Texana Presbyterian Church       

 

Built in 1859-60 of local materials, the Texana Presbyterian Church is an outstanding example of the provincial interpretation of a high style. The small, rectangular structure personifies both the dignified formality of the Greek Revival style and the reliance upon local materials and craftsmanship of the early Texas settlements. Since construction, the structure was moved to nearby Edna with the advent of the railroad, where it continued to served the needs of the Presbyterian congregation until 1908. At that time it was sold and relocated for use as a storage facility. The adaptation for storage extensively damaged the historic integrity of the building; however, a preservation plan has been activated to accurately restore the historic fabric of the structure.

In 1858 the incipient congregation, which had been holding services in the Methodist Church, as well as private homes, called a meeting to discuss the possibility of erecting a Presbyterian church in Texana. Trustees were elected to oversee the project and plans were made to begin constructing the church. A town lot was purchased for $75.00 and $640.00 was spent on lumber and supplies. Dedication services for the completed structure were held March 29, 1860.

The simple, wood-frame structure was symmetrically balanced and featured a single entrance accentuated with louvered bell tower and spire. Resting on brick piers, the building utilized a braced-frame structural system with heavy timbered Queen-post trusses spanning its width. Verticality was emphasized in the facades of the structure with pilasters supporting the gabled roof and tall, narrow windows piercing the walls. The primary facade featured four equally spaced, unadorned pilasters on which the pedimented gable rested. The verticality was further emphasized by the bell tower with pilaster supported cornice and conical spire. The double door entrance was framed with pedimented molding and flanked by two sixteen-over-sixteen double hung windows, also framed with molding. The long facades each featured four pedimented windows with pilasters occurring only at the corners. The rear facade featured corner pilasters which supported an eave return suggesting a pedimented gable. Two double hung windows punctuated the wall. The building was faced with beveled weather board siding and roofed with wooden shingles. The siding was painted a light hue with contrasting trim. Unique, four-part louvered shutters were employed to protect the windows.

In 1884 the structure was moved to nearby Edna and sited on a town lot in a residential neighborhood. Located at the corner of Hanover and Church Streets, the structure was dedicated on December 16 of that year. Funds were raised in 1887 for the addition of a Gothic Revival apse. Aside from this addition the structure remained virtually unchanged until the first decade of the 20th century. A detailed account of the appearance of the church was recorded by a member of the congregation and later published (1934). The church was described as being "nestled in the best residential section," enclosed with a "strong, but ornate rail fence of two-by-fours." The interior consisted of a vestibule the full width of the building with the bell rope on one side and a narrow staircase leading to a gallery on the other. The gallery overlooked the sanctuary and was retained with a knee-high rail. Two sets of swinging doors opened onto the carpeted aisles of the sanctuary. High- backed hand made pews filled the sanctuary; long pews between the two aisles, shorter pews on the sides. The pulpit and choir "loft" were located at the apse end of the sanctuary, elevated on a one foot high octagonal rostrum. The choir loft was defined by a waist-high oak railing which was fitted with ruffled draperies. The pulpit was further elevated by a second octagonal platform.

The congregation continued to grow and the need for a larger building soon became apparent. In 1908 the congregation vacated the wood frame structure which was then sold for $250.00 and moved three blocks away to the corner of South Allen and West History Streets. The church was adapted for use as a storage facility and through the years suffered major alterations. The original weather board siding and shingled roof were replaced or covered with metal and the original doors and windows were removed. New openings were cut in the walls and a loading dock was added to the present north facade of the structure. A new storage loft replaced the original vestibule, stairs, and gallery and the bell tower and spire were either removed or destroyed.

Despite the fact that much of the historic fabric was damaged, the congregation took a revived interest in the structure 120 years after it was constructed. In 1978 the Texana Presbyterian Church Restoration Association was formed to oversee the restoration of the parent church which will be moved back onto church property. The group hired a restoration architect to document the structure and plans have been drawn for an historically accurate restoration. When completed, the structure will appear as it did following the 1887 Gothic Revival addition.

One of the last remaining structures from a once flourishing commercial center, the Texana Presbyterian Church bears significance in its association with the town of Texana, its representation as a fine example of the Texas Greek Revival style, and its reflection of changes in settlement patterns influenced by advancements in transportation technology which occurred throughout the United States in the 19th century. Constructed in Texana in 1859-60 and moved to nearby Edna in 1884, the church is a rare and excellent example of Greek Revival expression within the vernacular building constraints on the mid-19th century Texas frontier. The unusual evolution of the church reflects not only the changing needs of the congregation but also the community.

Texana, originally known as Santa Anna, was founded in 1832 in Jackson County near the confluence of the Navidad and Lavaca Rivers. In 1837 the town, then known as Texana, was named as county seat. The public sale of lots and establishment of a military post nearby encouraged settlers into the area, many of whom were part of Stephen F. Austin's Fifth or Coastal Colony. Although the Texas Revolution slowed the town's steady growth, its ideal location for commerce insured an economic comeback which lasted throughout the mid-19th century. Lots were actively traded and Texana emerged as a political, religious, and commercial center for the surrounding area. The church was erected at the height of Texana's commercial prosperity. Its imposing size and classic Greek Revival details indicated the congregation's faith that the town would continue to thrive and that their church would continue to play a prominent role in the community. While at that time Texana was a bustling county seat, its economic prominence was abruptly halted with the completion of the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway in 1882, which passed seven miles northwest of Texana. Texas, like other areas of the country, experienced a shift from reliance on inland and coastal waterways to dependence on the more efficient railroads. Overnight the town of Edna was formed on the railroad. In 1883 the county seat was moved from Texana to Edna, followed by a majority of the businesses and residents. The Presbyterians were the first congregation to organize in Edna. In a meeting held on February 11, 1884, the congregation decided to move the abandoned Texana Presbyterian Church to a town lot in Edna. Under the direction of Reverend W.E. Caldwell, the move to the corner of Hanover and Church Streets was accomplished in November, 1884. In its new location the church continued to serve the congregation as it grew and prospered. By 1908 however, the church could no longer meet the needs of the congregation and a new church was constructed; the original structure sold and moved. Plans are currently underway to move the original church back onto church property and accurately restore it.

Although the church presently bears little resemblance to its initial appearance, a historic structures report has been prepared including detailed drawings for the restoration of it. Historic photographs as well as information gathered at the site were used in the development of the restoration plans, produced by a well respected Austin architect who specializes in restorations. The congregation has submitted a grant application for the restoration. The fact that the structure will be moved should not be considered detracting from its significance, considering the church's history of being moved.

Texana Presbyterian Church, Apollo Dr. and Country Club Lane, National Register Listing

 

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