Trinity Episcopal Church, Houston

By: Gayle Davies

Type: General Entry

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: July 14, 2017

Trinity Episcopal Church of Houston began as a "cottage mission," or "branch Sunday school," of Christ Church, Houston's initial Episcopal church. From a modest beginning in the 1890s Trinity Church grew in distinction and stature and, in the 1930s and 1940s, became the largest church in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and the nation's sixth largest Episcopal parish. The fourth of Christ Church's missions, Holy Trinity Mission Chapel, was founded in February of 1893 in response to suburban growth along Main Street, on Houston's southwest side. The first Sunday school class comprised thirteen children from the Norman G. Kittrell, the George W. Polk, and the Peter J. Huder families, and took place in the Polks' parlor. Services and classes continued in members' parlors and in a rented school house until September of 1897, when the mission dedicated its first building. It was a small wooden chapel, located in the Fairgrounds Addition, on Louisiana Street, between Tuam and Drew streets. Later the mission petitioned its mother church to become a separate parish, a request which was granted in March of 1902. At the insistence of its third rector, Robert E. Lee Craig, the congregation moved to its present location at the corner of Main Street and Holman Avenue in February of 1910. According to Mr. Craig, Trinity Church could "face the world more prominently" here. The parish's new location was on the city's busiest thoroughfare in a rapidly expanding residential neighborhood, known as the South End, home to many of Houston's leaders and business elite. Trinity Church's present building, constructed between 1917 and 1921, was designed by some of the leading architects of their time: Cram and Ferguson of Boston and William Ward Watkin of Houston. Designed in the neo-Gothic style, the building is constructed of Texas limestone and has a ninety-seven-foot tower. After its new structure was completed, Trinity Church became an important institution in the community. Its Sunday school was well-known and attendance averaged 600 students, teachers, and officers. Its programs for teenagers and young adults were widely respected and supported by the larger neighborhood. Likewise, both men's and women's activities were community events. Social events for men often included members of other churches and faiths. In 1927 the Trinity Women's Guild founded the Guild Shoppe, a tearoom that rivaled that of the Junior League's. The Guild Shoppe enjoyed a large and loyal clientele until it was closed in 1942 to make way for the Cadet House, a weekend retreat, sponsored by Trinity Church, for soldiers from Ellington Field. Over the years Trinity Church has contributed to the Episcopal clergy with the ordination of several of its young men to the priesthood. Two of them have become bishops in the Episcopal Church. Five of Trinity Church's twelve rectors and one of its assistant rectors have become bishops in the church. In the 1960s and 1970s the church building's furnishings were completed with the installation of stained-glass windows throughout the sanctuary. At the same time, the removal of its members to the suburbs and the commercialization of its neighborhood gradually led to Trinity Church's decline. However, the parish has remained steadfast, and actively ministers to a dispersed congregation and to the poor in its midst.

Gayle Davies-Cooley, Pillar of Faith: Trinity Church at 100 (Houston: Trinity Episcopal Church, 1992).

  • Architecture
  • Churches and Synagogues
  • Missions
  • Religion
  • Protestant Episcopal
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Gayle Davies, “Trinity Episcopal Church, Houston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

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August 1, 1995
July 14, 2017

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