In the early 1890s, theatrical magnate Henry Greenwall commissioned New Orleans architect and scenic designer Frank Cox to design a new theater for the growing town of Galveston, with construction beginning on the site of an old ice house in the summer of 1894. The completed Grand 1894 Opera House opened on January 3, 1895 with a program of classical music and a performance of “Daughters of Eve” starring actress Marie Wainwright.
Since its opening, The Grand has hosted numerous plays, comedies, dance performances, operas, musical performances and more in its auditorium, which was designed with rounded walls and curved surfaces to enhance sound quality. The theater had gone through several private owners, name changes and building modifications when in 1974 the Galveston County Cultural Arts Council bought it and began restoring The Grand close to its original design, a process that took until 1986 to complete.
William Jennings Bryan, Al Jolson, Tex Ritter, Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Hal Holbrook and the B-52's, are among the many artists who have performed at the theater over the years; glam-metallers Mötley Crüe even filmed a music video here in 1990. Thriving with more than 40 annual productions, The Grand is currently run as a nonprofit and has survived four major hurricanes throughout the years, including the 1900 storm that killed more than 6,000 people. In 2008, Hurricane Ike submerged the theater's nine-foot Steinway piano under ten feet of salt water.