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The Red House is on one of the busiest roads in Galveston facing out towards the Gulf of Mexico. It is located between The Strand (popular tourist, restaurant and bar district) and the ferry. This site is old and run down, it has moss growing all over it and a chain link fenced wrapped around it. Most people overlook what used to be the biggest, most extravagant mansion on the island. There is so much more to this site than what it is and what it used to be. It housed many important people and activities that helped shape Galveston as a whole.


The Red House or “Maison Rouge” is most widely known for being the home of notorious pirate Jean Lafitte. Lafitte originally lived in New Orleans, Louisiana. He never attacked ships that belonged to the United States, but he would often attack English and Spanish ships. This created tension between the United States and the English and Spanish. They were not happy with the United States for allowing such a dangerous pirate to preside in its borders.[1] As well as attacking ships, Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre Lafitte owned a blacksmith shop called “Lafitte Blacksmith” which was a cover for their smuggling business in Louisiana.[2] In 1812 the United States government ran Lafitte and his buccaneers out of Barataria Bay in New Orleans.[3]

 Lafitte quickly fled to Galveston, Texas where he built the Red House. He made the Red House big and luxurious next to the coastline on the east side of the island. It had enough room for all his men and guests as well. He made it into his own personal fortress and hotel. On the top floor of the Red House he had cannons lined up looking out to the bay for intruders to protect the island and his precious home.[4] Supposedly he was so protective of his home that Lafitte went to a voodoo queen to give him a pack of devil dogs, bred for hunting men and animals to protect Maison Rouge. In accordance to his demand she did a ritual over the pack as they were born. There are still reports today of people seeing the hounds, smelling wet dog, or hearing growls near the Red House. It is said that if someone sees the hounds it is a bad omen meaning trouble is near.[5]

 Lafitte also established a village on the island which he called Campeachy. He secured Galveston Island as a base for his smuggling operations.[6] He made a fortune living in his domain. During this time Lafitte was acknowledged as a dominant ruler on the island. In fact, he was regarded as “ruling with an iron fist.”  He was such a confident leader that when the Louisiana Governor William C. C. Claiborne sent out a bounty of $500 for his hea,  Lafitte responded with sending out his own bounty on the Governors head for $5,000.[7] This of course led to nothing on either side. Years later another bounty came out from the King of England for his head. This time Lafitte responded by sending a letter to everyone he knew and gave them the coordinates of Maison Rouge and painted a huge target on his house. This again showed his lack of fear and led to nothing.

 However, this did not last for too long. In 1821 the United States government sent the U.S. Navy to run Lafitte out of Galveston after deciding he was too much of a threat to other ships on the ocean. When he realized his cannons were no match for the United States Navy he quickly fled Galveston, but not before he burned down the town and The Red House with it.[8] Nobody has ever heard or seen him since. Many say that he fled to Yucatan or died in a hurricane, but nobody knows for sure.[9]  Many say they have seen odd colored lights floating in or around the remains of his house. There have been reports of odd noises coming from the site, specifically men arguing loudly but nobody being there. [10]

                Rumors circulated about Lafitte’s disappearance, but also about his treasure. Some said he buried it somewhere on the island before he left.  People have gone digging and searching all across the island, but it has never been found. People even looked beneath the rubble of the little remains of his famous Maison Rouge.[11] Even today treasure hunters will come to Galveston Island looking for the famous lost treasure. 

Jean Lafitte is now regarded as the founder of Galveston Island, and his house the famous Maison Rouge, as the first house of Galveston. However, if people go to see the famous house now all they will see is the foundation and rubble of what it used to be from the aftermath of the fire he set before fleeing the island. Although it is not a pretty sight, it is of historic significance to the island and how it started. Most people will drive past it on one of the busiest roads in Galveston and not know or recognize the importance of the old, beat up remains of what the famous house was and who it held. It is not the first stop for sight-seeing, but it was the beginning of what is now Galveston Island.


[1] “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge,” Galveston Ghost, last modified unknown, accessed 3/6/18, http://www.galvestonghost.com/MaisonRouge.html

[2] “Galveston 1817-1821,” Jean Lafitte.net, last modified 2009, accessed 3/6/18, http://jeanlafitte.net/

[3] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”

[4] Ibid, “Galveston 1817-1821”

[5] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”

[6] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”

[7] “Pirate Jean Lafitte Countered Governor's $500 Bounty for Him with a $5,000 Bounty for Governor,” Famous Pirates, last modified 11/23/14, accessed 3/6/18, https://funfactz.com/historical-facts/jean-lafitte-bounty/

[8] “Except for Galveston's Jean Lafitte, not many US cities have a Pirate as Founder,” Galveston Travel and Charm, last modified unknown, accessed 3/6/18

[9] Ibid, “Except for Galveston's Jean Lafitte, not many US cities have a Pirate as Founder”

[10] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”

[11] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”

[1] Ibid, “Galveston 1817-1821”

[1] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”

[1] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”

[1] “Pirate Jean Lafitte Countered Governor's $500 Bounty for Him with a $5,000 Bounty for Governor,” Famous Pirates, last modified 11/23/14, accessed 3/6/18, https://funfactz.com/historical-facts/jean-lafitte-bounty/

[1] “Except for Galveston's Jean Lafitte, not many US cities have a Pirate as Founder,” Galveston Travel and Charm, last modified unknown, accessed 3/6/18

[1] Ibid, “Except for Galveston's Jean Lafitte, not many US cities have a Pirate as Founder”

[1] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”

[1] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”[1] “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge,” Galveston Ghost, last modified unknown, accessed 3/6/18, http://www.galvestonghost.com/MaisonRouge.html

[1] “Galveston 1817-1821,” Jean Lafitte.net, last modified 2009, accessed 3/6/18, http://jeanlafitte.net/

[1] Ibid, “Jean Lafitte’s Maison Rouge”