HARRY AND HARRIET WETMORE HOUSE
Couple Gives 1926 Galveston Beauty a Fresh, New Life
By Marsha Canright • Photography courtesy of Illumine Photographic Services
Rich in history and style, the house at 1606 25th St. in Galveston might have been lost to vacancy and vandalism but instead, a lively couple has given the dark-red brick beauty a new life, a fresh face and a modern livable interior.
Located equidistant between Broadway Avenue and Galveston’s Seawall, the two-story Colonial Revival home was built in 1926 for the seafaring captain Harry Wetmore and his bride, Harriet. The family, which grew to include two sons and two daughters, kept the property for almost half of its 90 years.
It is one of the featured houses on Galveston Historical Foundation’s Homes Tour on May 6-7 and 13-14.
New owners Gayla and Billy Wiggins have fully renovated the home’s interior creating a contemporary, open-floor plan with perfect flow. Thirty-one windows fill the rooms with abundant light, and a long galley kitchen stretches the length of the house overlooking a pool, patio and rear guest quarters.
“I wasn’t sure about this house when we first saw it, but now, it’s an absolute delight. It’s a happy house, full of joy,” Gayla says.
TO THE TASK
Originally constructed with an uncharacteristic openness for the 1920s, the house underwent the Wiggins’ efforts to recreate the home by removing closets, which were built after the Wetmores left. Gayla re-imagined the upstairs floor plan to fashion a master suite with a walk-in closet, rare in Galveston’s older residences, and a luxurious master bath. The second bath on the upper floor has a refinished claw-foot tub.
“I’m the visionary and my husband is the doer,” she says.
To honor the home’s history and original owners, the couple decided to restore the captain’s wall safe, which is burrowed in a downstairs room, and to maintain the elevator installed in the 1950s. Also, a framed black-and-white photograph of the Wetmore family sits by the fireplace. It was given to the Wiggins by the Wetmores’ granddaughter.
The project took the couple and their contractor, Victor Galvez, more than a year to complete.
The first task was to rehabilitate the guest quarters so the Wiggins could live onsite while the restoration of the main house was underway. Galveston County Pool & Spa built the pool while the house was being renovated.
Slender columns frame the elaborate entry, and a side porte-cochere over the drive leads to the back yard. The house has about 2,200 square feet.
Upstairs there are two bedrooms in addition to the master suite, and downstairs are the seating area by the original fireplace and a roomy dining room with a blue glass chandelier by an artist in Victoria. Rooms are painted in Sherwin-Williams’ “Kilim Beige,” and the kitchen and upstairs bath are painted in “Misty Gray.”
Paintings in the house are by Shannon Sawyer, the assistant district attorney in Port Aransas, where Billy Wiggins was the school superintendent.
A BRIEF FAMILY HISTORY
One of the original occupants, Sherman B. Wetmore, the Wetmores’ oldest son, graduated from the New York Maritime Academy, as his father had. He served in the Navy in World War II and was much decorated, ending his career as a rear admiral. He returned to Galveston where he became a Galveston pilot, following in his father’s footsteps.
Sherman B. Wetmore was chairman of the Galveston Maritime Committee that successfully lobbied to create a maritime academy in Galveston, which was approved by the U.S. Maritime Administration in 1962. The Texas Maritime Academy, officially renamed Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1979, might not have lasted had it not been for the relentless efforts of individuals like Wetmore, according to the official history.
The Wetmores’ eldest daughter, Elizabeth, lived in the house her entire life. She was a third-grade teacher at Crockett Elementary School for 33 years.
Galveston Historical Foundation
2228 Broadway Ave., Galveston
Victor Galvez Remodeling
Galveston County Pool & Spa