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The Seawall

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The 1900 Storm killed 6,000 residents, and leveled a good portion of the City. The manner in which The 1900 Storm damaged the City seemed to prove the case for a seawall. As the storm surge hammered the buildings near the beach, they broke up into pieces that floated inland and eventually formed large piles of rubble.

About six blocks from the beach the rubble collected to such an extent, that the barrier it formed spared the buildings behind it from total destruction! The survivors could see for themselves that the debris fields from The Storm formed a natural seawall that really worked!!

 At that point, a seawall seemed necessary for the City to continue. Without it, the survivors may have packed up and left for good!

Following the 1900 Storm, a Deep Water Committee was formed to implement the construction of a seawall. The Committee appointed three engineers to develop a proposal. The plan that the engineers suggested featured a reinforced concrete seawall that would be 17 feet above sea level, and the height of the island would be raised to that level behind the wall, with a downward sloping grade all the way to the Harbor. At the time of The 1900 Storm, the highest point on The Island was only 9 feet above sea level. Most of it was much lower!

The Committee accepted the plan and hired J.M. O'Rourke and Co. of Denver to build it. The principals bought the needed machinery in Chicago, and moved to The Island to get started. The City's credit was shaky after The Storm, so Galveston County stepped up to sell the necessary bonds.

Work began on 27 October 1902, the first segment, (6th St. to 39th St.) was completed on 30 July 1904, for a total cost $1.6 million. The building of The Seawall, and The Grade Raising that followed, were the two great engineering projects that saved the City of Galveston. People had the confidence to rebuild the City, and their faith in these projects was confirmed when they successfully weathered hurricanes in 1909, 1915 and 1919, and in more recent years in 1932, 1941, 1943, 1949, 1957, 1961 (Carla), 1983 (Alicia) and 2008 (Ike).