Grace Presbyterian Church
Lamar Street, 1876
Houston was established at Allen’s Landing as capital of the young Republic of Texas in 1836. Soon there were more than 1200 residents, but there were no houses of worship.
Forty years later this wild and bustling frontier town with muddy streets had developed the usual commercial enterprises and a number of churches had been formed. On November 12, 1876, five charter members and their Pastor, Donald MacGregor, became the congregation organized by the Brazos Presbytery as the Lamar Street Presbyterian Church. Three years earlier, in 1873, with Houston’s population then just under 15,000, a Presbyterian Sunday School had begun meeting in an old store building at the corner of McKinney and LaBranch. This group had emerged from what had been a mission Sunday School which met in an old cotton mill warehouse on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. These were the roots of our present congregation.
It was not only the zeal of The Rev. Mr. MacGregor which kept that young church going, but also his personal financial support. This Scotsman had been a merchant in Chappell Hill before coming to Houston as a part-time minister. He donated both the land and the money for the construction of the first building, a modest frame structure at the corner of Lamar and Crawford Streets. However, no sooner had the building been completed than a storm came long and blew it down. Undaunted, he soon had it rebuilt and the congregation flourished. After nine years as Pastor, MacGregor resigned to become president of Austin College in 1885. He died a year later and the Lamar Street Church received a generous bequest from him. Obviously this church was near and dear to his heart.
Second Presbyterian, 1886
The name of the congregation was changed to Second Presbyterian in 1886 and the church continued to grow. In 1904, the church moved south and west to a new site at 2714 Main Street. Newspaper articles of that time report that the pipe organ installed in this new sanctuary was the largest in the state. This installation underlined the importance of the musical aspect of worship for this congregation.
The move to this location was made possible largely through a legacy from Charlotte Allen who had been ill and wanted to acknowledge her appreciation of the pastoral support given her by our church during this time. (She was the wife of Augustus Allen, one of the two brothers who founded the city, and she is attributed with the suggestion of naming the city for Sam Houston.)
The church continued to grow during the first half of this century, but the construction of a much needed education building was postponed until after World War II, and was completed in 1949. Tragically, just one year later, some of the church was destroyed by fire, but within six months it was restored and reoccupied.
St. Matthew Presbyterian
As Houston grew rapidly in the post war boom so did the membership in Second Church. However, as the city grew and the residential areas began shifting locations, the congregation began thinking about another move. The Session began considering possibilities.
In the western part of the city, just off Westheimer, St. Matthew Presbyterian Church had been organized in 1964 and was meeting in the chapel at Forest Park. This young church owned five and a half acres of property at Seagler and Ella Lee. In this just developing area of the city, the congregation was still small and they needed more assets in order to build.
Grace Presbyterian Church, 1969
Second Church had people and assets but wanted new space. To their visionary leaders the possibility of joining together with St. Matthew, located in an area of new growth, seemed to have great potential. After due negotiations, the two congregations agreed to merge in October, 1969, and in the following December voted to become Grace Presbyterian Church. In the beginning they met in the Walnut Bend Elementary School.
In 1970, Grace formed a building committee that soon presented a plan for development. Six acres of land were purchased adjacent to the original five and a half that had belonged to St. Matthew. Construction of the first segment of this building plan was completed in March, 1972, and included the Fellowship Hall, the Education Building, and the Gymnasium where worship services were held.
On the centennial anniversary of the church, 1976, the congregation voted to build the Founders’ Chapel and the Richmond Administration Building. The primary impetus for this project came from a gift from the Ray Bullock family honoring Mrs. Bullock’s family, the Richmonds.
The furniture, stained glass windows, lighting fixtures, and organ pipes from the Main Street location had been carefully saved and stored and were adapted for use in the chapel. Two of those lovely stained glass windows have special significance. One is dedicated to Donald MacGregor, the founding pastor, and the other to Charlotte Allen. These facilities were dedicated in April, 1978.
As the population of this area surged so the congregation continued to grow. Soon three worship services, filled to overflowing, demanded more space. A new sanctuary, seating 1250 worshippers and including a magnificent Schantz organ, an adjacent Music Suite and Church Parlor, and a new Learning Center were designed and constructed. These additions were dedicated to the glory of God on April 21, 1985.
Continued growth created a demand for more appropriate space for congregational gatherings, for youth, for the library, for the school, and general activities. Visions of programming led to a new campaign, Grace Alive. Funds were raised and soon new and expanded facilities were in place. Massey-Tucker Fellowship Hall provides not only a large hall, but spacious youth areas, adult classrooms, a resource library, administrative offices and a wonderful kitchen. In addition, other space was extensively renovated and expanded to provide improved library, classroom, gymnasium, office, and activity spaces. Another dream is now reality.