Alice Davis looks up at St. Matthew’s Church across the street from her home with bittersweet emotions. She is a long-time resident of Moselle Street and was a parishioner before its closing in 1998. Davis has witnessed the building’s fall from grace as it sits neglected and open to the elements. Although she is saddened by the ruinous state of the building, she still has hope.
St. Matthew’s rises higher than anything in the neighborhood and remains as the crux of a once bustling church complex that takes up an entire city block. The church was completed in 1928 while the nunnery, rectory, and school where built between 1911 and 1923. Early parishioners worshipped in the basement until the necessary funds were raised to complete the current building. They saved what little they could afford to build a monument to their faith and their city.
The design for St. Matthew’s is modeled after the Cathedral of Aachen in Aachen, Germany and built in the Romanesque style. Constructed with Ohio sandstone and retaining some of its original features, the building stands a reminder of when people truly cared and invested in architecture. Unfortunately, that mindset is completely absent today. A congregation purchased the building after the diocese had closed it but abandoned the property just six years later.
It was sold at City auction in 2006 for $3,500 and was listed unsuccessfully on eBay by the buyers for two years. The owners ultimately unloaded their burden on Frank Beard, a local resident.
Beard envisioned converting the complex into a community center, which would unite people in the grand space. He was unable to get the project off the ground however and has recently been stripping the building instead. It began with the radiators, but has now started stripping the copper flashing from the roof.
Davis was concerned as she watched and confronted Beard. He informed her that he had “received the go-ahead from Mayor Brown” to scrap the copper in hopes of funding the rehabilitation.
A quick check at City Hall shows that Beard had neither applied for nor received a permit to begin the work. The going rate of copper is currently $2.40/lb and about twenty pounds have been removed, adding up to less than fifty dollars in profit. The question remains, is a fifty dollar profit justifiable for what will likely result in the ultimate collapse of the building?
This isn’t the first time the disrepair of St. Matthew’s has been brought to light. David Torke of fixbuffalo has been documenting the building for years as well Charlotte Hsu of the Buffalo Story Project.
While Beard cannot be blamed for the condition of the property when he received it, he is completely responsible for any future damages resulting from the removal of the copper flashing.
Anyone who is concerned about the cultural heritage of the building should contact the Inspections Department at City Hall. The chief building inspector, Louis Petrucci, can be reached at 851-4936 or Gene Fronczak at 851-4046.
As of today there is no active housing court file for 1066 East Ferry. The future of St. Matthew’s remains uncertain.