The Gresham mansion was made all of stone, and was sturdy enough to withstand the great hurricane of 1900. The Greshams welcomed hundreds of survivors of the hurricane into their home. The house was built between 1887 and 1893 by Galveston architect Nicholas J. Clayton for lawyer and politician Walter Gresham, his wife Josephine, and their nine children. In 1923 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston purchased the house, and, situated across the street from the Sacred Heart Church, it served as the residence for Bishop Christopher E. Byrne. After the diocesan offices were moved to Houston, the diocese opened the mansion to the public in 1963, with proceeds from tours being used to help fund the UT medical school’s Newman Center, which operated in the basement.
The home is estimated to have cost $250,000 at the time; today its value is estimated at over $5.5 million. The house is now owned by the Galveston Historical Foundation and self-guided tours are available daily. A portion of each admission supports the preservation and restoration of the property. It’s free to visit The Bishop’s Table café and the Croquet Lawn area. The People’s Ticket admissions ticket also gives access to the medieval Palace and Undercroft, ruined Great Hall, 14 acres of RHS Partner Gardens, The Bishop’s Chapel and many events (unless Member’s Only or specifically ticketed), plus daily guided tours.
The 1892 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 as one of the most significant of Victorian residences in the country. Galveston Historical Foundation is committed to making our programs and historic sites special needs accessible. However, at this time, Bishop’s Palace does not have a ramp for wheelchairs or walkers and is not fully accessible to those with physical disabilities. We can provide an audio tour with photographs and a written transcript of the tour.