Galveston: Drawings, Mobster Architecture and Brothels

by Kelly Klaasmeyer December 3, 2012

I headed down to Galveston last Friday to see “The Drawing Room, Part 2,” yet another fine offering from curator Clint Willour at the Galveston Art Center and to check out the old Sam Maceo house. Galveston is always full of surprises, I stumbled across a brothel along the way.

Organized crime boss Salvatore “Sam” Maceo owned Galveston’s famed Balinese room and was part of the “Free State of Galveston” years, when the island was home to widespread gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, etc.  His house looks like it’s straight out of Southern California and it kind of is. Maceo admired Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs home (Sinatra played the Balinese Room) and hired its architect, E. Stewart Williams to design a home for him.  A great downloadable Cite Magazine article by Ben Koush  gives a wonderful history of the house. (Design geeks will be interested to know Maceo brought in Garrett Eckbo as the landscape architect and reportedly used T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings  for the interiors.) The house is listed for sale on Located in the lovely Cedar Lawn neighbor, the house apparently only got a couple inches during Ike. It has 11 bedrooms, nine full and two half baths, 6,384 square feet, sits on a 44,431 square foot lot and is priced at $795,000. (It also has a peephole in the steel front door big enough to stick a handgun muzzle through.) Go in with a couple dozen friends and start your own rat pack artist commune! Or crime family…

According to the realtor, the pool was created in the shape of Maceo’s dog. (Photo from

Kitchen with the original stainless steel counter tops.

There’s an old projector room with storage for LPs and 45s that’s still labeled.

On my way to the Galveston Art Center I parked around the corner beside the Antique Warehouse. It’s located in a circa 1913 hotel (brothel) that used to have a very discreet entrance. The  guest (client) rooms upstairs are now crammed with antiques but, like most everything else on the island,  it sure as hell hasn’t been gentrified.

The Galveston Art Center is still at its temporary (since Hurricane Ike) location. (If you want to do some year-end giving, consider donating to the the GACs restoration of its historic 1878 First National Bank Building Home.)  “The Drawing Room, Part 2,” is on view through  January 6th, 2013 so you’ve go a little time to see it. don’t wait too long, however.  I missed what looked like a very cool Daniel McFarlane show at the GAC which closed a couple weeks ago.  Here are some highlights to get you in the car.

Debra Barrera, “El Camino on the Moon (Apollo 19),” 2012

Debra Barrera‘s muscle car drawings have been getting a lot of buzz but they’re pretty wonderful and live up to the hype.

Laura Lark’s “Cover,” 2011. ink marker on Tyvek.

This Steve McQueen drawing is one of my favorites from Laura Lark’s last show at Devin Borden Gallery.

More Laura Lark work.

You can’t tell much from a distance but these long skinny drawings by Katie Maratta are lovely little panoramas. I kind of wish the panels didn’t have the steel (?) behind them, and opted for a more neutral material. I think the presentation gets a little gimmicky.

Katie Maratta, detail from “Oil Field,” 2011, graphite and ink on panel

Katie Maratta, detail from “Dairy Queen and Nine Cows,” graphite and ink on panel.

Neva Mikulicz, “The Sweetest,” 2011, prismacolor pencil on pastelboard, projector, 12 hour loop

Neva Mikulicz does interesting stuff with drawings and videos. An image is projected over her drawing The Sweetest. She’s got really intriguing ideas (sometimes running videos behind cutouts in drawings) but the work can become overwhelmed by the caché of the vintage midcentury imagery she uses. I’d love to see her work with less nostalgia-loaded, contemporary images.

Jillian Conrad, “Structures and Settlements Series H,” graphite on paper.

Jillian Conrad, who just got a big fat Artadia award, offers up some intriguing diagrammatic-looking work. The detail is better but my shot was blurry! Sorry!


Leigh Anne Lester, “Mutant Generate,” 2012, graphite and color pencil on two layers of drafting film.

Leigh Anne Lester‘s beautifully obsessive botanicals delicately create new and bizarre plant life.  Lester got her own really big fat award from the Hunting Prize a few years ago.

Get thee to Galveston!


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Colette Copeland December 3, 2012 - 17:45

I love that house! How lucky are you to accidentally find a bordello? I’m so jealous.

Kelly Klaasmeyer December 3, 2012 - 21:40

I think that area is the old Galveston red light district. It was supposedly around Post Office St. and 25th or so.

Colette Copeland December 3, 2012 - 22:20

I wonder if that is the part of Galveston where the woman was hung. I haven’t been able to uncover where the gallows were situated in Galveston, but a woman was publicly executed in the 1850’s there.


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