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HIDDEN GEM: League-Kempner House

"It was all boarded up, so it was very dark and mysterious, but you could tell that the original features were here," owner Janie Mitcham said.

GALVESTON, Texas — Designed in 1892 and built the next year, the League-Kempner House in Galveston is a rarity.

"This is one of only five what they call Broadway Beauties left," Janie Mitcham shared. "All the other grand homes have been torn down to make way for fast food restaurants and gas stations. It’s just too important from a historical architectural perspective."

Named after John Charles League, who had it built, and Eliza Kempner, its second owner, the house most recently belonged to Mitcham.

"That is a long story that makes me sound like a crazy person," she laughed before sharing that she’d driven by the obviously abandoned house for years and always noticed an upstairs window left open. "I told my husband, ‘You better pray it never goes up for sale because I’m going to buy it and close that window.’"

Then it did. Mitcham saw the "for sale" sign in December 2020. She took a tour, made an offer and that was it. 

"I was blown away by the scale of it. It’s so big and grand," Mitcham said. "It was all boarded up, so it was very dark and mysterious, but you could tell that the original features were here. You just don’t see that. Things get painted over and walls moved, things taken down."

Originally, she'd planned to buy it, fix it and flip it.

"Once I really got in here with lights and started exploring and saw how original it was, it would be a crime against humanity to gut out that kitchen or gut out that bath," Mitcham said.

The bath, for example, still has its original S-trap. The kitchen still has its original sink.

"It was too authentic and too rare," Mitcham said. "The floors and the doors and the windows. All the trim, all the moulding; the fireplaces, the surrounds. It’s fabulous."

Photos and video from inside the 7,800-square-foot mansion can't fully convey how grand the home truly is.

"The ceilings are so tall, the rooms are so expansive. No matter where you stand, you can’t take it all in," said Mitcham. "You just don’t get that feeling when you walk in the door. It’s like stepping back in time, just the grandeur of it."

Like anything 130 years old and neglected, it needed work.

"The brick was failing. The walls were failing. It was full of termites. The roof was bad," Mitcham said. "Another few years, I’m not sure this house would have been salvageable. I think I got it just in time."

Since 2021, Mitcham and her husband have been fixing the house’s structural issues, documenting it all on YouTube. A year into their push, she decided to create a nonprofit, gifting the historic home back to the community.

"So it can have a life beyond me," explained Mitcham. "I just want this to be a space for everyone."

As the restoration continues, you can schedule a guided tour. All the money raised will pour back into the house. 

You can also volunteer to work on the restoration project.

"Whatever your skill set is, we will find a place for you," Mitcham said. "We want this to be a place that’s owned by everyone and that they feel they have a part in saving."

For more information about rehabilitating the Broadway beauty, click here.

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