Grace Episcopal Church

1115 36th Street, Galveston, Texas  77550    (409) 762-9676


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Brief History

By the late 19th century, Galveston was well on its way to being the “Queen City” of the Gulf.  Most of its population and prosperity was concentrated around the port and downtown and where Trinity Episcopal Church had been established in 1841.  Convinced that the children who lived “out in the country” needed a local Sunday School, the Rector of Trinity established that school as a mission of Trinity.  This mission was so successful that, by 1876, the members were granted permission to establish Grace Episcopal Church.  

Parishioners worshipped in a small frame building (shown above) on the corner of 36th Street and Avenue L under the leadership of the Rev. Jeremiah Ward. In 1884, wealthy Galveston entrepreneur Henry Rosenberg and wife, Leticia, moved their membership from Trinity to Grace, purportedly as a result of Mr. Rosenberg’s disagreement with fellow Vestry members and Rector over vesting the choir. After Leticia's death, Henry married Mollie Macgill in 1889. He died in 1893 and left a bequest of $30,000 to replace the small frame church with the beautiful neo-Gothic building you see today.  Consecrated in 1895, the Leon limestone building was designed by noted architect Nicholas Clayton who also created the designs for First Presbyterian and “Old Red” on the UTMB campus, among others.

Rosenberg's widow, Mollie, donated $10,000 of her own money for Grace's interior furnishings and many of it's stained-glassed windows. The magnificent hand-carved reredos and altar have been called "the richest that has ever been put in any church in the south". Also gifts of "Aunt Mollie", as she is still affectionately known today, are the bronze statue of Gabriel, the brass pulpit, the bishop's chair, credence table, chancel railings, clergy stalls, and all the oak pews. Succeeding generations of Grace Episcopal members have added memorials that include bronze tablets, candelabra, hand-stitched linens, and the Christos Rex in the chapel.

Grace Church escaped the extensive destruction of Galveston's 1900 Storm. Thousands of lives and hundreds of structures were lost. Grace not only withstood the storm, it was used as a place of refuge for many. The original wooden church, which had been moved behind the stone church, was washed away. In a report to the Diocesan Council in 1901, it was noted that Grace lost 93 of its members as a result of the hurricane.

After the 1900 storm, the Galveston Seawall was built and over the next several years the grade of the entire island was raised. Through an ingenious system of hand-turned jacks, Grace was raised four and a half feet. Not one stone of the building was cracked in the process. In the 1907 photograph below, notice the heavy timbers placed under the walls as the Sanctuary is being raised to its new floor elevation.

A decline in membership in the years following the storm and Mollie Rosenberg's death in 1917 resulted in Grace's return to mission status in 1923. Shortly thereafter the church was closed and members attended Trinity. In 1927 Grace was reopened as a mission. By 1944, Grace was once again a separate parish and its congregation celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the building. In 1995, the centennial anniversary of the church's consecration was celebrated and the cornerstone was opened. Inside were old newspapers and some coins. These items were returned to the cornerstone, as well as some new items including a present day church directory.

Present day parishioners work hard to maintain the priceless woodwork, stained glass, and other furnishings of brass, silver and bronze.  It is a little church with a strong and devout sense of its own history. The spirit of all who have worshipped here is ever present among its members and in the loving outreach they extend to newcomers and visitors.  

 


Tours

Tours of the church are available after services by members who have a love for Grace. Some parishioners have been specially trained to serve as docents for more "official" tours. These tours can be scheduled through the church office. See below.

 


A Morning of Grace

A docent-led tour of historic Grace Episcopal Church

followed by a light lunch served in the Parish House

Trained docents offer the story of the church in fact and legend. The tour includes a lecture and browsing time followed by lunch served by the Episcopal Church Women, all covering about two hours and permitting visits elsewhere on the Island. Tour groups have included church organizations, senior citizen trips, garden clubs, history buffs, and others who enjoy the ambiance of Galveston.

Prices begin at $10.50 per person for tour and lunch. For further information, call Grace Church at 409-762-9676. All docent tours, with or without lunch, are by appointment.

 

 

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Copyright © 2006 Grace Episcopal Church
Last modified: January 18, 2010