One of the most significant architectural visual markers in the entire city is getting closer to having its signature feature repaired. Historic First Presbyterian Church, designed by EB Green and located on an Olmsted Circle, has been making monumental strides in the preservation department, thanks to a concerted effort by the community.
Currently the church faces two critical issues. The roof needs to be fixed up and the iconic tower needs to be repaired. At this time, the big push is to raise funds for the tower, which acts as a visual bookend to the Richardson towers at the opposite end of Richmond Avenue. The time couldn’t be any better to move forward with this current fundraising push, as the church recently received a $30,000 Sacred Sites matching grant from The New York Landmarks Conservancy. Plus, the church has managed to drum up another $30,000 through its endowment, which will act as another matching fund. That means that for every dollar contributed to the campaign, two additional dollars will be matched.
“Consider it an investment into Buffalo’s historic preservation, “said Barbara O’Neill, board member and Vice President of One Symphony Circle, Inc. “It’s a compelling story. We are astounded and grateful for the support that we have so far. In December we launched an annual appeal and right away raised $21K towards to $30K needed. That means that we only need and additional $9K to meet the challenge, but we must reach that goal by the end of May. Altogether the tower needs $400K. We’re thrilled with the amount of money that we have raised so far, but we’re not done yet. This fund drive is great because if you give a dollar you are essentially giving $3. Upon reaching this goal, which we feel is extremely realistic, we are looking to kick off the tower restoration in the spring of 2017. This campaign has also garnered 100% board participation, which I feel is significant.”
The carillon bells went silent sometime in the 80’s, which means that the neighborhood has been quiet for upwards of 30 years.
I asked Barbara why the church tower was so important to her, and why she took such a personal interest in seeing the tower restored. “When I was a child I lived in the neighborhood,” she explained. “I used to love listening to the carillon bells at the top of the tower. They would play Christmas carols, and they would sound off at five and six O’clock. The carillon bells went silent sometime in the 80’s, which means that the neighborhood has been quiet for upwards of 30 years. For me, restoring the EB Green tower signals restoring the music to the neighborhood. Incredibly, we have identified an anonymous donor who has offered to pay for the replacement of the carillon bells once the tower is complete. In the meantime, we have work to do, but I’m confident that the community will continue to rally behind this incredible preservation effort.”
Online donations can be made at the First Pres website or checks can be mailed to One Symphony Circle 1 Symphony Circle Buffalo, NY 14201. (One Symphony Circle, Inc.)
First Presbyterian interim Pastor Phil Gittings passed away this past Friday. According to Barbara, the tower project was near and dear to Pastor Phil’s heart. The rallying effort behind this post is dedicated to the man who was one of the inspirations behind saving the church tower.
Inset photo: Stephen Soroka