The design and architecture of church buildings are often domain features that often reflect local decoration and technology. From the native stone churches of the Midwest to the Adobe churches of the Southwest, the structures reflect not only the natural landscape but often the culture of the people who constructed them. The oldest churches in Dallas can be traced to the 1850s, with some of the oldest stretching back to the 1840s in Dallas County. Like most buildings in Dallas, the older buildings are styled in a hodgepodge of Greek Revival to Victorian to Neoclassical construction.
Many of the earlier Dallas churches were built along Ervay streets, such as Elm and Ervay, Ervay and Canton and Bryan and Ervay. Elm Street was another popular street, with many buildings (now gone) congregating in this area. Here’s a look at 21 of the oldest churches in Dallas.
1856 AND 1858
Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church is Dallas’ oldest deeded church property. The property on which the Sanctuary sits was deeded on July 11, 1856. The W.P. Cochran Homeplace was first settled on in 1851, and the current house that stands on the site was built in 1895. Just south of the cemetery lies the church cemetery, home to some of Dallas’ earliest pioneer families, Civil War veterans, slaves, and Native Americans. The first edifice was built and dedicated in 1858 and the Sunday school dates to 1879. Later buildings were erected in 1885, 1924, 1955, and 1970.
1846; CURRENT SANCTUARY IN 1926
One of the most beautiful churches in Dallas is the First United Methodist Church on Ross Avenue with its magnificent bell tower to its rotunda theatre. The First Methodist Church of Dallas reports meetings as early as 1846 when the small village of Dallas was a stopping point for Methodist circuit riders. Legend has it that the church met in a small building at the southwest corner of the courthouse square in November 1850 and continued for almost 20 years at the location. The congregation met at three previous locations before the Trinity Methodist and First Methodist congregations combined in 1916. A new building was built for the First Methodist Episcopal Church, South (on Ross Ave) in 1926. The First Methodist Episcopal Church, South, became First Methodist Church in 1939 and then the First United Methodist Church in 1968.
1856; PRESENT LOCATION 1911
Downtown in the historic district, the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas was the first southern U.S. Presbyterian Church organized in Dallas. Founded in 1856, one day after Dallas was incorporated as a city, the church first met in various locations before erecting its first building at Elm and Ervay streets and then Harwood and Main Streets. The present sanctuary was built between 1911 and 1912 and officially opened on March 2, 1913. The Greek Revival church includes the first monolithic Corinthian columns in Dallas.
1857; PRESENT SANCTUARY IN 1929 AT SITE OF FORMER COLLEGE CHAPEL
The first Episcopal service was held in Dallas in 1856, and this parish was organized on St. Matthew’s day on September 21, 1857. The first Bishop of Texas visited Dallas in 1860 and conducted services in the Masonic Hall. The growing parish moved to several places but continually moved as the cathedral became too small. The current cathedral moved to the former St. Mary’s College Chapel at the corner of Ross and Henderson in 1929. St. Mary’s College’s cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1876, and classes began in 1889. The school closed in June 1930 after being absorbed by St. Matthew’s Parish. It looks as if the chapel was completed and consecrated on May 10, 1908.
1863; PRESENT SANCTUARY BUILT 1953
Central Christian Church was organized in 1863 and originally held services in Preacher Charles Carlton’s log cabin schoolroom in present-day downtown Dallas. A Texas historical marker was installed on a two-story brick building at 703 Ross Ave to mark where the original church once stood. In 1891, the congregation moved to a larger building at St. Paul and Patterson streets and charted the name of Central Christian Church. The current land on Westside Drive was purchased in 1951, and the new sanctuary was dedicated on May 3, 1953.
1868; CURRENT SANCTUARY 2009
Today a Southern Baptist Megachurch, the First Baptist Church of Dallas was established in 1868 and met in the Masonic Hall on Lamar Street near Ross Avenue. The first building was on Akard Street and the cornerstone of the sanctuary that the congregation worships in today was laid in 1890. The red brick, Victorian-style building was erected in 1890. You’ll find a 3,000 seat Worship center close to the historic building.
