The Coppersmith has been an Inn since May 1994
Although the property on which the home stands was near Galveston’s finest Victorian residential areas, the neighborhood was not developed until relatively late in the 19th century. The land was listed as “low ground” and “poor” in the 1880 Tax Assessor’s Abstract because the property fronted on a finger of Hitchcock Bayou. Property values did not increase until 1885 when the bayou was filled and the neighborhood developed.
Among the first people to construct homes in the neighborhood were Howard and Minnie Carnes. The Carnes’s purchased the land for their new house in April 1886. The home was completed in 1887 for $5000.
The quality of the Carnes Home reflects both Carnes’ position as the cashier, and the prominence of the Morgan Line. The company began operating steam packets between Galveston, New Orleans and New York in 1858. By the end of the 1860s, the Morgan fleet included 15 side-wheel steamers. In 1901, 1,000 workers were employed at the Morgan terminal on Pier 21, now the site of the Texas Seaport Museum.
The Carnes’s remained in the house until 1894, when the Morgan Line apparently transferred Mr. Carnes to Mexico. The property was sold to Paul and Bridget Shean, an immigrant Irish coppersmith and his wife, who came to Galveston from New Orleans in 1872.
In 1874 Shean’s coppersmith business developed into a mill supply house and later became a plumbing supply company, known as The Paul Shean Sanitary Plumbing & Mfg Co. They were located at 2021-2023 the Strand, and when telephones came in they had Telephone No. 20. The company still exists more than 125 years later as the BLP Mobile Paint Decorating Center, located on 45th Street.
The home survived the Great Storm of 1900 with minor damage. In fact the whole block had little damage except for the blue house on the southwest corner of 19th and Avenue M. It floated intact down the street, and stopped in front of this house. It was returned to its original location.
Paul Shean died in 1915, leaving his property to his wife and two daughters. The family appointed William Eicher, who was married to the Sheans’ daughter Joan, as agent and manager of the business. Bridget Shean lived with her daughter and son-in-law in the house until her death in 1935.
Joan and William Eicher continued to live in the home until Joan’s death in 1962. When William died three years later, he left all benefits from the estate to Kirwin High School and Ursuline Academy in Galveston and Xavier University in Cincinnati. The house was sold in the estate settlement in December 1965. The property changed hands several times before being acquired by the current owners in October 2019.
THE ARCHITECT OF THE COPPERSMITH INN aka THE HOWARD CARNES HOME ALFRED MULLER
Alfred Muller was born in Krefeld, Germany in 1849, educated in German schools and graduated with a degree in architecture from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin. Upon his arrival in this country he located in Washington D.C. where he was associated with E.H. Dedden & Company architects. In 1886 he was attracted to Galveston, Texas which at that time, was a thriving city and the cultural center of Texas. Within a year of his arrival, Muller won the competition to design the Galveston City Hall and Market House. His ability and personality enabled him to soon become one of Galveston’s most sought after architects. Muller and his wife, the former Emilie Goldman of Galveston, raised their two sons and two daughters in a simple home at 2111 Avenue M ½ just two blocks from the Coppersmith Inn. He died in 1896 of typhoid fever during an epidemic.
Time and tide have taken toll of most of Muller’s buildings. He might have been completely forgotten had it not been for his two daughters.
Among his known buildings still existing are:
(1) 1887 Howard Carnes House now known as the “Coppersmith Inn.” Although the Carnes Home incorporates classic Queen Anne design features, including an asymmetrical facade with turret, prominent porches, fish scale shingles and irregular roofline, the house is distinguished by the architect’s use of ornamental details. Muller’s signature arch motif is evident throughout the exterior and interior design. Rounded Arches are used on the double galleries and windows, as well as in the entrance hall and second floor hallways. The elaborate staircase, probably the homes most outstanding feature is another Muller trademark. The curved staircase is made of walnut, curly pine and cypress. It features an elaborate newel post and turned walnut balusters with beaded risers leading to a curved landing on the second floor. Triple arched, stained glass windows of red, yellow, and cobalt illuminate the entire area. Original cobalt transoms carry the color scheme through the second floor.
(2) 1887 Albert Rakel House at 1802 Postoffice Street. Built as a rental
(3) 1887 Albert Rakel House at 1808 Postoffice Street. Built as a rental
(4) 1887 Professor Emil Lindenberg Home at 2116 Avenue K
(5) 1889 Darragh Fence at 519 15th St. The property now a neighborhood park.
(6) 1890 J.C. Trube Castle at 1627 Sealy Avenue
(7) 1895 Letitia Rosenberg Home For Aged Women, on Rosenberg Ave. (25th) at Avenue O 1/2 (no longer a women’s home)
(8) 1896 The Telephone Building (he passed away before its completion). Built in 1896 and used as the Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Company Building. This 19,000 square foot structure is Muller sole surviving commercial building in Galveston. Claimed to be the “finest telephone building in the west”, it was built for the phone company when there were approximately 500 telephones in Galveston. Galveston was the home to the first telephone exchange in Texas.
Among his known buildings that are gone:
(1) 1888 Galveston City Hall in the middle of 20th Street between Market and Mechanic
(2) 1894 H. Marwitz House
(3) 1895 Galveston Orphan’s Home, on 23rd Street at Avenue M, replaced in 1903 with the present building after the 1900 storm severely damaged Muller ebullient original.
(4) Williams Building a three-story building