St. Barbara's in Lackawanna, just blocks away from the Basilica, is in the process of coming down, and fast. These photos were taken less than 24 hours ago by David Torke of Fix Buffalo. Reportedly there have been structural problems almost since the church was constructed, specifically with the tower. Besides being struck by lightning multiple times, nearly half of the 154 foot tower has been deemed structurally unsound by engineers. Whether or not these claims are totally true remains unknown. Early next week David Torke or myself will be attempting to get the demolition order and/or the structural report for further information.
It's hard to believe everything the Diocese has told the public about this church considering there have been people who have been lied to through the course of the demolition. One concerned Buffalonian, who wishes to remain anonymous, informed me that when he visited the church on February 3rd he noticed much of the interior of the church was still remaining including the pews. When he called to ask what was being done with the pews, the Diocese said "they were being used in another church, but the worker told me that if another church did use them they would chop them up so they wouldn't be used in a bar."
Sometimes people are willing to redevelop a church into new things such as residential, a brewery, etc. However the church puts up many hurdles for redevelopment as the new uses essentially must not involve anything which the church opposes or believes is sinful. As a result many good plans for redevelopment barely get off the ground for these great buildings due to these restrictions.
This is not just a loss because of the architecture, but a loss to the community fabric. Imagine all the people who spent what little they had to help build this church to be a sign of hope, community, and integrity. Churches do not only serve a religious purpose, but also can be a symbol of strength and unity for the community which gathers around it. What does it say to those people when the church is demolished rather see a new purpose? In a community which could use a boost, how is tearing down a landmark, a structure that means much more than just a building going to contribute to a sense of pride?
Attempts were made to sell the church, but had no takers even after lowering the asking price of $1.2 million to $750,000. The City of Lackawanna considered moving their offices into the building, but with upwards of $3 million needed in repairs it was too cost prohibitive. It will be interesting to see what ends up on this prominent lot on Lackawanna's "Main Street" in the future, perhaps the Diocese can make a buck on the land and sell it off to an awe inspiring Rite-Aid...
All Images courtesy of David Torke of fixbuffalo