The three row buildings at 213-217 Tremont, their exteriors now restored, were constructed in 1870 by Rice, Baulard & Company, a major supplier of paints, oils, varnish and window glass in Texas and Louisiana in the 1800's.
Victor Baulard immigrated in 1845 to Galveston from France at the age of 16 and apprenticed himself to Joseph Rice to learn the trade of paint making. Mr. Rice stated he never had a more conscientious apprentice, and in 1853 the two men became partners.
Although the firm dates from 1859 at this location, this block of Tremont was left a mass of smouldering ruins by the terrible Moro Castle Fire of December 3, 1869. Soon after the fire, the firm began construction of the present buildings.
Rice, Baulard & Company was the largest business of its kind in the region. It owned the Galveston Paint Company, selling some 10,000 gallons of paint per year; ground its own paint; and carried a full line of wallpaper and window shades.
Other occupants of the buildings have included the Sunny South Saloon, a well-known men's club on the second floor of 213 Tremont in the latter 1800's, and in the 1900's Henck Realty at 213 and Knapp Printing at 217 Tremont.
To the left of the buildings was the site of the Palmetto Hotel, a large frame building destroyed in the 1869
fire. After the fire the lower three floors of the present hotel building (then called The Royal) were erected, the fourth floor was added about 1895 and three more sometime later (with the seventh floor removed in 1928).
The building at 217 Tremont had its exterior restored and interior adapted for townflats in 1974-75 by Emily Whiteside. Architects Ford, Powell, and Carson added a three-story atrium in this handsome adaption.
The exteriors of the buildings at 213 and 215 Tremont were restored and interiors developed for shops and apartments in 1976-77 by Daniel Kempner Thorne. Taft Architects used a dramatic contemporary design on the interiors.
The Galveston Historical Foundation holds preservation deed restrictions on all three buildings.