1869; PRESENT SANCTUARY 1898
Built in 1898, The Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe was the second location of Dallas’s first Catholic parish, Sacred Heart Church, established in 1869. The original church, constructed in 1872, was at the corner of Bryan and Ervay Streets and its congregation soon outgrew the original facilities. The cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1898, and was formally dedicated on October 26, 1902, in the heart of Dallas’ Art District. Today, the church oversees the second-largest Catholic church membership in the United States. The bell tower, which extends 219 feet, is a fairly recent addition as it was designed but not built with the original building.
1873; CURRENT SANCTUARY COMPLETED IN 1927
St. Paul United Methodist Church has been in the same location in the Arts District for 145 years. In 1873, recently freed slaves who lived in Freedman’s Town, a community just north of the Dallas city limits, met with Methodists ministers Reverend H. Oliver and Reverend William Bush to organize the area’s first African American Methodist Episcopal Church. The early church was a small frame sanctuary, which worked both as a school for school children (1874-1875) and providing training for African American ministers. In 1901, the congregation began building a new brick-clad sanctuary by first digging and completing a basement where church services were held until the construction was complete. The Gothic Revival style church was derived from a design by William Sidney Pittman, Dallas’ first African American architect. You’ll note that the façade has different shades of brick. Parishioners brought bricks to services to help build the church until it was finally completed in 1927. The original 35 stained glass windows, donated by some of Dallas’ first affluent African Americans, can still be seen today. Although the 1950 highway construction and recent regentrification has demolished many of the old North Dallas neighborhoods served by the church, the church has endured the test of time as a political, cultural, and spiritual leader. Homeless are served breakfasts every Saturday, and the church focuses on reaching out to the local community.
1874; Present structure built in 1915
Formerly known as Oak Lawn Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the Oak Lawn Methodist Episcopal Church is a progressive, beautiful church located in Oak Lawn. The large brick, Late Gothic Revival church has significant art glass windows and brick terra cotta work. The original church was formed as a church-schoolhouse in 1874. Read more
1890; Present sanctuary 1921
Built in 1921, the Christ Episcopal Church is one of the few remaining ecclesiastical interpretations of the Arts and Craft style in the Dallas area. Christ Church itself is one of the oldest Episcopal parishes in Dallas County, charged in 1890. The church was built to resemble an overturned ark and in the shape of a cruciform. The Midwestern feel can be attributed to the fact that the design was based on St. Martin of Tours Church in Omaha, Nebraska. The original, beautiful stained-glass windows are also done in the Arts and Crafts style by the Jacoby Arts Glass Company of St. Louis, Missouri.
Old Frankford Church is a one-room church was built in 1897. Since that time, the church has been meticulously restored. The original church was destroyed by a tornado in the 1880s, and the current building was rebuilt using the wood from the first church. It was restored again in 2010. The Frankford Preservation Foundation reports that the church held services when a circuit rider was passing through the area. While several denominations held services at the structure, the main one was Methodist, who were organized as part of a circuit in 1885. Although the town dissolved and people moved away, preachers continued to use the little church through the mid-1920s. Episcopal services began at the small church in the 1960s. Learn more about the Town of Frankford.
1902; PRESENT SANCTUARY BUILT 1903
Grace United Methodist Church grew from two earlier fellowships started in 1868. The Dallas City Mission and 1880 Haskell Avenue Church merged to form Grace Methodist Church. On the back of the current lot, a temporary tabernacle was erected, and the first portion of the present church was completed in 1903. The Gothic Revival church is one of the longest continuously operating Protestant congregation in Dallas worshipping in the same location. The educational unit, as added in 1925.
1903; PRESENT SANCTUARY BUILT AROUND 1926
When the Diocese of Dallas realigned the boundaries of Dallas’ Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Parish, St. Edward’s Parish was carved out on October 13, 1903. The first church went up on a piece of property on Elm and Hill Streets; it was dedicated on January 3, 1904. St. Edward’s School had its cornerstone laid on November 12, 1911, and the school opened in September 2012. After years of planning for a new building, the approval to build a new church was approved in February 1926.
1903; 1912 (Original Sanctuary); Present sanctuary in 1925
The original sanctuary for the East Dallas Christian Church was built in 1912 in a Neoclassical style. The building was listed as a Dallas Landmark in 1993. The church itself began in 1903 in a frame church on the corner of Victor and Peak Streets. A still visible brick building was dedicated in 1912, and the present sanctuary was later built in 1925. The church has since expanded and today serves the Peak Suburban neighborhood.
