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Cathedral Park, Buffalo, New York: A Brief History

The following is Part 1 of a 2-part series written by Martha Neri that documents the history of Cathedral Park. The second part of the series (posted soon) will discuss the future of the park, and the groups that have a vested interest to steer it in the right direction in years to come.

Author: Martha Neri

The idea of a park began in 1966 as part of the Urban Renewal Project for the City of Buffalo. The thought was that rather than have just a ‘spot’ on Main Street, where the decades-old bus turn-around and taxi stand known as Shelton Square was, a small urban park that would cover the entire area south of the Cathedral as well as between Main & Pearl Streets would be much more appealing.   The park was planned with dozens of shade trees, park benches, and picnic tables that would give the nearby office workers a pleasant mid-day retreat. Cathedral Park was dedicated in 1971.

The funding of the new park was shared in a unique way. For the first time, Erie County contributed to the development of a park on city owned land.[1] The City of Buffalo committed an equal amount plus the State of New York contributed funds.   The three contributed about half the cost of the project.  Neighboring banks, downtown firms, businesses, foundations and private donors contributed the remainder.   Some of the initial design and development costs were funded by St. Paul’s Cathedral. “A contract between the City of Buffalo and the Cathedral, providing for City Maintenance after construction was signed on June 16, 1970.”[2]

Upon completion of this project, 63 trees were planted, numerous lights installed, picnic tables and benches were placed. The Very Rev E. O. Smith, Dean of the Cathedral wrote: “The park is a point of beauty and peace in the heart of a busy city, opening up the Cathedral to the City and the City to the Cathedral.”

Created in 1982, Buffalo Place Inc., is the not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the economic health and quality of life in Downtown Buffalo. It is responsible for the day-to-day cleanup of the Downtown core, a 24-block area Cathedral-Park-New-Buffalo-NY-2surrounding the rapid transit area and pedestrian mall. This area extends from Goodell to Canalside and from Pearl to Washington Streets. The City of Buffalo, however, is responsible for the maintenance of Cathedral Park as well as the Downtown core.

Many weather events, severe ice storms, numerous blizzards, as well as disease and age, have caused the demise of several trees in the park. Fortunately they were replaced. In 1988 the City of Buffalo reconstructed the entire park. In 1996, a playground was built in the park due to the efforts of City Councilwoman Rose Marie LoTempio and a grant from the New York State Department of Education. Today the playground is the only one in downtown Buffalo.

Despite the impact of age, weather and the progress of time, the park has continued to be a lovely place that is used daily.[3]

[1] Buffalo Evening News, November 29, 1969, Editorial Page.

[2] The Chimes of St. Paul’s Cathedral, October 10, 1971.

[3] Additional information was obtained from the St. Paul’s Cathedral Archives and Vestry Meeting Minutes, 1966-1988.


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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