When Galveston was founded in 1836, this entire city block was set aside for use by the Republic of Texas as the site of a customs house. Gail Borden, the inventor of condensed milk, was the first Collector of Customs for the Republic in Galveston. The first Customs House was built by October 1837, but it was destroyed by a great storm two days after completion. A new Customs House was completed a year later.
When Texas became part of the United States, the property was retained by the State of Texas. In 1848, the property was sold to Dr. William R. Smith, Collector of Customs in Galveston. Smith divided the block into 20 lots, rather than the standard 14 lots per block. Smith's partners in this venture were William Marsh Rice, who established Rice University, and Ebenezer Nichols, president of the Galveston Wharf Company.
When Dr. Smith died in 1873, the last four lots on the northeast corner of the block were inherited by his children. By 1878, they had constructed a three-story building for tenants including the Texas Express Company, The Show Case Factory, a sail loft and a produce store. This building and adjacent property were destroyed by a fire on the morning following the 1915 storm.
The building which occupies the site today was constructed in 1916 by the Armour Meat Packing Company. The builder
was T. S. Moudy & Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee and the architect was R. C. Clark. The design is typical of commercial architecture of the period. The most notable feature is the parapet embellished at the base by a concrete wash and decorative brick pattern. The windows are unevenly spaced along the facade and each has a concrete window sill. When completed, the building contained an ice making machine and cold storage facilities. Armour & Company occupied the building for nearly 60 years.
In 1974, Armour Packing Company sold the building. A number of owners occupied the building until 1988, when George and Cynthia Mitchell purchased the property.
The Mitchells have restored the Armour Company's early 20th Century building and adjacent properties to complement 17 other preservation projects in The Strand area. Mitchell, like early Galveston visionaries, has a commitment to the quality of Island life and the built environment that recalls the history of Galveston and the State of Texas.