I stumbled across these images on FaceBook of St. John’s Church in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood at 85 Amherst Street. Two of the images show cornerstones depicting the date of the church congregation’s founding and of the date the church building was constructed. I wrote a few days ago here about a fundraiser for the church to be held today starting at 6:30pm. I encourage you to attend this event and spend freely with these stones in mind. These stones say everything about why it is so important to save our irreplaceable historic heritage. In the case of this building, we not only have the physical presence of a beautiful historic building, but also a direct lineage of the culture and people of this church congregation going back to Buffalo’s canal era in this underrated and extremely historic part of the city… and these stones memorialize that connection with ancient text and craft.
When I first saw these stones I could not help but feel a connection with the long gone people who labored to build this building so long ago. Their lives were so different than mine but here I could run my fingers across the carved letters and appreciate them probably in much the same way that the stone carver did when he finished his work more than120 years ago. That carver sent these stones into the future to us like a time machine bringing a message of their lives. Could he have been thinking of the person in our time like me who would gaze upon his work?
These stones in the language of the immigrants who built it, and who attended this place of worship for so many decades, makes this a unique place in the world. It is a marker for this place in space and time and cannot ever be replace if it is lost. We need to do everything we can to save buildings like this which are still viable, as well as the others which have been abused to the point of collapse. We have to do this because their beauty enriches our environment but also because they have been sent to us from the past from people who could never imagine what the world of our time would be like. Once we remove these buildings, imagination of their time will be all we have left of our past.