GALVESTON, Texas – Perhaps the greatest performance in the 124 year history of the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston came after Hurricane Ike.
"When I came in after the storm, we realized the water had covered all of the seats up to here," said executive director Maureen Patton. "These lobby areas were not damaged. The water came within two steps of getting this high."
The theater reflected the damage on the island. The historic Flagship Hotel was destroyed. Yachts covered I-45. Home after home in Galveston was demolished. Patton realized her community needed to rally. The Grand led the way, as it had during previous hurricanes.
"After 1900, people came here so they could cry together or so they could forget for a moment that this horrible thing had happened to them," Patton said.
Patton went to work assembling the cast that would resurrect the grand. With $6.5 million in damage and just 96 days of construction, the Grand was back by early the next year, in time for the 114th anniversary.
"Part of it is you have to have the attitude that we have to make this happen. How can you not? So people came here and they healed," Patton said.
The Grand also helped the island financially recover by bringing visitors back to the island to dine, shop and create jobs. The theater shaped Galveston’s next act.
"It's such a tribute to this city and all of the people who have helped make this happen that we brought her back," Patton said.