Can you identify this church?

Alethea Drexler
archives assistant

I did a quick inventory of a box of photographs the other day as part of our preparations for the Library Centennial next year. This box is from the Hermann Historical collection but it’s kind of a grab bag: It includes pictures of George Hermann, of Hospital staff in the 1940’s, of downtown Houston in the early twentieth century, nursing school graduates, and even copies of a few pictures of downtown Houston before the Civil War.

Most of the items either came with captions or were easily identified. One of them, though, is playing hard to get so I thought I’d post it here to see if anyone out there could help. (Would I sound more cutting-edge if I said I was “crowdsourcing” this? I’m crowdsourcing it.)

This beautiful, no-holds-barred, Disney palace of a Gothic church has a cornerstone but the lettering on it isn’t legible, no matter how powerful a loupe I use. Higher-resolution scanning won’t help; the individual letters just don’t exist in the photo. I have tried searching for “Houston church”, “Houston Gothic church”, by all kinds of denominations, and even “Houston church postcard”. Believe it or not, the postcard search has worked for me before since photo-postcards of showy buildings used to be so popular; I’ve identified buildings that no longer exist because I found postcards of them on eBay. Internet research can be weird.

Gothic church from Hermann Estate photo collection edit

However, the nets keep coming in empty on this one.

My best guess is that this image was taken in the first quarter of the twentieth century, but I don’t have much basis for that apart from that range being in keeping with the dates of most of the rest of the images in the box. I don’t actually know that it’s in Houston, either, but if it’s not I have no idea how we’ll ever find it, and I had to start somewhere.

If anyone has any more suggestions or recognizes the building, please let us know. We haven’t found any documentation and we would love to know which church this is and where it was located.


We’ve gotten several contributions from Library staff and from readers.  Some of the observations included:

1) In addition to the obvious Gothic Revival style [Encyclopedia Britannica online], Laurel noted that the building has a Romanesque flavor [], which would put construction after about 1880, and probably between 1890 and 1905.  The trees along the side of the church are pretty small so, if this picture were taken, say, around 1910, it seems reasonable that the building was fairly new at the time.

2) Reader Kirk commented with this Wikimedia Commons link to an 1891 map of Houston.  There are two churches at Texas and Milam streets that resemble the building in this picture.  This is across the street from the Houston Chronicle building now; the area has been completely modernized and none of the buildings on the map are still around.  (The famous 1884 Cotton Exchange [] on Travis Street is featured among the vignettes at the bottom.)

3) Other readers suggested that the rest of the picture resembled the Heights.

4) The church does look a lot like Annunciation Catholic Church.  This church seems to be smaller, but Annunciation was remodeled in 1884, so the two buildings were probably similar in age.  [Annunciation Catholic Church]

5) The streetcar tracks are common in old pictures of Houston.  Houston used streetcars mostly between 1891 and 1940.  [Houston Streetcar History Pages]

Posted in architecture
6 comments on “Can you identify this church?
  1. Kirk says:

    The block of Texas and Milam..Houston Birdseyeview Map 1891 Amon Carter online map

  2. It’s not the Methodist Episcopal church in Dallas, or the one in Corsicana, but it looks a lot like them both. So it could be a kind of copycat church somewhere else? I’ve not found anything on Methodist Episcopal churches here in Houston, though.

  3. there seems to be a rail in front of it. that would be a great place to start.

  4. This reminded me a bit of the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Ross Avenue near Pearl in Dallas. If this was indeed a Catholic church in Houston, perhaps someone at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s Archives & Records area might be able to identify it?

  5. Kirk says:

    Charles Shearn Memorial Church, Methodist

  6. Paul Orton says:

    I am the archive chairman of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. We have this picture and relative informatiion on file in our archive room at our current location at 1311 Holman Avenue in Midtown/Houston. The picture is of the second location of our church, then known at The First German Evangelical Lutheran Church. It was built in l901, and was occupied by our congregation until l927 when we moved to our current location.

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