Under the direction of Bishop John Odin, the first Catholic Bishop of Texas, St. Joseph's Church was built in 1859 by German immigrants to feel the need for the growing German-Speaking Catholic population of Galveston at that time. The first German Catholic Church in Texas and the oldest wooden church building in Galveston, visitors appreciate the church's simple rectangular Gothic-revival structure, square bell tower with trefoil window, and the original, elaborate hand-carved altars and altar statues inside. Plaster Stations of the Cross with German inscriptions dating back to the early 1900s line the walls, and other original furnishings include the cedar pews, the Baptismal font, and the confessional booth. The local Catholic diocese still owns the church, but it was desanctified and closed in 1968 due to its then-dwindling congregation. Shortly thereafter, the Galveston Historical Foundation came in and leased the church, recovering and reinstalling most of the original furnishings the church had sold at auction upon closing. Today the Foundation continues to maintain and work on restoring the church, opening it up to the public for several events throughout the year. Since 2010, as a unique way for the public to experience the property, the foundation has brought in musicians to perform live on occasion, with acoustic performances sounding especially good in this structure that was designed to carry sound without the aid of electric amplification.

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