CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION, HOUSTON
CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION, HOUSTON. Annunciation Church, the oldest extant Catholic Church in Houston, is situated between U.S. Highway 59 on the east and the World Trade Center on the west. In 1866 the bishop of Galveston, Claude M. Dubuis, and Father Joseph Querat realized that a church larger than St. Vincent's, the first Catholic church in Houston, was needed for the increasing number of Catholics. For the new church the bishop purchased from Peter W. Gray the half block at Texas and Crawford streets for $2,000; the brick to be used in the construction was purchased from the old courthouse. Nicholas J. Clayton designed the structure, using the Gothic forms of European cathedrals suggested by Father Querat. In March 1869 Querat presented the plans to the parishioners, who chose the name Church of the Annunciation. The cornerstone was laid the following month, and two years later, on September 10, 1871, the church was dedicated. In 1878 St. Vincent's Church closed.
After the building of the new church, Father Querat purchased the other half of the block for a school, on January 3, 1873. At first only boys attended Annunciation School, but by September 1914 the school was coeducational. The school was closed in 1983, since most of its students came by that time from outside the parish.
The church was enhanced with a bell tower in 1871, and smaller twin towers were added in 1884. After the exterior of the church was refinished in 1916, other additions followed: a Pilcer pipe organ in 1924, air-conditioning in 1937, a marble shrine to Our Lady, Help of Christians, in 1945, and guards for stained-glass windows and a public address system in the 1950s. Five parishes were formed from Annunciation: St. Joseph (1879), St. Patrick (1880), St. Nicholas (1887), Sacred Heart (1897), and Blessed Sacrament (1910).
When the Galveston hurricane of 1900 destroyed St. Joseph's Church, among the ruins of the belfry was found the original bell of old St. Vincent's Church. This bell was transported to Annunciation and later burnished for the diamond jubilee of the parish; it was put on display in the vestibule of the church. In 1953 the church provided the setting for the induction ceremonies of thirty-seven lay men and women into the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, with James Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles as celebrant. Blanche Foley, a major donor to the church, was one of those honored. Among the pastors who have served Annunciation parish were George T. Walsh, Houston's first monsignor, and Anton J. Frank, the first native Houstonian ordained for the Diocese of Galveston; Frank was ordained in Annunciation Church and served his entire priestly ministry there. A state historical marker was placed at Annunciation in 1969, the centennial year of the parish. Annunciation Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Houston Press, September 2, 1945, December 2, 1953. Mary Brendan O'Donnell, Annunciation Church-Catholic Mother Church of Houston (M.A. thesis, University of Houston, 1965).