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St. Francis De Sales Church in Hamlin Park is on the Market

Here’s an opportunity to own
one of the most beautiful churches in Buffalo. St. Francis De Sales Church at
the corner of Humboldt Parkway and Northland Avenues (google map) is on the market for
$450,000, Hastings+Cohn has
the listing here. Although the context of the church has changed due the destruction of Humboldt Parkway, the location is fantastic and so is the church.

Its location and
contributing status in the
Hamlin Park Historic District enables the owner to utilize the 20% or 40% historic
tax credit program. The 20% path would assume homeownership only, but the 40%
program requires the church to be an income producing property, i.e. multiple
residential units, commercial space, or a restaurant for example. The
nomination was prepared by
and recently listed on the
State Register. It is currently at National Park Service for their review and
listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

St. Francis De Sales sits on
nearly one and a half acres and boasts over 23,000 square feet. A partially
raised basement with nine-foot ceilings provides additional room for gatherings
and would be a great candidate for a few residential units or one large tenant.
Circa 1932

The church was dedicated in
1928 and was the third version the congregation had built on that site. Typical
of most churches in early 20th century Buffalo, the parishioners
continued to outgrow their space so the need for a new larger church came twice
before the existing church. George Dietel, the architect of Buffalo City Hall,
designed it with input from Murphy & Olmsted architects in Washington, D.C.
The previous iteration was a combined church and school, which is currently the
parking lot.

It was shuttered by the
Diocese of Buffalo in 1993 and has gone through a handful of different
congregations since. Although the building is intact and operational, it does
have some needs that require attention. The roof is the most apparent issue and
leaks from several locations. The resulting damage is minimal, but should be
corrected as soon as possible to avoid significant issues.
The building is clad
entirely in limestone with a vibrant ceramic tile roof and tall campanile that is
visible from miles around. Much of the stained glass has been removed over the
years, but the striking rose window on the front remains completely intact. The
interior is rich with ornamentation and detailing, but the real stunner is the
large dome where the transept and nave meet. An oculi at the center of the dome
pulls in natural light and at the right time of day creates a great beam of

Empty churches in Buffalo
are a hot topic and many have been reused or successfully converted for
residential use. However, those churches were not able to use the historic tax
credits because under the current Department of the Interior’s Standards,
dividing the sanctuary space is not possible. That rule has spelled demolition
for some churches like the
North Park Baptist Church. Although a sensitive proposal was created for
dividing the interior while respecting the character of the building, it was still deemed inappropriate within the Standards.

As more and more churches
close across the country we’re left with a large catalogue of beautiful spaces,
most of which are eligible for National Register listing and tax credits that
come along with the designation. There have been many discussions surrounding
the need to revise the Standards so that these magnificent buildings can be
divided in a way that both respects the character and feeling of the space, but
can also generate a profit to ensure their continued existence. Conversations
are ongoing, but the Standards have yet to be revised.
For additional photos of St.
Francis De Sales, check out my album on ipernity, by
clicking here.

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

View All Articles by Mike Puma
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