buildings from inappropriate modifications and demolition. The commission, with assistance from Galveston Historical Foundation, has identified 54 total candidates and has been working with each to encourage participation. Those participating will be designated as Galveston Landmarks during the October 22nd City Council meeting. Specially placed yard signs will also be placed at each home one week prior to the dedication.
Architect Nicholas J. Clayton was born in Ireland in 1840. In 1848, after the death of his father, he and his mother immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1871 Clayton traveled to Houston and moved to Galveston on 1872 to take a position as supervising architect for the construction of Galveston’s First Presbyterian Church. He remained in Galveston and opened his first architecture firm.
Clayton was responsible for so many of the major public, commercial and residential buildings constructed during the last two decades of the 19th century that those years are now referred to as the “Clayton Era”. Clayton’s buildings were exuberant in shape, color, texture and detail. He excelled at decorative brick and iron work.
Clayton’s work includes Austin’s St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Edward’s University, Sacred Heart Church in Palestine and Sacred Heart Cathedral in downtown Dallas. His religious architecture accounted for the largest distribution of his work outside of Galveston. Clayton also served on an advisory board for the construction of the dome of the Capitol in Austin. His last known commission was adding the dome to Galveston’s Sacred Heart Church in 1910. Clayton died in 1916 and is buried in Galveston’s Calvary Cemetery.
ABOUT THE 1892 BISHOP’S PALACE
The Bishop’s Palace (a.k.a. Gresham House) is a contributing building in the East End Historic District, a National Historic Landmark. The house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance in the area of architecture. Architectural historians list the Bishop’s Palace (Gresham House) as one of the most significant of Victorian residences in the country.
The house was built from 1887 to 1892 for Colonel Walter Gresham and his wife Josephine, with whom he had nine children. The small lot and oversized house make it an anomaly among similar houses of its period and architectural style. In Galveston’s great period of mansion building – the 1870s, 80s and 90s – Gresham’s commission of Nicholas Clayton, Galveston’s premier architect, resulted in Clayton’s most spectacular residential design and arguably the finest of the “Broadway beauties.”