Church of the Annunciation, Houston

By: Sister Mary Brendan O'Donnell

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: July 24, 2016

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 and plans obtained in France 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. The Sisters of the Incarnate Word built their school (now called Incarnate Word Academy) on the land at the invitation of Bishop Dubuis. The school initially educated only female students, but Father Querat requested that males should be educated separately in a loft above the chapel in the church. In 1906, Clayton designed and built the Annunciation School for the coeducation of students. The school was closed in 1983, since most of its students came by that time from outside the parish.

Father Thomas Hennessy retained Clayton to to resolve structural issues at the church and enhance the overall appearance. The church was enhanced with a bell tower in 1871, while the original tower on the northwest corner was removed and two smaller twin towers were added in 1884. Clayton added a clerestory level that raised the the side walls and allowed for higher ceilings. He added a transept and expanded the sanctuary, which led to the inclusion of a replica fresco of Raphael's The Transfiguration inside the dome. Clayton included a barreled and coffered ceiling in the nave. In 1897, Charles Sebastian Ott of Galveston created and installed marble alters from Tennessee, and a rose window was placed above the alter. After the exterior of the church was refinished in 1916, other additions followed: a Pilcer pipe organ in 1924, a marble shrine to Our Lady of Perpetual Help from 1926-1928, 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.

The Church of the Annunciation has had only eight pastors, including Joseph Querat (1866-1879), Thomas Hennessy (1879-1913), George T. Walsh (1914-1933) the first Monseigneur of Houston, Thomas F. Hogan (1934-1943), Anton J. Frank (1943-1978), the first native Houstonian ordained for the Diocese of Galveston. Frank was ordained in Annunciation Church and served his entire priestly ministry there. The most recent pastors include Teodoro de la Torre (1978-1989), James Golasinski (1989-2013), and Paul Felix (2013-present).

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).

  • Religion
  • Catholic
  • Architecture
  • Churches and Synagogues
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Sister Mary Brendan O'Donnell, “Church of the Annunciation, Houston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022,

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December 1, 1994
July 24, 2016

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