Reserved

Our Facilities: Open Gates Building

About this facility:

  • Located on the 1st Floor Open Gates Conference Facility, 2419 Sealy Avenue, Galveston, TX 77555.
  • Can accommodate 60 at rounds for event seating, 22 in a square, 50 at classroom style and 75 at theatre style seating.
  • The room is equipped with:
    • Podium and microphone
    • Computer with DVD player and house audio
    • Retractable screen
    • Projector
    • Portable Videoconferencing
    • Handheld microphones
    • Lavaliere microphones
    • AMX control touch screen
    • Polycom
    • Wireless high-speed internet
    • Flip Chart
    • United States and Texas Flags
Gold Room set with round tables
Open Gates - Gold Room Foyer Open Gates - Gold Room square table Open Gates - Gold Room with Chairs

About this facility:

Open Gates - Dining Room
Open Gates - Gold Room Foyer

About this facility:

Open Gates - Solarium Seating
Open Gates - Solarium cake table Open Gates - Solarium Table

About this facility:

  • Located on the 2nd Floor Open Gates Conference Facility, 2419 Sealy Avenue, Galveston, TX 77555.
  • Can accommodate 60 at rounds for event seating, 30 in a square, 60 at classroom style and 75 at theatre style seating.
  • The room is equipped with:
    • Podium and microphone
    • Computer with DVD player and house audio
    • Retractable screen
    • Projector
    • Portable Videoconferencing
    • Handheld microphones
    • Lavaliere microphones
    • AMX control touch screen
    • Polycom
    • Wireless high speed internet
    • Flip Chart
    • United States and Texas Flags
Room201a
Room201a

About this facility:

Open Gates - 203

About this facility:

204

About this facility:

Open Gates' parking lot is adjacent to the House and is free of charge.

Please enter from 24th Street or Sealy Avenue. Click the image/map to enlarge for visual.

Food/Beverage and Room Set-Up

  • Rooms come with tables and chairs, however, they are not set up. Room setup, food and beverages in all facilities MUST be provided exclusively by the Department of Catering and Special Events (Policy 2.6.9, Food Services Policy). You may contact Catering at x29577 to discuss these issues or place your order online. A fee will be assessed by this department.
  • All orders are to be placed with a minimum of two (2) business days, or 48 hours prior to the event.
  • Special requests for items not routinely provided on the UTMB's catering menu may be arranged through Catering office.
Open Gates Building:
  • Minimum room set-up fees:
    • Gold Room - $100
    • Room 201- $100
    • Room 203, Room 204, Room 206 - $50
  • An electronic keyboard is available at no charge for use at the Open Gates Conference Center. Use of the keyboard must be approved in advance by the facilities manager. The keyboard may be rented for use outside of the Conference Center at the discretion of the manager. The fee is $75, with the user assuming all responsibility for transporting and returning the keyboard.
  • When available, faculty, staff, students, President's Cabinet and Development Board members may use Open Gates facilities on weekends only for personal and private events. Non-University groups and individuals may use the facility if the activity is consistent with UTMB’s mission and is approved in advance by the President. Reservations will not be confirmed more than 6 months in advance. A FEE WILL BE ASSESSED.

ALCOHOL

  • Use of alcoholic beverages is not allowed prior to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday.
  • All alcohol must be purchased through the Department of Catering and Special Event and cannot be taken from the facility.
  • All UTMB Health events held on or off campus that wish to serve alcohol MUST submit an Alcohol Service Request form for approval prior to event date.

