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Death Bell Tolls?

It may not take 1000 cuts as St. Mary’s-on-the-Hill is slowly disappearing.  While the rectory crumbles into neighboring yards, the City conducted another ‘therapeutic demolition‘ on the church.  Wednesday night crews removed much of the church’s bell tower after stones from the tower fell.  The landmarked circa-1903 church is located at the northeast corner of Niagara and Vermont streets directly behind the Connecticut Street Armory.

The City was told approximately a month ago about problems with the tower.  Apparently a previous shoring job wasn’t done as well as it needed to be. 

Buffalo’s inspections chief James Comerford doesn’t hold out much hope for the structure according to The Buffalo News:

“I do not think it can be saved,” he told Common Council members during a discussion about Buffalo’s preservation policies.

The former church, which is an official city landmark, is a “beautiful structure,” Comerford said. And while advocates are talking with a prospective developer, Comerford said he doubts a viable reuse plan is feasible. The old church has no roof and no interior.

Constructing replicas of stately structures that cannot be saved would be a good alternative, Comerford suggested.

“I’d rather [build replicas] where they stand on the footprint than try to save half a building which is going to come down anyway,” he said.


“Comerford’s state of mind is to get the church demo over with and suggested the community build a replica,”  says Kathy Mecca, President of the Niagara Gateway Columbus Park Association.  “Oh my God, a faux landmark St. Mary’s, just like a faux Erie Canal.  What’s next?  Demo the Statler and build a replica?  Where is the insight or the political will?”

StMaryOne.pngApparently Comerford does not read Buffalo Rising.  Developer Sam Savarino has prepared a reuse plan and sources say he remains interested in the site.  Unfortunately, the Bronx owner refuses to sell the property to a capable developer despite being fined and sentenced to 30 days in jail by Housing Court judge Henry Nowak.  Nowak postponed a demolition hearing on the property until May 27. 

City Engineer Don Poleto worked with neighborhood residents to save the 117-year old, 600 lb. bell.  It has taken refuge on Columbus Parkway.

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