St. David's Episcopal Church
St. David's Episcopal Church was built in 1855 and is among the city's oldest buildings.
This 1940s-era postcard claims St. David's as the oldest church in Austin, Texas. Image obtained from uncoveredtexas.com.
Backstory and Context
St. David’s Episcopal Church was created from the merger of two churches, the Church of the Epiphany, founded in 1851, and Christ Church, founded in 1847. They were the only Episcopalian churches in Austin at the time, and some sources claim that Christ Church was anti-slavery, while Church of the Epiphany was pro-slavery. Nonetheless in 1859, the two churches agreed to combine and form the Church of St. David. The name St. David was chosen in honor of Alexander Gregg, the new Bishop of Texas, who had served at a church named St. David in Cheraw, South Carolina. The new church moved into the sanctuary built by the Church of the Epiphany in 1853-1854.
Over the years the Gothic-style church building has undergone a number of expansions and renovations. The first major changes occurred in 1874, when Gothic towers and parapets were constructed, and the sanctuary was moved to the building’s south end. In 1887 the building was expanded through the removal of the original east wall. A library and bookshop were established during the 1940s. A new parish hall was added in 1966 and named Sumners Hall in honor of the church’s Rev. Charles Abram Sumners. A parking garage was constructed in 1988 and the most recent expansion, a four-story series of offices and classrooms, was built in 2001. In addition, the church features twenty stained-glass windows installed between 1874 and 1969, with eleven of them being over a century old. Self-guided tours of the church building are available seven days a week, while guided tours are available through reservations.
St. David’s Episcopal Church has historically been very active in the community. In 1924, the church purchased the former Physicians and Surgeon's Hospital, converting it into St. David’s Hospital. The hospital would eventually grow to become St. David’s HealthCare, a system of 110 health care facilities, including seven hospitals, across Central Texas. During the World War II era ,St. David’s created the Church of the Good Shepherd in West Austin, two schools, and a chapter of the Order of St. Luke. The church continues in its mission of community outreach today with multiple volunteer programs, including providing laundry and meals to the homeless. St. David’s also has a variety of different ministries and musical groups.
Williams, Joe. St. David's Episcopal Church. National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. August 2, 1978. https://atlas.thc.state.tx.us/NR/pdfs/78002994/78002994.pdf.
Photo 1: Dtobias, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo 2: http://uncoveredtexas.com/images/historic/postcards/AustinStDavidsEpisChurch1940s.jpg