Audio/Visual Equipment

View from Open Gates

The Home

  • Open Gates was built at a cost of about $125,000 by renowned architect Stanford White.
  • Texas architect Nicholas Clayton supervised the construction. In 1891 he designed and built the Carriage House.
  • Constructed of Belgian bricks, hand-cut Texas sandstone, curved roof tiles and oak floors blend harmoniously, the structure is nearly 24,000 square feet.
  • Stanford White sold his private collection of Louis VX furniture to Magnolia Sealy to use in the home. Many original furnishings were generously donated to UTMB by Sealy family members and remain in Open Gates today.
  • The main floor of the three-story home has been restored to its original splendor. The interior lamps, including the one featuring a Tiffany-style hand-painted glass lampshade hanging in the main foyer, were designed to work with either gas or electricity. Walking through the impressive foyer, visitors will see the large oak partner's desk, in the same spot it has been since the home was completed. An original pen-and ink design of the Sealy family crest is also on display.
  • The corner solarium, with its large windows that could be opened to create cross-ventilation throughout the home, is dominated by a Moorish-style lamp from Spain.
  • The dining room features Honduran mahogany furniture and fireplace mantel. White designed a number of pieces of furniture expressly for Open Gates. One of the most outstanding is the sideboard, crafted to fit snugly in its space on the room's north wall. The dining room also includes impressive Tiffany & Co. clocks, one on the mantel and the other an upright grandfather clock with swan-neck pediment in the room's southwest corner.
  • The library is home to a much-admired portrait of Alexina White, mother of Stanford White. The painting, by Abbott Thayer, is framed in an original design created by White himself. Throughout his career, he designed numerous custom frames that became as integral to the overall appearance of the finished piece as the art itself. The portrait is not original to the home, but rather found its way to the island city through the generosity of E. Burke Evans, Ashbel Smith Professor Emeritus of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at UTMB. An art connoisseur and historian-as well as a longtime benefactor of UTMB and the arts community in Galveston-Dr. Evans located the portrait through a New York firm. Knowing it would make a fitting addition to this historical property, he graciously donated the artwork to UTMB for use in Open Gates.
  • Upstairs, the second floor foyer includes a kitchen area originally used as the nursery and living quarters for Agnes Campbell, the unmarried Sealy cousin who served as a nanny for the children (and whose ghost is rumored to still occupy the house). A large conference room, originally two bedrooms, retains the original plaster friezes. There were five bedrooms in all.
  • Although the third floor was used for storage, it regularly came alive with the sound of children's laughter. A stage and seating area allowed the Sealy youngsters to perform plays and musicals.
  • The home was first remodeled in 1915 by New York's Elsie De Wolfe- then a trailblazer and now icon of interior design-more than a decade after the infamous 1900 Storm nearly swept Galveston off the map. Extensive renovation work, made possible by philanthropy was done by UTMB in 1996 and 1997, when Open Gates was adaptively restored for use as a conference center combining state-of-the-art technology with 19th-century charm.

"Sir, I'll give you a second son, if you'll build me the finest home in Galveston." Spoken by his wife, Magnolia Willis Sealy, after the birth of their fifth child in 1885, those words inspired George Sealy to indeed build the finest home in Galveston. A year later, the influential Galveston businessman sent his wife to New York City, where she hired Stanford White, the favorite architect of the fashionable and rich. White would build a home for the Sealy family like no other in the southern United States. The Sealy's second son, Robert, was born two years after Open Gates was completed in 1889.

The luxurious mansion's neo-Renaissance style and exquisitely crafted brick, stone and exotic wood symbolize not only the strength of the Sealy family, but also the resiliency of the Queen City of the Gulf. George Sealy's descendants generously donated Open Gates to the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1969, turning it over to the university in 1979. Today, it is used by UTMB and other community organizations for conferences, educational retreats and social functions that are consistent with the university's mission. The majestic halls and original furniture pieces evoke the significance and vitality of the Sealy legacy. UTMB is honored to steward this architectural treasure.

The Family

George Sealy was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1835. Hearing of substational business opportunities, in 1846 his older brother John came to Texas and became a partner in a successful dry goods company, Ball, Hutchings & Co. John convinced George to join the firm in 1857, three years after it relocated from Sabine Pass to Galveston. As the company diversified and Galveston grew to rival New York City as the important port in the nation, the Sealy brothers gained a reputation as railroad and cotton barons, as well as banking entrepreneurs. George Sealy enlisted as a private in the Confederate army during the Civil War and helped move cotton and dry goods between Houston and Matamoros, Mexico, circumventing the Union naval blockade of Galveston harbor. He later purchased the property on which Open Gates was built for $20,000 from a former officer in the Confederate Cavalry Brigade.

Magnolia Willis Sealy was born in 1854 in Montgomery, Texas and married George Sealy in 1875. During the next 18 years, she and her husband would have five daughters and three sons, including George Sealy II. An avid gardener, Magnolia, and later George II, helped establish Galveston's reputation as "The Oleander City." Cuttings from the original double-pink oleander plant brought from Jamaica to Galveston in 1841 thrive today on the Open Gates property, where a plaque commemorates the family's contribution to oleander cultivation. Magnolia and her children George II and Margaret helped to lead the effort to replant the island after the grade-raising that followed the 1900 Storm.

George and John Sealy made myriad contributions to the island and to the economy of Texas. Upon his death in 1884, John Sealy bequeathed $50,000 "for charitable purpose." His widow, Rebecca, and his brother George determined that the money should be used to build John Sealy Hospital, which led the Texas legislature to proceed with its plans to establish the University of Texas Medical Department (now UTMB) in Galveston.

Growing up in "The Big House"

Sealy descendants often use three words-security, warmth, and strength - to describe the feeling emanating from "The Big House," the nickname lovingly bestowed on the home by the family. Open Gates inspires those same feelings in today's visitors. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the home was a hub of Galveston social life-a welcoming site for everyone from family and friends to local business leaders and state dignitaries. But the name Open Gates would come to mean much more one terrifying night in September 1900, when the most deadly hurricane to reach North America descended on the island. Although nearly 12 foot of ocean water filled the basement during the storm, the home became a haven to several hundred hurricane survivors who were carried to it, clinging to wood and debris, by the rushing flood. Sealy family members and servants pulled them from the water to safety on the porch.

Today, the home is said to house more than memories. Repeated sightings of two friendly ghosts have been reported: a Sealy cousin, Agnes Campbell, and the coachman, Albert.