Galveston in the Green Book

About The Green Book

Victor Hugo Green was an African-American postal carrier from Harlem who created a publication called the Negro Motorist Green Book in 1936. During the era of racial segregation, the Green Book was a tool which offered African-American travelers safe passage across the country.

The guide contained a list of businesses in cities across the U.S. that catered to African-American customers. Galveston was among other Texas cities which listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and entertainment venues operated by African-American businesses owners in The Green Book.

 Galveston in the Green Book
Take a driving tour of the island using the map above and explore the local sites listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book between 1939 and 1967. Courtesy of the Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas, 2019.

Galveston Businesses Listed in the Green Book, 1939-1967

  1. *Imperial Barber Shop (415 25th)
  2. *Mitchell’s Restaurant (417 25th)
  3. *Oleander Hotel (421 ½ 25th)
  4. Gus Allen’s Hotel (2710 Church)
  5. Miss G.H. Freeman’s Tourist Home (1414 29th)
  6. *Mrs. J. Pope’s Tourist Home (2824 M)
  7. Gulf View Tavern (28th & Seawall)
  8. Beach Service Station (2901 R)
  9. Manhattan Club (2802 R ½ )
  10. Little Shamrock Motel (1207 31st)
  11. *Ilma’s Beauty Parlor (4106 N)
  12. Sunset Auto Garage (3928 H/Ball)

*original building still standing

1.-3. The Imperial Barber Shop, Mitchell’s Restaurant, and the Oleander Hotel were all located on the western block of 25thStreet between Postoffice and Market. The 1913 commercial building which once housed these—along with other black-owned businesses—is still standing and is home to Antique Warehouse.

4. The grandson of a slave, Gus Allen was born in Louisiana in 1905. In the early 1920s he came to Galveston and got a job shining shoes for guests at the Hotel Galvez. He opened his first café at Church and 27th Street in 1930. Within a few years, he opened a hotel on the same block.

 Galveston in the Green Book
Gus Allen's Cafe at Church and 27th Street. Gus Allen Collection, SC191 FF3. Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.
 Galveston in the Green Book
Gus Allen Hotel - Within a few years, Gus Allen opened a hotel in downtown Galveston. During the 1940s, Allen opened additional businesses including the Manhattan Club near 29th and Seawall Boulevard—the only section of the beachfront that African Americans were allowed access to during segregation. Gus Allen Collection, SC191 FF3. Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.

5. According to Census records, Miss Georgia H. Freeman was a divorcée from Louisiana who owned her own home at 1414 29th. She advertised her residence as a tourist home in the Green Book.

6. Mrs. J. Pope (Rachel) was the widower of Joe Pope Sr., an African-American police officer in Galveston. The family’s residence is listed as 2824 M1/2 in census records; however, the tourist home address is listed as 2824 M in multiple editions of the Green Book.

7. The Gulf View Tavern was owned by John R. Rose. City directories list him as the operator the Gulf View Pavilion and the Gulf View Bathhouse on the same block during the late 1950s. Rose also owned Rose’s Confectionary and Rose’s Tap Room at 4402 Avenue H.

8. Hugh Fisher operated the Beach Service Station at 2901 Avenue R during the 1940s.

 Galveston in the Green Book
Segregated Beaches - Before the 1960s, Galveston’s beachfront was segregated. Whites enjoyed swimming and beach recreation on the east end of the island, while African Americans did the same on the west end. There was, however, a one-block stretch of beach on the eastern side of Galveston which was open to black residents. Between 28th and 29th Street along Seawall Boulevard stood several popular black-owned businesses including Gus Allen’s Villa, the Jambalaya Restaurant, and the Manhattan Club. African-American Family Collection, SC72.4. Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.

9. During the first half of the 20thcentury, African-American businesses were confined to a small section of beachfront near 28th Street. The Manhattan Club was operated by Randolph E. Wiley, and it served as a nightclub and entertainment venue for African-Americans. The property was later sold and is now the location of the McGuire-Dent Recreation Center (named for local civil rights activist Jessie McGuire Dent).

10. In the early 1950s, Thomas D. Armstrong and his wife, Marguerite, opened the Little Shamrock Hotel on 31stStreet. The entrepreneurial family also owned a coffee shop, a drugstore, an auto supply shop, a washeteria, an insurance company, and a funeral home.

 Galveston in the Green Book
Little Shamrock Hotel and Sterling Dental Office - Six years after opening Armstrong Drugs, the family built the nearby Little Shamrock Hotel. The second floor of the Armstrong Drugstore was occupied by Dr. Leroy Sterling, a prominent African American dentist who operated an office in that location for more than ten years. Dr. Sterling also served as the official dentist for Galveston’s African American schools. Black History Collection, SC60 FF2 #9. Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.
 Galveston in the Green Book
Coffee Shop at The Little Shamrock Hotel - A coffee shop and lounge were added to The Little Shamrock Hotel in 1956. Black History Collection, SC60 FF2 #13. Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.

11. Ilma’s Beauty Parlor is listed in the Green Book as early as 1949. However, the business is not found in either the Galveston City Directory or in newspapers. Insurance Board records indicate that the structure at 4106 N was built in 1945 and was the residence of Sam and Leona (or Lenora) Knapp through the 1960s.

12. Sunset Auto Garage was owned by Laurence Roberts during the 1940s. According to Galveston City Directories, he and his wife, Evelyn, lived in one of the four apartments to the rear of the business. By 1958, the site of the garage had become a vacant lot.

To learn more about these businesses, please contact the Galveston and Texas History Center on the 4th floor of Rosenberg Library.

To view digital copies of The Negro Motorist Green Book, please visit the New York Public Library’s online collections at:

To view Rosenberg Library’s online exhibit “Voices from the Past” celebrating the history of Galveston’s African-American community, visit:

LM 2020-12-22