History and Archives


History and Archives

The Edward Albert Palmer Memorial Chapel was presented to the Diocese of Texas in 1927 as a memorial to Edward Albert Palmer who heroically lost his life while saving that of his sister, Daphne Palmer Neville, the donor of this Chapel. Palmer functioned as a Rice Institute student chapel under the auspices of Autry House until 1929 when it became a parish church with the name Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church.

From its beginning, Daphne Palmer Neville insisted this chapel be open to all and this original understanding continues to this day. William Ward Watkin, who also designed the original Museum of Fine Arts, the Julia Ideson Building and Trinity Episcopal Church and was head of the Department of Architecture at Rice for many years, was Palmer’s architect. The design, described as Lombard Romanesque, was inspired by the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Venice, Italy which was built by Pietro Lombardo in 1481. The high, raised chancel, sanctuary, and pilasters are particularly evocative of the Venetian church.

The War Memorial is a carved, paneled, oak screen flanking the doors in the nave that lists all parishioners who served in World War II. The names of those who lost their lives are in gold. The Rector at that time, Stanley L. Smith, wrote a letter once a month to each person in service from Palmer Church.

The War Memorial, the altar, and the reredos—the carved, painted, and gilded screen behind the altar—are all the work of Count Louis de Martelly of the Couronne d’Or studio who married an American and lived in Houston with his family for several years.

The barrel-vaulted ceiling is composed of Celotex. A decorative stencil pattern adorns the coffered ceiling.

Charles Fisk of C. B. Fisk, Inc., in consultation with Clyde Holloway of Rice University, designed Opus 99, the name given to Palmer’s organ. It was built at the Fisk studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts, was disassembled, and then trucked to Houston in pieces. It took almost a year for the reassembly and voicing. The celebratory dedication concert was on April 28, 1991.

The needlepoint cushions at the communion rail depicts a gravel walk lined with flowers and symbols of everyday Christian life. The “Madonna and Child” in the style of Andrea della Robbia hangs in its original 17th century frame at the eastern end of the north wall of the nave.

In the 1940s the original opalescent glass windows were replaced with leaded, stained glass windows given as memorials. Each of the saints represented in the lower windows along the north and south walls was either an eyewitness to the works of Jesus or an early minister of the Word. The upper windows depict scenes from the life of Christ. Beginning at the east end of the north wall and proceeding counter-clockwise, these scenes are: The Annunciation, The Nativity, The Lord Talking with the Doctors, The Baptism of Jesus, The Washing of Jesus’ Feet, Peter and Andrew Called to Service, Bartimeus Receiving His Sight, Jesus Entering Jerusalem, Jesus Preaching in the Temple, The Lord’s Last Supper, and Jesus in the Garden.

The Crucifixion is depicted in the western rose window above the narthex but is hidden by the organ pipes. All of the stained-glass windows were the work of Karl Hackert of Deerfield, Illinois, except for the eastern rose window above the altar which was produced by C. J. Connick of Boston. This window represents the Transfiguration. Moses and Elijah are shown on either side of the central figure of Jesus Christ. Peter, James and John kneel below. The inscription bears Peter’s words:


We hope it was good for you to be here and that you will return often to this beautiful, sacred space.

The Archives & Parish History ministry is devoted to collecting and preserving items relevant to Palmer Church’s history as well as educating the parish and celebrating our earlier days.

Please contact Helen Toombs for more information.