Now a popular Galveston wedding chapel, the Lyceum has a long history of service on the Island and has survived numerous hurricanes (including the Great 1900 Storm — the worst natural disaster ever to strike the coastline of the United States) and has served the people as a social meeting place, a public school, and a church for over a century and a half.
The Galveston Lyceum was built when The Galveston Lyceum Society was chartered in 1845 during the time that Texas was still a republic.
The project was part of an education movement that planted specialized meeting halls in communities. The term “lyceum” — then and now — refers to a concept traced back to ancient Greece and gatherings in an Athens garden with Aristotle to debate issues of the day.
In the United States lyceum societies established forums educational gatherings and events shoring up a cultural center for communities. Lyceum halls also often housed libraries.
The first lyceum on Texas was established in Austin in 1839 with Sam Houston as an honorary member. Galveston formed the second lyceum in the republic of Texas. Lyceum debates centered on annexation slavery temperance and Native Americans hot topics in frontier times. In this building were also various lectures, concerts, and other entertainments.
On Easter Sunday in 1852, the First Lutheran Church of Galveston held its first Sunday services in this building which was then known as simply the Lyceum Hall where it was located on the corner of Winnie Street and 25th Street. The church rented the Lyceum for the annual amount of $75.
After renting the Lyceum for about a year, the church acquired two adjacent lots on the corner of Winnie and 24th streets from a German organization known as “Deutsch-Texanische Freundschaft Bund”, who maintained a German school. Students were charged $1 per year but many were waived of this fee due to poverty.
In 1855, the congregation purchased the Lyceum building it had been renting and moved it to it’s current location on the corner of Winnie and 24th streets where it was made into an auditorium used on Sunday for services and during the week it was occupied as the school.
Shortly after the Civil War, on January 12, 1868, the swelling congregation under Rev. F. Gloor voted to build a new framed wooden church which was completed and dedicated into service on May 17, 1868. A picket fence surrounded the white framed building and the old Lyceum building remained beside the new church and served for Sunday School and social gatherings. The church quickly grew to be one of the largest Lutheran congregations in Texas.
In a description of the 1900 Storm of Galveston, it was reported that there was some interior damage but the old Lyceum withstood the ferocity of the hurricane and served as a shelter for the homeless.
In 1915, during the ministry of Rev. C.P. Hasskarl the church was made into a brick veneer. The Lyceum building was attached to the west wing as an annex used for Sunday School and church overflow.
During the remodeling of the church, the original marble slab of the Lyceum Society of Galveston was discovered behind a heavy piece of zinc by workers.
Had the brick renovation project not been done, this historic slab would most likely had never been found.
Today the slab can be seen inside the narthex of the Sanctuary built by the First Lutheran Church of Galveston in 1959.
Now over a century and half old, The Lyceum of Galveston is an historic setting with a memorable location for pre- or post-nuptial activities, meetings, trade shows and social events. Call today for a tour of our facilities and let us help make your wedding or special event become a part of the storied Lyceum Galveston history!
In 1959 the present structure of the First Lutheran Church of Galveston, located across the courtyard, was dedicated and continues servicing the needs of the Galveston community. Visit: firstlutherangalveston.com
If you are interested in more history about The Lyceum of Galveston and the First Lutheran Church of Galveston, please visit their First Lutheran History Center website. Thanks to the Portal to Texas History, the microfiche data of the First Lutheran Church of Galveston has been converted to a modern digital format and all their original records can be accessed online by the public on their website: https://firstlutherangalveston.com/history/