Saving Galveston: Texas A&M Grads Restore Island Homes For HGTV Show

Galveston graduates Michael and Ashley Cordray took a leap of faith when starting Save1900, but the risk landed them a pilot for a possible HGTV series. (Courtesy Michael and Ashley Cordray)

Galveston graduates Michael and Ashley Cordray took a leap of faith when starting Save1900, but the risk landed them a pilot for a possible HGTV series. (Courtesy Michael and Ashley Cordray)

By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M University Marketing and Communications

A pair of Texas A&M University at Galveston graduates have turned a part-time passion of breathing new life into old Galveston homes into a full-time business and a pilot episode for a possible new home restoration series for HGTV.

The pilot for Saving Galveston, which follows husband and wife Michael, class of 2006, and Ashley Cordray, class of 2009, as they purchase and restore 19th and early 20th century homes to their original grandeur, will air for the fourth and final time this Sunday, July 16 at 1 p.m. (CT). The last two years leading up to the pilot has been a whirlwind, the couple said, but it has taught them a valuable lesson: follow your passion, even if it isn’t what you studied in college.

“It’s about passion and finding what you want to do,” Michael said. “You only get one chance, so why not do what you love? It’s risky, but you’ll always have something to fall back on. So much innovation has happened because of people who followed their passion.”

Ashley and Michael Cordray’s ability to revitalize a classic home while keeping many of its original features grabbed the attention of HGTV showrunners. (Courtesy HGTV)

Michael and Ashley first met in Houston in 2008 after studying maritime administration at the Galveston campus, but didn’t begin dating until 2011. Driven by a desire to return to Galveston to save classic homes from years or decades of neglect, things began moving quickly.

“After two months of dating I convinced him we were going to move to Galveston and buy a home. The next day we found the house,” Ashley said. “We live our lives very spur of the moment.”

They married in 2014, and by 2015, Michael took a leap of faith and left his full-time job so the couple could start their real estate and restoration company, Save1900, where they buy dilapidated houses scheduled for demolition in the Galveston area, restore and sell them.

The Cordrays embrace Galveston island’s personality in their restoration projects. (Courtesy HGTV)

Ashley said while many restoration businesses and shows on HGTV simply “flip” houses for resale value, Save1900 is dedicated to keeping as many of the home’s original character features as possible to keep Galveston’s history alive. Less than a year after the founding of Save1900, their trademark restoration style that they documented on their Instagram account caught the attention of showrunners at HGTV.

“We hadn’t done many houses to that point because it was a side project for nights and weekends, then all of a sudden everyone was calling,” Michael said.

Michael and Ashley said it was an 18-month process to get a pilot to air, but even if the show isn’t picked up for a whole season, the exposure has been invaluable to their mission of putting their signature touch on the town they love. They said the sight of the uptick in home and neighborhood maintenance near one of their finished projects is motivation enough for them to continue to purchase houses.

“Even if people don’t have the means to fix up their own homes, they start doing little things and things they haven’t done for years,” Ashley said. “No matter what, we’ll keep doing what we do.”

As recent graduates, Michael and Ashley can attest to the uncertainty college students face when entering the job market and hope they can serve as examples to students now and in the future when it comes to turning a passion into a profession.

“If it’s something you want to do, you have to be prepared and fully focus,” Ashley said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard hours and maybe going back to your college days of eating ramen noodles, but you’ll get out what you’ll put into it.”

Visit Saving Galveston‘s HGTV page to learn more about the show and upcoming episodes.

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Media contact: Sam Peshek, sam.peshek@tamu.edu, 979-845-4680.

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