To “The Church of The Annunciation” justly belongs the honor of being the oldest as well as the most important Parish in Houston.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, money and building supplies were scarce, but a priest had $1,000, so he bought an old courthouse, dismantled it, cleaned the brick and built the current church's foundation, according to the plans. With no additional funds available, the foundation remained a church without walls, until people of other denominations began asking the Catholics, why they didn't finish it. When Houstonians discovered money was the problem, they raised the funds required to finish the building, through festivals and Ice Cream socials.
It was a very ecumenical effort and very different from what you might find today
—Msgr Anton Frank told the Houston Post in 1981
The contents of the cornerstone reveal that ecumenical nature. In addition to Confederate and Union currency, a French Catholic newspaper from New Orleans, the names of 11 priests and a bishop, and a copy of the Texas Baptist Herald.
The Church of The Annunciation was the second Catholic Church established in Houston and was an outgrowth of the original St Vincent’s established in 1839. It was the work of the Very Rev. Joseph Querat, a canon of the Cathedral in Lyons, France and a missionary to Texas from 1852-1878.
In 1866 the bishop of Galveston, Claude M. Dubuis, purchased from Peter W. Gray the half block at Texas and Crawford streets for $2,000. The bricks from the old Harris County Courthouse were purchased and used for the construction of the church which was started in 1867 and completed in 1873. On April 4, 1869, the cornerstone was laid by dignitaries who marched to this site from old St Vincent’s; the sacristy and steeple were added between 1881 and 1884. Texas architect Nicholas J. Clayton, later designed the bell tower and entrance using the Gothic forms of European cathedrals.
Standing near the business center of Houston, Annunciation was the home of the city’s early leaders and continues to minister to the faithful of Houston and thousands of visitors each year. Although Rev. Joseph Querat, the founding pastor, planned an edifice in a style worthy of a Cathedral, it never gained that status. The church is located at the corner of Texas Ave and Crawford and is the oldest existing church building in the city.
Nicholas J. Clayton was the man most responsible for the remarkable buildings found in Houston and Galveston. In addition to Annunciation Church, Clayton's work includes the Bishop's Palace, St Patricks, St. Mary's, Sacred Heart, St. Mary's University, St. Mary's Cathedral in Austin, and Ursuline Academy in Dallas and many others...
Annunciation was recorded as a Texas historic landmark 1969.
Source: Lisa May, Archivist, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
1924 Pilcher Organ
Annunciation proudly maintains one of Houston’s most distinct church organs, the Pilcher Opus 1206
The organ embodies many traits of organ building that are peculiar to its time such as an emphasis on tonal variety rather than varying pitch levels. It is especially well–suited to playing orchestral transcriptions and other repertoire that was in popular use in the early twentieth century; moreover, its broad tonal palette makes it a very versatile instrument for improvisation.
Unlike most newer organs, its string pipes (i.e. pipes whose sound imitates that of stringed orchestral instruments) are made of pure tin rather than a tin/lead alloy, which lends those pipes a rare “haunting” quality. The pipework, rather than being recessed into chambers in the wall, is in the church itself directly over the narthex, which imbues the sound with a “presence” that is rare to find now in organs of this one’s size.
Many organs from the early twentieth century underwent extensive alterations during the middle of the century in response to changing tastes. Annunciation’s organ, however, remained unaltered. It sounds today as it did when newly installed, which allows worshipers and concert audiences an opportunity to appreciate this historically significant sound in its undiminished beauty.