Built between 1872-1884, Saint Mary's Cathedral is a historic church and one of Austin's many landmarks in downtown. The first church, a small stone structure named St. Patrick's was located on the corner of 9th and Brazos streets. The Catholic community grew and eventually wanted a larger building; they also decided to change the name to St. Mary's in 1866. The present church is an excellent example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. The church, which became a cathedral of the newly formed Diocese of Austin in 1984, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
In the early 1850’s when Austin, then called Waterloo, had
about 600 inhabitants, the Catholics among them constructed St. Patrick’s. The church was not located
in the city hub, but was more anonymously situated at the front of the city, on a small hill overlooking the downtown area.
Laid out in 1839, Austin started growing up exponentially when the railway
arrived in 1871. New citizens and materials for building were arriving, so the parish
decided to build a new church with masonry construction. In 1872 right after
Austin was made the permanent capital of the state, the parish laid the
cornerstone for a new church, choosing a location one block north of the first
Architect Nicholas Clayton designed the church on the basilica-shaped
foundation which the parish started. The church was built in High Victorian
Gothic architectural style. The Barckhof organ from the famed German American
organ builder, installed in the 1890’s was twice renovated by the renowned
organ builder Otto Hoffmann.
Originally this parish belonged to the diocese of Galveston.
The new Diocese of Austin was formed in 1984. The church became a cathedral of
the newly formed diocese from which the new bishop would preside. Right after these
events the church was remodeled, many of its Gothic decorations were removed,
altars and altar rail were replaced with marble, and the baldachino with its
cactus and bluebonnets, evocative of central Texas.