Original Seawall Uncovered at Site of New Galveston Hospital
HISTORIC DISCOVERY—Matt Byman of Vaughn Construction examines a portion of the original Galveston Seawall built in 1904. Construction crews working at the site of the soon-to-be-built Jennie Sealy Hospital made the historic discovery.
Construction crews have uncovered a part of the past at the future site of the new Jennie Sealy Hospital on The University of Texas Medical Branch campus in Galveston.
Excavators using heavy equipment found part of the original Galveston Seawall buried under several feet of dirt. Built in 1904 after the disastrous Storm of 1900 that killed 8,000 people, the newly discovered seawall segment is about 100 to 150 feet long, and about 10 feet tall.
“We’re certain part of the top was sheared off during an earlier construction project because we believe the wall was originally 16 or 17 feet high,” said Jake Wolf, senior project manager for UTMB.
In 1904, the east shoreline of Galveston was close to the UTMB campus. Over decades, the old seawall became landlocked and buried as the city grew.
Seawall remains showed up May 10 when crews removed pavement at the north side of the building site, said Matt Byman, senior project manager for Vaughn Construction, the contractor. His crews first found concrete chunks near the ground surface, then the seawall revealed itself May 16 as crews dug deeper. Further excavation exposed granite boulders, or “rip rap,” which is placed at the foot of the wall to break the force of the waves.
The seawall remnants show they were built with the mix of concrete and crushed pink granite favored in the 1900s seawall work. Builders ordered the rock from the Granite Mountain quarry near Marble Falls, Texas. The railroad carried the crushed rock and 5- and 10-ton rip-rap boulders to Galveston.
“The granite acted as a great aggregate because this concrete is really hard. It was a great idea,” Wolf said.
Crews found additional evidence of the seawall’s age – the concrete contained square-shaped rebar, or reinforcement bar used to strengthen concrete structures. Today, rebar is typically round.
“A hundred years ago they didn’t have the technology to roll steel in a circle, so when they heated up the metal to shape it, they had to make it square,” Byman said.
The discovery of the historic seawall is not expected to delay construction of the hospital.
“Plans were already in place to work around the seawall and preserve as much of it as possible,” Wolf said. “Some of the past will be under the new building.”