When you tear down a church you tear down much more than a single building. For centuries, churches have been designed to be focal points in their neighborhoods often actually creating the neighborhood in the process. Sometimes neighborhoods are even called by their parish names. Their large size and extravagant architecture make churches into immediate focal points and impressive landmarks. They impact the neighborhood with form, sound, and faith. Towers are often visible for several blocks over roof tops and even further down long street vistas adding tremendous visual complexity and romanticism to a neighborhood. They also often add the wonderful sound of bells setting the mood of the day and even providing information. I can tell when there is a funeral in a nearby church in my neighborhood by the bells that sound and can also tell what time it is by the ringing pattern. The medieval towns of Europe were almost always built around a towering church at the center of a tight cluster of houses and commercial buildings surrounded by a defensive wall. Removing the church from these towns would be like cutting out a beating heart. It would be unthinkable. Not so unthinkable in today's America unfortunately.
Buffalo is blessed with an extraordinary collection of amazing churches which adorn, define, and create neighborhoods. Many are in severe decline even as they remain in use. Many others are abandoned and in danger of being lost through neglect and threatened demolition. Churches are difficult to reuse in the best conditions and nearly impossible to reuse in the city's most troubled neighborhoods. These extraordinary works of civic art have been bequeathed to Buffalo from past generations. They are a tremendous gift to our generation. We don't see it that way unfortunately. We really do not appreciate the value of the gift of these buildings. When you tear down a church you tear down more than a single building.
Along with the destruction of history and great craft that makes up that single building you also tear out the heart and soul of an entire neighborhood. These important buildings should not be torn down without extensive efforts to reuse them. The problem of church reuse in Buffalo has been around for a good 25 years now and yet there is no plan in place by the major religious organizations or the city of Buffalo to develop a path toward. Not only is there no plan, there has never been an attempt to create a plan to the best of my knowledge. Year after year it seems that leadership in WNY is waiting for fairy dust to solve the problem of saving churches. In the meantime Buffalo loses priceless irreplaceable works of art and continues its slide into mediocrity.
Buffalo has several recent examples of these amazing buildings being repurposed and restored to productive use but still no comprehensive plan to stop needless destruction - fairy dust you know. Over the holiday period the city reportedly issued a demolition permit for the church at 375 Colvin in North Buffalo, just a few blocks from the growing Hertel Avenue commercial district in an increasingly popular neighborhood. If there is any part of the city that a church reuse could work it is this part.The Buffalo News reports that although Mayor Brown says he thinks it is a beautiful building and that he would hate to see it demolished, The City still needs to follow the law if the property owner is requesting to demolish it and has met the requirements [for demolition]. Delaware district council member Michael LoCurto is quoted as saying. "It's like The City saying it's OK to ignore your buildings and we're going to help you to do demolition by neglect." The city can't save this building because the fairy dust has not arrived yet. No plans have been published for the site after the church is removed. Likely, Buffalo is about to receive a new weedy vacant lot because no one in leadership has stepped up to make a plan to retain the things that make Buffalo special. If any building is ripe for redevelopment it is this one. It even has the parking that people are always clamoring for. Shame on all of us if we lose this building. What a real shame. Do we really need to tear down everything?
Buffalo New York, can you really claim this as progress?