Heritage, Summer 2004 Page: 23
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vividly described the interior of the church. Newspaper :
reports stated that between 2,000 and 3,000 lights were in the
60 foot-high-ceiling and around the perimeter of the walls.
Electricity was a new service for a church at this time, and it
has been said that when the lights needed to be turned on,
the light company had to be notified in advance. The news
items mentioned that the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was
perhaps the "most well lighted" church in America.
In addition to this impressive display of lighting, the new
church was also to have a large bell tower, which was never
built because of financial difficulties at the time (its construction
is included now as part of the current restoration
plan). Though the tower was not built, a bell, nonetheless,
showed up at church in 1911-and its arrival was shrouded
in mystery. In that year, the large bell weighing more than
1,200 pounds was delivered to the cathedral unannounced,
along with a statement for freight costs, from a company in
Troy, New York. Church officials were not expecting the shipment,
and it took several letters between the cathedral staff
and the company to ascertain that a generous parishioner had
ordered the bell for the church. In the end, the Diocese was not
responsible for any of the charges and with no tower in which
to hang the bell, it disappeared, and its whereabouts are still
Another mystery about the church was solved some 30 years
ago when the building plans for the structure were found more
or less accidentally in Galveston. Though Nicholas Clayton is
now identified as the designer of the church, this was not
always the case. Because the architectural records in Dallas had
not been preserved, it was generally assumed that the cathedral
architect was Bishop Dunne, who had raised funds to build the
structure. Another person who was also given credit for the
cathedral's design was J.E. Overbeck, who is now thought to
have supervised the building work. However, in the 1970s,
John Hyatt and other officials at the Rosenberg Library in
Galveston, started to collect Nicholas J. Clayton's architectural
drawings, and new information about the Sacred Heart
Cathedral was revealed.
After Clayton's widow died in 1944, their children decided to
sell the family home in Galveston. The roof of the house had
been damaged in a hurricane in 1943, making a mildewed mess of
the papers and drawings that were stored in the attic. A draftsman,
Lawrence Rehm and his wife, who were family friends, sorted
through the drawings. They gave many of the papers to the
then-current owners of the Clayton-designed buildings and
donated the rest to the Rosenberg Library.
Information in those files and in Dallas newspapers
revealed that five years after submitting the original cathedral
drawings in 1896, Clayton was still revising architectural
drawings and corresponding with church officials about the
elimination of two elaborate spires, due to cost. Clayton, who
died in 1916, never received payment for his architectural
plans. Seventy years after the fact, though, he was, at least,
finally recognized as the designer of the elaborate Dallas
Restoration and Preservation of the Cathedral
Today, more than 100 years after the cornerstone for the beautiful
Sacred Heart Cathedral was laid, plans are underway to
restore and preserve the church so that future generations of
Dallas citizens can worship there. Key elements in the restoration
plans that have been completed so far include a new sanctuary
floor and marble altar, and the remounting of the Bishop's
Workers are presently in the process of restoring the 101year-old
long leaf pine and mahogany pews, repointing the brick
and decaying limestone walls, replicating the original entrance
doors, and restoring the baptismal font and select stained glass
Future plans include the installation of a 49-bell carillon,
restoration of the coffered ceilings, enhancement of historic light
fixtures, and reconstruction of the 215-foot bell tower that would
complete the original 1898 design.
Today, the Sacred Heart Cathedral stands alongside glittering
skyscrapers and ultramodern buildings in the center of the Dallas
arts district. But in an ever-changing urban landscape, this
church preserves a sense of historical evolution for a city on the
go. As it has since 1902, the Sacred Heart Cathedral, with its
diverse congregation and resplendent architecture, will continue
to serve as a center of arts, education, and community. *
Written by Gene Krane, with research information from Stephen Fox,
architectural historian, and Christy Frazer, development director for
The Cathedral Restoration & Preservation Fund, Inc.
HERITAGE S SUMMER 2004
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2004, periodical, Summer 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45373/m1/23/: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.