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Want to Pillage a Buffalo Church?

The title is in jest—but perhaps, there is a bit of truth in all humor.

The Gothic style Church of the Ascension , at the intersection of North, Franklin, and Linwood was recently closed, after its small (and getting smaller) congregation could no longer afford to keep it open.  It will soon be converted to senior housing, so all the church stuff has to go. This means that this amazing collection of Buffalo’s historic and artistic heritage is about to be dispersed, much of it likely to places far from Buffalo.

A public liquidation sale, conducted by Sweet and Harding estate sale specialists is scheduled for this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.   The seller assures potential bidders that everything has been deconsecrated and they have permission to sell almost everything. Thankfully they note that the windows, organ, and a piano are not for sale. The list of items for sale is massive. It includes everything from baptismal fonts, to dishes, to art, to robes, to what looks like pope hat holding frames, among many other items.  While the windows are being retained in the building, there are several fixed architectural elements which will be striped and sold, including pews, railings and, a gorgeous ornately carved pulpit.

Sales like this are very sad for Buffalo.  When these valuable and irreplaceable relics are gone Buffalo becomes a less special place.  Let’s hope that most of the stuff finds its way into the hands of people and organizations in Buffalo.  The Buffalo Religious Arts Center is a fabulous resource, which has stemmed some of the loses. They have a growing collection of religious artifacts collected from several churches that have closed over the last 20 years. I am not sure if they will be buying at this sale.  If they are they will likely be up  against some deep pocket collectors and antique dealers. It is hard to look at the long list of available items without feeling very sad about this process.

The auctioneer, Heidi Sweet, notes:
You are welcome to take pictures! We are as interested as you are in finding appropriate homes for these items. This particular church was no longer able to keep its doors open due to a very small congregation and insane operating costs! I have made copies of a brief history of the building and the windows. The building will stand for years to come.

After seeing this story posted Ms. Sweet says,  I think the Rector, Cathy Dempsey-Sims and the congregation would take umbrage with your term “pillage”. We have taken great care to treat this former church and its contents with the respect its due, may be no other way forward for churches like this.  “Pillage” is a harsh term but it gets to the emotional core of a sad de-accession like this. The Congregation loses and the city as a whole loses. But, Ms. Sweet is correct.  Development of this Church for new purposes will assure that most of this part of Buffalo’s rich heritage will be spared for future generations to enjoy.

You can get a preview of the available sale items at the auction Facebook page here.

The details:

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 11th, 12th and 13th
16 Linwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14209 (North Street entrance)
Fri & Sat 9:30am to 4:00pm
Sun 11:00am to 3:00pm

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

View All Articles by David Steele
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