Holy Trinity College, later renamed the University of Dallas broke around in 1905. Along with the college, the parish also built a small frame church next to the church. The church was formally dedicated in November 1907. The founders spent a significant amount of time on the road to small mission churches around North Texas. The college closed in 1926 and eventually became the Jesuit Preparatory School in 1942. The grade school was founded in October 1914 by the Daughters of Charity. The small chapel on the former University of Dallas campus, it grew into a parish and school.
1916; PRESENT SANCTUARY 1926
Highland Park Methodist Church’s impressive example of Gothic Revival architecture was built in 1926 beside the campus of Southern Methodist University. The elegant stone has pointed arch-stained glass windows, buttresses, and a majestic bell tower. Its origins can be traced to the founding of the University Church at SMU in early 1916. The church was then annexed by the town of Highland Park in 1923. The original church was dubbed “The Little Brown Church,” near the current location was constructed in 1917, and the present Gothic building held its first church service on Sunday, February 6, 1927.
1926; PRESENT SANCTUARY IN 1928
Highland Park Presbyterian was first established in 1926. The church building was designed by architect Mark Lemmon and erected in 1928.
1940; CURRENT RECTORY BUILT IN 1960
Although this is a relatively new church building, it is still a stunning work of architecture along Preston Road in Dallas. The Christ the King Parish, for parts of Dallas north of Mockingbird Lane and west of Central Expressway, was created in 1940. A new temporary church was built at Westchester and Colgate in February 1941. A new school was built in 1946, and the parish was subdivided multiple times due to overcrowding in the schools. The cornerstone of a larger church was blessed on October 30, 1955, but the congregation was divided for the third time in 1961. The original wooden church from Christ the King became St. Rita’s Chapel of Ease. A new rectory was built in 1960 adjoining the church to the north, facing Preston Road and the church has grown since that time.
Another beautiful church of more recent vintage, St. James Episcopal Church is in the Lake Highlands and White Rock Lake area of Northeast Dallas. The St. James Episcopal School has been operating since 1968.
Not Technically in Dallas, but in Dallas County
ESTABLISHED 1845; CURRENT SANCTUARY 1955
Webb Chapel was the first Methodist church founded in Farmers Branch and in Dallas County. It was organized in the cabin of Isaac B. Webb on May 5, 1845. The sermon was preached by Sam Shook, a Methodist circuit rider. In 1846 a log cabin church, eighteen feet square with a wooden floor, was built on Webb Chapel Road between Selma and Veronica. In 1903 the congregation built a “Little White Church” on Valley View in the center of downtown Farmers branch. The present sanctuary was built in 1955, using some of the original timbers from the “Little White Church.” Located at 2536 Valley View, the huge trees in the Courtyard of Webb Chapel United Methodist Church are said to be over one hundred years old. This church has a rich history having observed its 150th anniversary in 1995.
ESTABLISHED 1846; CURRENT SANCTUARY 1951?
Before 1876, the church was known as the Union Baptist Church. It was organized in a pioneer cabin, May 10, 1846, under the leadership of David Myers. It was the earliest Baptist Church in Dallas County. Charter members were Franklin Bowles, J. B. and Margaret Ann Lee, Letticia Myers, and John Miller Myers. Soon afterward, Sarah and Thomas Keenan and Narcissus Wilburn joined. In 1847 the Baptists, aided by other settlers, build their first meeting house on land given by Thomas and Sarah Keenan. This land was near the Keenan Cemetery in Farmers Branch. The Rev. David Myers, the original pastor, served until his death in 1853. The congregation of the church split for some unknown reason, and the Union Baptist Church moved to Carrollton. Part of the congregation stayed in Farmers Branch and established the Farmers Branch Missionary Baptist Church which became known (October 5, 1951) as the First Baptist Church of Farmers Branch.
Like many large cities, Dallas has a multitude of old church buildings that have changed significantly over time. Congregations grow, or shrink, and find different structures to suit their needs. Other old church buildings in Dallas have been demolished or repurposed. St Joseph’s Catholic Church and Academy on Swiss Avenue was converted into a residence. Some structures are still used as houses of worship, but their congregation has moved, and another has taken its place. Here is a list of old churches in Dallas that are still standing, but do not contain their original congregation.